Today is the anniversary of a very important day for me. All year, I’ve been planning to post a journal entry from that day. Well, that entry is not in one of the many starts to journals that are lying around the house. It’s buried in the garage somewhere, and I haven’t been able to give the search the time it deserves. Instead, I’ll write about it from my perspective 15 years later. Of course, that also means I need to set the stage. It’s what I do. And so I start you off with…
I graduated from college in May of 1995. If one sees college graduation as adulthood’s starting line, then my start involved something akin to tripping over an untied shoelace and doing a spectacular face plant while coming off of the starting blocks.
I walked out of college with the idea that I would go out “there” and “they” would just give me a job. Seriously, my mind was operating in pronouns. It was nobody’s fault by my own. I should have been in the career center looking for internships or jobs, but I was off doing things that seemed important at the time.
That was not all of it, however. Had it simply been unemployment, I would have been fine. It was the piling on other stuff that was really debilitating. First, there was a bout with mono. I didn’t even know that that’s what it was until I heard the symptoms described last year. Then the coin dropped and I realized that I had had a lot more than a cold or flu laced with hefty doses of graduation blues. Perhaps that knowledge would have colored my perception of that summer differently.
So joblessness and mono amounted to assaults on my social and physical health. To win the trifecta, I managed to throw in a broken heart as well.
That’s an extensive story in its own right. But it’s not my story alone, and as the woman involved would be instantly recognizable to at least some of my readers, I don’t feel I’m at liberty to tell that story at this time. Still, the events color the rest of this story, so it is germane. It’s a story of a romantic triangle, and unrequited love. It’s about two friends who found themselves in a completely untenable situation, so much so that the friendship that had given rise to my falling in love with her ultimately had to break. It did so in that summer of ’95, and, while the friendship was ultimately mended, at the time it hurt. A lot.
Oh yeah, then there was the plan to teach English in South Korea. But the less said about that the better. It would have been a true train wreck.
So when you add the emotional strain to the social and physical, the mental strain can’t be far behind. You know how it is, right? With so much going badly, it began to seem like the whole world was arrayed against me. I was angry with everyone. My parents, though they did nothing wrong, my friends, from whom the tiniest slight was magnified in my mind into a direct attempt to hurt me, the job market; everything was wrong.
There’s only one direction that I, inexplicably, did not direct my anger. I remember specifically not being angry with God. I don’t know why, but I know it to be true.
Well, the summer ended with a day trip to Santa Barbara with a close friend. She spent the day with me and listened to everything that was wrong. She could have said “I told you so,” on many occasions, and her exterior behavior suggests that she would do so (she projects minimal tolerance for fools, but then again she’s been my friend for nearly 20 years). But she’s better than that, and she chose not to. She was a true friend, and by the end of that Labor Day, the world did not seem so arrayed against me. The next day, I met this friend for lunch on campus. I put the Korea thing to rest, and within hours, I had a temp job. I saw her and the world did not end.
Life went on. As the fall went on, my pastor began directing me toward the mission field. I went to a conference in October which introduced me to the field. March found me in Stony Point, New York at a discernment event for the Presbyterian Church, and by summer I was preparing to go where God had called me.
That brings us to August 29, 1996.
I had spent the several days prior packing and loading a Ryder box truck. I was joining a program in Seattle called Intentional Communities. I would be living with five other people, one guy and four women. (One of the women quit early, reducing our number to five for the 2 year duration.) We would share a house engage in something called “living in community.” We were essentially, supposed to find regular jobs and a church, volunteer with a ministry to homeless youth, and have weekly meetings at which we were to vulnerably share with one another the details of our Christian walk.
I had engaged in limited correspondence with almost everyone, and had a lengthy discussion over those new-fangled email things with one of the women in particular. Beyond that, I knew little to nothing about what was ahead of me.
I was the only person from the house from outside Oregon or Washington, so everything I wanted to bring was traveling with me, hence the box truck. (I’d been collecting furniture that my parents had replaced over the years in anticipation of moving out.)
And so it was that, in the predawn darkness of August 29, my parents and I caravanned away from the only home I’d ever known. I was leaving, and I didn’t know when I’d be back. I-5 was closed due to a wild fire up in the Grapevine area, so we detoured through the Antelope Valley, stopping for a sunrise breakfast at a familiar Denny’s in Bakersfield.
That evening would find us in Redding watching Democrats doe the Macarena on TV. That night is when I sat in a Motel 6 and I wrote in the missing journal. I wrote about the journey on which I found myself, where I was coming from and where I was going. I wrote about where I felt God was calling me. I wrote about the fact that I did not know where I was to live. I did not have job lined up. I did not have a car. I did not know the people I was supposed to live openly and vulnerably with. If there was ever a leap of faith in my life, I was taking it, and as much as I believed I was going where God was calling me, I was terrified.
Well, the next morning, I parted ways with my parents. They were vacationing their way back to L.A. while I drove north into my unwritten future. On August 30, I stayed in Tigard, Oregon and had dinner with a friend in Forest Grove. On August 31, I stayed in Tumwater, Washington. On September1, I arrived in Seattle.
On September 2, I met my housemate, Alissa.
I guess everything turned out okay.