It was a steamy, hot August afternoon in Fort Worth, TX. The air was so thick you could cut it with a butter knife. I was in the drivers seat, my car still tired from the 12-hour drive from Kentucky to Texas just a week before. I was taking my then boyfriend, Jeff, to the DFW airport. Jeff had come with my parents to Ft Worth to help me move into my new home at Brite Divinity School. And now - it was time for him to leave. Everything was perfectly fine on the way to the airport. Jeff has a GPS in his brain, and although he was not yet familiar with the interstates of the metroplex, I knew that we would have no trouble making it to the airport. Other than the tears and more hugs goodbye than words goodbye, I got back into my Honda Accord for the trip back to to my new apartment, my new home. The first time I would be there alone. The chicken scratch handwritten directions Jeff gave me were spot on. I should have had nothing to worry about as long as I followed them word for word. Tightly gripping the steering wheel, I pulled out of the airport terminal and told myself I could do this. Looking back, I was probably about 10 minutes from my exit when everything became scary. I got confused and let panic win as I exited at a downtown Ft Worth exit. All of a sudden the tall buildings got taller. Everything closed in around me. The everyday people walking down the sidewalks grew distorted, monster-like faces. Orange cones and road work signs came out of no-where and forced me down one-way streets. Cars were honking. People were yelling. The tall buildings got taller. Everything closed in on me until I could hardly breathe! I began to cry and I yelled to myself - "why did I move here?!!!"
The Unknown. In this case...Kentucky girl moves to the big city. Obviously I embellished a bit (can't you tell?). But my first experience of getting lost in Fort Worth is largely about my fear for the unknown. I had moved halfway across the country, far away from anyone or anything familiar. I didn't know what was in store for me. I certainly did not know the twists and turns and the roads I would go down in this new life.
In one way or another, all of us have some fear of the unknown. Whether it's moving to a new place, entering a new school, going off to college or sending a child off to college, having a baby, getting married, starting a new job, dealing with the death of someone you love, the list goes on and on. In many ways, each day is an unknown. We do not know where or how we might be surprised or thrown for a loop on any given day. And yet in many ways the unknown can be as exciting as it is scary. Stepping into the light of something new is exhilarating; it makes you feel fully alive and able to breathe in life more deeply.
When I moved to Fort Worth, I had many doubts about the decision I had made. By nature, I am a "worrier", and so in the first year, I worried constantly whether I was going to make it in the city and in the life of a seminarian. Looking back, I should have let those worries fall off my shoulders, I should have trusted God and trusted myself a little bit more. But that's easy to say now...
In case you were wondering, I didn't get sucked in by the big city on that hot August day. I made it back to my apartment with only my pride & dignity a little scarred. I learned a lesson that day, but the realization of that lesson has come much later. What we don't know does not always have to be scary. And yet, we shouldn't sugarcoat our life changes either. When the unknown looms over you like the pink slime in the Ghostbusters movie, take a deep breath first. Then take another one. You may feel all alone and lost, but remember - there are a lot of streets in this life, and not all of them are one-way. Take your time. Listen to your gut. Listen to the silence of a new day. It is unknown. It is scary. But it can also be the most beautiful experience of your life. It will have its ups and its downs, you will experience the peaks of the mountaintop and the loneliness of the valley...and everything in between. You will forever be changed. And when you close the book on that day, I hope you realize that this life doesn't have to be as scary as it seems. Because just as there is fear...there is also hope in the unknown. Hope never morphs into a 4-eyed monster. Hope can take us to many places...and hope can make the unknown look a lot more like a new home.