and ramblings on everything in between
Where my story with faith begins goes back a few years. Five to be exact. The foundation for that beginning was laid during my childhood while growing up in Illinois, I just didn’t know it. From an early age, I dreamed of heading East. I didn’t know why. I didn’t know what I would do. I just needed to go.
I was obsessed with a female basketball player who happened to be playing for UConn at the time. In fifth grade, I was positive I’d be the next Rebecca Lobo with my mad street basketball skills that I perfected during recess. Oh yeah, I was going places on the court.
This childhood love for all things East followed me to college, where I often told my mother that I was moving to New York to be a nanny right after graduating. Like all good mothers, she smiled and nodded, “That’s nice dear.” Graduation came and went at the end of 2005. I quickly took a job as a paralegal at a law firm just five minutes from my college. East would wait.
The period between college and where my “in the beginning…” begins was not my finest hour in life. I had a great life, don’t misunderstand me, I was just deeply unhappy and I have the journal to prove it. One entry states, “I can’t believe how unhappy I am. I’m ashamed of my ungratefulness.” My days were filled with working at a mundane job that I hated. I spent my evenings reading authors I dreamed of being and crying for the life I so desperately wanted to lead. The weekends were passed by drinking and chasing boys who would never love me. I thought I would be stuck in that life forever, as all people who are stuck tend to think. It was a narrow existence I had created.
Christmas 2007 was a turning point for me. I received a check from my Grandpa Ayers and it was enough to make a difference somehow. And I knew it. So, I had a decision to make. I could either use it to change my life or I could donate it to help change someone else’s. Those were the only two options I gave myself. Not on clothes, vacations, or bar tabs. Not on any more waste. Presented with the means to accomplish my dream, I had to take a long look inside of myself and ask, “Can you actually do this?”
I did a lot of thinking and even more reflecting on the life of the man who gifted the money. Quiet, hard-working, and lonesome. Even when he was standing in the middle of a full house he looked lonely. I’m sure at one time in his life there was something that brought light to his face, but I never saw it. I’m not sure my father did either. Maybe it was because of the war. Grandpa never talked about it. He never talked about anything. I don’t doubt he had good stories to tell; he just never felt inspired to tell them. What he had been through in 80+ years wasn’t what he felt worth sharing, I guess. Widowed and slowly crippling with age, in an old recliner he sat looking out a window accompanied by only his thoughts. Although I’ll never know what he regrets not doing with his life, I imagine these things are what haunt him as he sits alone in that chair. All those times he said, “Someday I want to do that.” But now there is only silence.
It took me six months to get a plan in place, but at the end of June 2008 I accepted a live-in nanny position with a family outside of Boston. I traded in my legal documents for homework and art projects. I turned in my friends for strangers. A lifetime of longing, 19 ½ hours on the freeway, and the sense of accomplishment waited for me out East.
I packed my Honda with the few belongings I deemed precious enough to take with me and my two best friends. Twenty-three years of life weeded down to one carload. One friend asked:
Jessie: “Do you have the directions?”
J: “What about your phone?”
A: “Yep, right here.”
J: “What about your future? Did you remember to pack your future?”
A: “No, I’m hoping it’s in Massachusetts.”
J: “What about my future? Has anyone seen it?”
A pit stop in Indiana, one in Ohio, two in New York, and then the scenery finally changed and we were there. Massachusetts. My new home.
I packed along my copy of Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck, hoping to find a quote I remembered about Midwesterners’ urge to flee. I thought I remembered reading it in that novel, but later realized it was in The Lost Continent by Bill Bryson. Hour after hour on the road did nothing to make the trip seem real. We were three giggling girls snapping pictures, playing silly road trip games from our youth. Laurie’s humor flooding the car (“Just mud flaps and sky. That’s what they say about me. Mud flaps and sky.”) And Jessie constantly searched for things – her camera, her scarf, her future.
What neither of them know is I cried all the way from the airport, where I sent them back to the Midwest, to my new home in Canton. I’m sure they suspected it, but I’m thankful no one ever asked.
My biggest fear was not not building the life I had been writing in my mind since fifth grade. I feared that the journey wouldn’t provide me with any of the answers I had been searching for. I feared that “going would only confuse me further,” but “one likes to see for one’s self.” (Travels with Charley)
Let me just say I was completely unaware and unprepared for where this new journey would take me. Like all good adventures, they never go as you expect…