The Moment When Everything Changed

A year ago, I wish I had known how quickly everything can change.  Because nine months ago, I made the most impromptu decision of my life.

I didn’t know any Spanish.  I quit my job in Chicago, and I didn’t want to teach anymore.  I’m not sure I could have found Guatemala on an un-labeled map.  But on the Fourth of July, I received a job offer to come and teach in the mountains of western Guatemala.

My brother and I joked about how patriotic it was to leave the United States on the Fourth of July as we got on a plane to Dublin.  I’m terrible at sleeping on planes, so when we landed in Ireland at 4 AM, I was ready for bed.  So naturally, we walked a few miles to our hotel carrying heavy suitcases, and then climbed a giant hill.  Crabby and tired and conflicted about the job offer in my inbox, I sat at the top of the hill and snapped photos of grass in the bright morning sunlight.

Continue reading at The Rising

We are More Than a Résumé

Before I graduated from college, I visited the career center at my university to get help making a résumé.  I learned all about action verbs and bullet points and the sovereignty of Times New Roman.  But I remember thinking not even the strongest verbs or the most nondescript fonts could make my two summer jobs and an internship look very impressive to potential employers.  I was not enough.  

My degree is in Music Education.  For a couple of years in high school, I wanted to be some kind of art major, but in the end I decided to major in something more practical.  I can always have hobbies, I said, but I wanted to have a “real job” too.  During my college application process, I heard about my school’s nearly 100% job placement rate and felt confident in my decision to go to college, get a teaching job, and work full-time for the foreseeable future.

Once upon a time, this was a realistic ambition.  You could graduate with a Bachelor’s degree (or even just high school diploma), find a full-time job, and expect to keep it for several years.  But sometime between my Freshmen gen-eds and my walk across the stage in the field house, everything changed.

continue reading at bedlam magazine

Running

It’s funny how some of my most vivid memories involve running.

In second grade, we had a pen pal from the school across town—mine was a boy named Javier.  Our pen pals came to meet us, and he said “I bet you can’t beat me to the fence!” “I bet I can!” I said, and without another word we ran.  I ran so fast that my feet almost got tangled up underneath me, and I spent the rest of the day with the smug satisfaction that I had beaten a boy in a race.

By fifth grade, I had gotten used to not being picked in gym class.  I knew that no one was going to ask me to play with them at recess, so I usually preferred to sit under a tree with a book.  One day during recess, I was reading Beverly Clearly when I was interrupted by, “Hey!  Are you going to read that book all day?” It was Darryl, the new boy in our class trying to start a game of tag.  Being the new kid, he didn’t know I didn’t play tag.

But I threw down my book and I ran.  I joined Darryl and two other boys from my class, and I ran so fast that the wind hit my face and my lungs started burning, and I felt like I was going to topple over when I stretched out my arms in front of me to tag one of the boys before I took off running in the opposite direction again.

I was fast, and I was free.

running

If you asked me today to list things I’m good at, running would not be one of them.  I am not athletic.  But one day a couple of years ago, I started running.  I still lived in the city, and I used to run along 16th street where all the murals are painted along the train tracks.  I started one day, intending to stop after half a mile or so, but by the time I ran from Ashland to Racine, I wasn’t ready to stop. I ran from Ashland to Halsted and back—two miles.

The next day, I did it again.  I ran from Ashland to Halsted, and then north to Roosevelt and back—three miles this time.  It may be small potatoes for someone who hadn’t spent the past ten years believing they are absolutely not a runner, but for me, I felt like I could do anything.  I was strong.

I wasn’t fast, but I was free.  

But sometimes running feels like running away. Like running away from a job, like running away from a city, like running back down five flights of stairs after saying “I’m sorry, but I can’t do this anymore.”  Running feels like leaving, like quitting, like forgetting.  I am still tethered to self-doubt and disappointment and the nagging feeling that I should have been better.

No matter how fast I run, I can’t run from the blame.  I can’t run from the feeling that this is all my fault—it’s my fault that the job didn’t fit, the relationship didn’t work out, everything fell apart again.  So I run faster, hoping that no one can see me, no one can touch me, no one can know how small and slimy and broken I really am.

I am fast, but I am not free.  

But maybe what we’re running toward is just as as important as what we’re running away from.  After the running away, after the leaving and the doubting and the bridge-burning, something else comes into focus.  Running is freeing ourselves from the ties that bind us to doubt and fear.

Running is adventuring.  Running is moving forward.  Running is saying where I am going is better than where I have been.  I am typing these words right now because I am running towards a goal.  I am no longer what I was, and I am writing about it.

I can feel my lungs burning and the wind on my face, and I feel I am going to topple over as I reach toward a new destination that is completely different and scary and adventurous and uninhibited.

I am fast, and I am free.  

Will You Wait For Me?

I found this post buried in my blog archives this week, and decided it needed a second chance.  I originally wrote it two years ago, but I’ve rescued it, done some editing, and re-posted it here.  Maybe 24-year-old me had something to say, after all.  

beach

I’m reminded of a song by Alexi Murdoch – a great artist who I discovered on a very gray day in March about two years ago.  When I first listened to this song, I couldn’t decide whether the bare trees and pale sky had suddenly become more beautiful, or whether it was these words that made the day seem more alive.

And if I stumble, and if I stall,

And if I slip now, and if I should fall,

And if I can’t be all that I could be,

Will you, will you wait for me?

I’m remembering all of the mistakes I’ve made.  I’m remembering the times that I pushed and contorted and re-wrote relationships in my head, trying too hard to make them work.  I’m remembering the time when I betrayed my friends and wound up hurting a lot of people.  I’m remembering the accidents, the mis-communications, and the hurtful words I’ve said.

I’ve spent so much time wrestling with uncertainty. 

I’ve spent two years going through the motions of going to church and talking about Jesus and attending a Bible study, but I can’t seem to get over my pervasive doubt, born out of all the shattered expectations and messed up relationships and hypocritical Christians and suffering I’ve seen brought about by a God who promises to make everything work together for good for those who love him.  I know it all in my head, but I no longer feel anything in my heart.

Will you wait for me while I make mistakes?  Will you wait for me while I struggle to find meaningful relationships?  Will you wait for me while I struggle to figure it out?  Will you wait for me while I am uncertain?

Because I know that someday – granted I don’t die tomorrow – I will become more mature, more certain about what I believe, more sure of myself.

If I’ve learned anything at all over the past few years, it’s that honesty is never a wasted.  Friendship is never a mistake, even if it’s only for a short time.  Even when I find myself at the end of a relationship, wondering if the little bit of good in the beginning was worth the horribly painful mess at the end, it’s not for me to say whether I would have been better off alone. 

Yesterday as I was thinking about all of these things, I heard a small voice in my head.  “Do you trust me?”

Looking back, I see this tiny thread that’s connecting everything together.  I see the situations that have fallen into place at just the right time.  I’ve made mistakes, and learned from them.

After everything, I find myself saying “Yes, I trust you.  But will you wait for me?”

A Day in Xela

 

I’ve been learning about the history of Xela this week, about how it was built up before the turn of the 20th century by immigrants from Europe and other parts of the world.  There was once a train that stretched from here to the Pacific coast, but a combination of natural forces and government corruption did away with the train and the industry it brought.  If you look closely, though, you can see the history.

restauranthouse
You can see small details, architecture, pieces of history that seem untouched by time.  Some of these buildings were preserved by choice, but some are probably here just because there was never money to tear them down.

theater

Every country I’ve been to seems to have its own character, its own kind of beauty.  Guatemala is sometimes completely itself, and sometimes a borrowed mix of a thousand other places.

restaurant

Some of these things I’ve probably walked past a dozen times, but haven’t taken the time to notice–like this tiled wall outside a tienda down the street.

tiles

Everything has a story, and I wish I knew more of the stories in this place.  For now, I think it’s pretty amazing what we can notice if we just open our eyes.

vwbug

Life Experiments: Natalie’s Story

Today, I’d like to introduce you to Natalie Seitz, who along with her husband is celebrating National Adoption Month by fundraising for their adoption.  This is a topic that is near and dear to my heart, and I’m so excited to celebrate these amazing risk-takers today!


At the ages of 24 and 25 with a lot of student debt, my husband and I decide to begin an international adoption. We had been married only six months. [Read more…]

To be Heard

This week, I am participating in the #Fireworkpeople blog tour.

We all want to have a voice. We want people to listen to what we have to say and tell us our words are important.  As a result, we have a celebrity-obsessed culture that judges your value based on how many people listen.  No matter what you are actually saying, if you have millions of twitter followers, you must be important.  [Read more…]

To be Seen

Some days remind me of this quote from my favorite movie.

Or have you ever, like, seen somebody? And you knew that, if only that person really knew you, they would, well, they would of course dump the perfect model that they were with, and realize that you were the one that they wanted to, just, grow old with. 

When Sandra Bullock’s character in While You Were Sleeping falls in love with a man she doesn’t even know, she wishes more than anything just to be seen.  Not just glanced at, but really seen.  Because there’s a difference after all between being seen and being seen [Read more…]

Life Experiments

October is my favorite month of the year, so to celebrate I am launching a brand new guest post series called “Life Experiments.”

2014-09-22 11.11.28

I believe that it’s okay to experiment, it’s okay to take risks, it’s okay to fail.  I’m looking for bloggers to share their stories about overcoming failure, adventuring, or trying new things.  If you would like to submit a post, email me a document, an idea, or a link to a blog post by Wednesday, October 1st.  I’d love to hear from you!

I will be posting a new “Life Experiment” every Friday in October (because Fridays are the best, after all).