Saturday, March 16, 2013

On Picking Up and Moving

When I was 7 years old  my family traveled from our home in a suburb of Kansas City, MO to a tiny town in  the southwest corner of Missouri to celebrate Thanksgiving with my mom's side of the family.  I didn't see Kansas City, my family, or my friends again until the following summer.  We stayed in that town, started school, and eventually my dad brought all of our belongings back from the only home I had known.

By summertime, we had moved to another town, significantly bigger than the first, but still substantially smaller than Kansas City.  The following summer was the first of many that my elder brother and I would spend a week with my grandparents and attend Bible school with the friends we had grown up with.  It was very confusing not only for me but for our friends and family too.  It was like we had disappeared.  We had been a fixture, a part of the community, and suddenly we were gone.  We picked up and moved.

When I was 7, I sat down with a pencil and a piece of paper and mapped out how old I would be in each grade level of school until I graduated from high school.  I discovered that I would be 17 when I would graduate and so on another sheet of paper I wrote, When I turn 17 I will move back to Kansas City.  
I still have that piece of paper.

Between the ages of 7 and 17 life was good and life was bad.  I adjusted to four new schools within a span of 10 months, eventually settling in a town I ended up disliking more than all the others.  I loved getting to know my mom's extended family better and building those relationships that are still strong today.  I enjoyed growing up in a town that allowed me to basically have a 1950s-esque childhood.  I loved that we lived within 8 miles of a State Park.  That park, it's hiking trails and natural beauty became my place of refuge during the bad times, until I could drive that is, and then NW Arkansas became my getaway.

When I was 17 I graduated from high school.  I was angry and didn't have a shred of self-esteem.  What I did have was a worn piece of paper with a goal written on it.  I had hope that my life could be different, that it could be peaceful and drama free. I also had a deep knowledge that God was with me all the time.  God had revealed his power to me in ways that no Sunday School lesson or sermon had ever fully explained.  So, armed with what I now know was the perfect amount of anger, a goal,   stubborn determination, some hope, and God on my side, I picked up and moved to Kansas City.

I lived off of graduation money for three months until I found a job.  I spent the last ten dollars of my graduation money on fuel the day I received my first pay check. Then I moved into my first apartment with my elder brother.  I was poor for the first three years, especially the first year.  I had an unreliable car.  After my bills were paid I usually had less than $10 to my name for the next two weeks.  I didn't eat on a regular basis because cutting out food wasn't noticeable to others. Taco Bell, it's sad to say, was my saving grace for a while.  On Tuesdays, the local Taco Bell had fifty cent soft tacos so  I would go and purchase enough to provide myself with two tacos a day for a week and I paid for the purchase with spare change. Any extra money went to making sure I had toiletries.  I purchased nice clothes from clearance racks, and always did my hair and make up so that no one would know I was struggling financially.  Interestingly enough, although I do not have those financial struggles anymore, food is usually the last thing I think about and I am rarely, if ever, seen without perfectly done make up and hair.

The past 11 years have been difficult and wonderful.  Kansas City was good to me.  I was financially poor for a few years but I had great friends.  My car was unreliable but I had a car at least and really great friends and family who helped me fix it or who would pick me up when I was stranded.  I was hungry and sick but I always had just enough.  I learned how to be frugal and how to determine need versus want.  Although I often had to choose between needs too, it shaped how I make financial decisions:  You can either afford it  or you can't.  If you can't, then you'll have to get over it.

Many of Kansas City's suburbs housed me for short periods of time until I finally settled in Overland Park, Kansas.  Kansas City is where I fell in love and where my heart shattered.  It is where I met most of my closest friends, who are now scattered all over the country.  It is where I learned how to forgive, to love on a different scale, and to give people the benefit of the doubt.  It is where I achieved the first goal I ever set:  to have a normal, drama free life.  Life, of course has provided plenty of opportunity for drama and things were definitely difficult, but long term drama is a choice and it is not something I chose.  It is also where my hard work paid off into a rewarding career that not only allowed me to take care of my needs and wants but to also give a hand up to others who were struggling financially like I was in the first few years of young adulthood.  

This post is not about Kansas City.  Kansas City is a place where I live that is full of people I love and memories and experiences I cherish.  Looking back, the goal I scrawled down when I was 7 wasn't really about Kansas City either; it was about getting back to my people.  I'm so glad that I made it back to renew those childhood relationships and that I created new relationships over the years too.  I'm glad I grew and worked through my anger.  I am glad I still have stubborn determination, hope, and God on my side. My life here has been happy.

One week from today, I will be driving away from everything and everyone I know to start a new life in Idaho.  All I can think about tonight is sitting in the passenger seat of my fiance's pick-up truck with all of my belongings in tow, and leaving the people who loved me here.  The people who in the early years made sure I never left a family event without the leftovers, because hard as I tried to prove otherwise, they knew I didn't have enough money for food.  The people who I stayed up all night playing cards with and then went to IHOP with for pancakes and coffee at 2 AM.  The people who sang and played music with me for hours.  The people who trusted me with their committees, their children, their weddings, their problems, their advice.

This next chapter of my life is exciting but tonight it's all  hitting me like a ton of bricks, not that I am losing or giving up all of this, rather it's the realization that I have been so extremely blessed.  I've been blessed with communities of people and with an incredible career and work family.  The extent of that blessing is overwhelming.

This time, instead of picking up and moving I've slowly said good-bye and have methodically packed.  Okay, okay, I'm still packing!

To "my people" I have loved you and always will.  I miss you already.  Thanks for loving me.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

I wish

I am jealous of my six year old nephew.  I wish I were more like him.  He has the ability to freely express his love and gratitude.  Today, he ran across the church sanctuary, leaped up onto the pew I was standing in front of, then flung himself on to me and hugged me tightly.  I was talking to another adult at the time and most people in my situation probably would have scolded my nephew for running and leaping in church or for interrupting an adult conversation.  I didn't scold him.  I soaked in every second of his expression of love.  I held him tight and told him I loved him.  My adult conversation soon resumed but my nephew remained in my arms.

Later in the day I sat at my Aunt Janice's bedside.  I gently hugged her and told her that I loved her.  It was in a quiet moment between us when I realized I had too much to say and she was too tired to endure all I wanted to tell her. That's when I became jealous of my nephew.

I wish that every time I had spied my Aunt  from across the church sanctuary as a kid I would have run over and hugged her, but I was a timid child.  I waited until adults spoke to me and then I would politely respond.  I didn't leap or interrupt conversations.  I wish I had.

I wish I hadn't had to try to cram what my Aunt means to me on 5 sheets of pretty stationery.  I wish I hadn't thought I had plenty of time to express my love and gratitude toward her.  I wish I hadn't waited until two weeks before my move across the country and until she was in the late stages of cancer.

At the risk of sounding depressed and regretful, I want to say this:  I am thankful that I felt the urge to write her a letter this week, that I wrote it, and that I got to tell my wonderful, amazing, beautiful Aunt that she is all those things and more.  I am thankful that her children are my close friends.  I am thankful that she is one of my greatest role models in life.  She has been my biggest cheerleader, musically.  I love that she loves me and that even today, feeling fatigued and sick, she let me know that she's excited about my engagement.

If you are a random reader and don't know her, you should wish that you did.  Your life would have been 1000 times more awesome with her in it.