A year.

A year ago today I arrived in the city of Florence, AL, the city that I now call my home.  I got here with no job, no place to live, and no idea what I was doing.  And I still don’t really know what I’m doing.

I thought moving here would bring me better writing opportunities.  And I have gotten offers, but none that have followed through.  Sometimes it seems that I’ve been so caught up dreaming, that I’ve forgotten how to write anyway.

Since moving here, I’ve gotten my first apartment on my own.  I got my own car insurance.  I have a dog and a real relationship.  Every decision I make is mine alone.  I’m finally fully discovering adulthood.

Florence has shown me that community is like the tide.  It comes and it goes.  When you really need it, community is there for you.  But community disappears when you stop asking for it.

Florence is a place I have fallen in love with.  It’s unexpected, but so am I.  It’s the place where I fell in love.  And, for now, it’s my place.

I’m one year in.  I’ve made it.

About Hope

I tend to remember everything.  More specifically, I remember almost every conversation, especially minor ones, that I have with people.  As of late I have learned not to bring up old conversations, because the speaker usually doesn’t remember saying the things that I remember.  But I digress.  

I once had a conversation with a good friend of mine, Aaron.  I was 2.5 years ago, and my mind was still pretty messed up.  I wasn’t sure how long I would be metaphorically “sticking around” then, but I had a little bit of a grasp of what I would do if I got through my ish.  I had an answer for everything, even in my brokenness.  I was pushing people away in a successful manner.  Throughout our conversation Aaron noticed something.  He then asked me where my hope was.  I had no answer.  I had no answer, because I had no hope.  Even though I was in Bible college, doing my best to follow a God who I felt was betraying me, I had no hope.  My hope was not in God, even though I desperately wanted it to be.  

Fast forward a few years to where I am right now.  For church on Sunday we made s’mores and had community time.  We separated into groups around the four separate campfires and we told God stories.  I had on my heart a need to share where I had been and how I got to where I am now.  I talked about how I had always had a plan, and now that I have no plan I am more content than I have been in a while.  My sharing sparked an ongoing conversation, and some prayer and some vulnerability.  One of my roommates, Gus, went on to point something out to me.  He said that it seemed that for a long time I have had no hope in my life.  When I had a plan, I had no hope.  But now, he said, I have an evident hope.  Even though I have no idea what my life holds, I have hope.  

So maybe when I have plans, I put my hope in them.  If I have learned anything in my life though, it’s that if I don’t get my hopes up, they can’t be let down.  Now that I have no plan, I cannot be let down.  My hope is in God’s plan, and not knowing what it is makes life a little bit more of an adventure.  And I want to be in love with adventure.

The Reality of Growing Up and Learning to Say “No”

I am an adult, and almost fully fledged.  That’s weird to think about, since I’m still in school, I can’t cook, and I don’t fully know what to do with life.  But I guess I ask the same questions as most 21 year olds.

I was at a church Christmas dinner for a church in Mammoth that I visit with my brother when I’m around.  He goes most weeks, and knows most of the people there.  I know virtually no one there, and I don’t do well in social situations when I don’t know anyone.  I get extremely uncomfortable at parties, except small ones in people’s homes, unless I have one person that I can spend the time with so I don’t feel friendless in a sea of unknown faces.

Last night I got my food before the rest of the people I came with and, even though I had asked them to find us seats, was forced to awkwardly stand around until one of them had food so we could sit down.  I don’t choose seats on my own, because I don’t want some stranger to sit next to me.  People like the people I was with last night try to force me talk to people that I’m not comfortable with, and they try to leave me by myself or force me to make friends.  I get that I’m an adult and I should be able to talk to people, but when you’re in a new place where everyone else seems to know each other, how the hell are you supposed to feel welcome?  This is how parties are for me.  This is how most churches are for me.  And it makes me think about how other people must feel visiting church, especially when they don’t know Jesus, or are new to Christ.

I spent my entire semester in one of my classes talking about hospitality and welcoming people.  I am not a very welcoming person in my nature because I don’t feel comfortable with new people and I’m not good at making small talk, but I know that’s just the introvert in me.  But how often do we go the easy route and stick with our friends rather than finding the person who obviously is alone and obviously doesn’t know what they’re doing or feel like they belong?  It might be a little early for New Year’s resolutions, but I want to learn how to welcome the stranger, in my own way.  I know that I’m no good at making small talk, but I have tons of friends who are.  I can be the introducer.  Sure, I may be forgotten in the introduction, but usually that’s what I prefer anyway.

I get invited to parties and hang outs and outings every so often, and usually I feel an obligation to say yes.  Sometimes it sounds fun.  Sometimes it doesn’t, but I end up having fun.  Sometimes I go and instantly regret it and feel miserable the entire time.  Actually, that’s what seems to happen most of the time.  But, I’m an adult; shouldn’t I know what I like?  So, my other New Year’s resolution might be practicing the art of saying “no.”  I don’t have to go to every event, especially the ones I hate.  I am allowed to hang out at home, and only go the parties that involve a movie and close friends who may or may not bring their own friends.  And storytelling parties of course…

Last night one of the people who took me to the party asked me what I’m going to do in Portland if I don’t know anyone.  How am I going to survive there?  This made me question my entire life.  I can’t go anywhere on my own!  But, I’m an adult, and yes I can.  I spent last summer in Eureka, without really knowing anyone before I got there.  They welcomed me and didn’t make me feel like an outsider.  I felt like I belonged.  And I know that that can happen anywhere.  If I’m making the right decision, the decision God is leading me in, then He’ll put me where I belong.