“It’s interesting how you sometimes have to leave home before you can ask difficult questions, how the questions never come up in the room you grew up in, in the town in which you were born. It’s funny how you can’t ask difficult questions in a familiar place, how you have to stand back a few feet and see things in a new way before you realize nothing that is happening to you is normal.”

———-

“And so my prayers is that your story will have involved some leaving and some coming home, some summer and some winter, some roses blooming out like children in a play. My hope is your story will be about changing, about getting something beautiful born inside of you, about learning to love a woman or a man, about learning to love a child, about moving yourself around water, around mountains, around friends, about learning to love others more than we love ourselves, about learning oneness as a way of understanding God. We get one story, you and I, and one story alone. God has established th elements, the setting and the climax and the resolution. It would be a crime not to venture out, wouldn’t it?

It might be time for you to go. It might be time to change, to shine out.

I want to repeat one word for you:

Leave.

Roll the world around on your tongue for a bit. It is a beautiful word, isn’t it? So strong and forceful, the way you have always wanted to be. And you will not be alone. You have never been alone. Don’t worry. Everything will still be here when you get back. It is you who will have changed.”

-Donald Miller, Through Painted Deserts

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I picked up his book a few years ago, and immediately put it down. It wasn’t relevant to my life. Just today, I picked it up again, and opened the pages to words that reiterate so many of my emotions over the last year. Claude Lévi-Strauss said, “I am the place in which something has occurred.” I sit here now, thinking of all of the things that have changed me. Inevitably, my mom will tell me when I return from a trip, “You’ve changed,” and when I prompt her for more information or why she’s said that, she will say, “I don’t know, you just seem more like yourself.”

Each time I leave, I deepen into something. It’s the back roads and rural areas and children’s smiles that invite me to contemplate. I think of the necessity of human intimacy, the sacredness of a physical home, and the strength of community. As we traveled through rural Chiapas, I thought of the emptiness that I am brought into when I’m on the road. I cherish that emptiness, the lack of analysis, the physical expression of freedom.

As each new change approaches, I feel a sense of whirlwind as if I’m caught up in an undercurrent in the ocean and I have no idea which way is up. When I dig up my roots, move out of the room I’ve called home for three months, and pack my bags to bursting, I am jumping out of the temporary stability into another unknown. This is what I’m realizing: I love change. As a teenager, there were situations in my life that were out of my control and change sent me into convulsions of desperate confusion. I needed something physical to steady myself; I needed home. Now in my early twenties, blessings of stability have been sent to me and I’m finding ways to be steady internally. And with those roots, I am open to all of the adventures that make my mouth water.

These three months have been introverted and introspective.  Looking back on my time here, I am thankful for the lesson of loving a child, of deepening the friendship within family, and the knowledge that my life is a precious, grand adventure. I’ve learned that it’s impossible to know what lessons you’ve learned by being away until much later, but right now the gratitude I feel towards every moment in my life is indescribable.

I am shaking with the anticipation of ascending the escalator in the Atlanta airport and seeing my family waiting for me. I can’t wait to sit on the front porch with my mom drinking homemade lemonade, looking at her carefully groomed garden. I can’t wait to sit around the pond on my dad’s property, laughing with my extended family. I can’t wait to drink gin and tonics with my second family and talk about everything under the sun. I can’t wait to listen to my stepdad’s stories, eat chicken wings, and give him a hard time. I can’t wait to hug all of my friends and remind them of how much they mean to me. I love Georgia summers, and this one promises to be extra precious.

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