It’s been slightly over a year since my “go” became “stay.”
I’ve long replaced the words nomad and wanderer with full-time nanny and neighbor. I still wonder what I’m doing with my life most days, but the deep questions are backed with commitment and slow growing roots in my hometown’s soil.
Until very recently–like last week recently–I felt as though I had very little to show for my growth in the last year. I was still living with my older sister and her family. Years worth of boxes have been collecting dust in my parents’ garage. (I just found a canvas I painted over six years ago) My social calendar is booked with exploring the city with my four year old nanny twins, not evenings spent with other millennials or on awkward first dates with cute boys.
In fact, one of my largest insecurities this past year has been my lack of connecting with other people my age. Friends, most people call them.
And then just like that, I made one of the quicker decisions of life and put down a deposit on an apartment. It’s in an old blue house. My kitchen is stuck in the 1940s, and I just hung up a tea towel I bought in New Zealand last summer. Slowly, so very slowly, my dreams are landing here.
As I’ve reflected over the last year’s confusion and loneliness, I come away feeling immensely grateful. I may not have much to physically show for my progress, and my Instagram feed displays half filled coffee cups more than people and pretty places, but that doesn’t mean I’m doing this wrong. (Though for a while, and even still sometimes, I believe that I am.)
I’ve learned some of the harder lessons in life this year, all while dissecting them with a counselor, and I’m stronger for it.
I never thought I’d like this city; now I’m falling in love with the quiet corners and charming neighborhoods.
I certainly never imagined I’d be ok with releasing my self proclaimed title of nomad, but humility has taught me how sweet and gracious home can be.
Regardless of where you’re at in life–recent college graduate, starting fresh at a new job, or a nomad moving back to her hometown–one thing we can all expect is change. It’s inevitable and hard. Transitions, no matter how often we seem to go through them, are never a comfortable and familiar place to be.
Transitions tend to seem unwelcoming and cruel, but timeless lessons exist in the trenches of change. As a wanderer turned sappy hometown resident, I’ve had my fair share of lessons to swallow. Here are five I want to impart to you.
1. Stop believing the lie that you’ll one day arrive.
As humans, we’re convinced that once we’ve achieved a certain level of status or find Mr. Right–fill in the blank, if you will–then we’ll have arrived. Can I just burst your bubble and relieve you of the pressure? Utopia does not exist on this earth, and neither does a state of arrival. This life is a process: so incredibly confusing with an overwhelming amount of wandering roads.
I all too easily bought into this lie. After moving home, I criticized myself for not being in a place I thought would bring satisfaction and perfect fulfillment. Sarah, you’ve been here two months and you still don’t have a job or a community. You need to hurry up.
I’ve hashed this out with my counselor many times–her head could’ve fallen off from all the nodding she did as I proclaimed and processed, “I know I’m never going to arrive because this life is a journey”– and I’ve sinced learned to embrace this ridiculously ugly and beautiful process. Which leads me to:
2. You will feel misunderstood and lost, and people won’t understand your process. But you’re not alone and you’re not messed up.
Ok, so you’ve accepted the fact that you’ll never arrive, but you still can’t help but compare your process to someone else’s. You feel insecure about your job at Starbucks because all your friends are actually using their college degrees. You question if you’ll ever “make it” in the creative world; your photography, words, lyrics never seem good enough.
For my entire year of being 25, I basically refused to accept the number. I was so immensely insecure about where I was in my process of life, I fully believed I wasn’t allowed to be 25. People younger than me were paying their own bills and buying cars all by themselves, and I couldn’t even manage to find my own wall to hang up that six year old canvas. I had a tea towel and a whisk to my name, but not anything else I assumed was supposed to be normal at age 25. I felt so messed up, I disregarded my age and never accepted it for myself.
Let me spare you the grief of refusing a year of your life and tell you that you are not messed up. Your journey is awkward and maybe your parents still help pay your bills, but you will figure out your own way in time. Other people will judge you. They will be shocked that you’re actually 25 and not 19 like you seem to look, and they may not ever understand the decisions you’re making with your life. But you’re not messed up. You’re not going to arrive to a state of perfection, but you will get through this confusion and be able to look back one day thankful for it.
3. Grief is going to hit at the strangest times–let it. Celebrate it.
If you live in America, or the Western world, you know all too well that life never slows down. You have to be incredibly intentional about stopping and resting. Unfortunately, grief is not something you can really put off until your intentional moments of rest.
Grief is going to hit in the height of a jam packed day, in the middle of a crowd when you’re trying to appear cooler and more confident than you feel. While some environments are inappropriate to break down in a full snotty cry sesh, it’s important to recognize the grief bubbling to the surface.
I still have days where I go to the bathroom, whisper prayers for help, and then return to whatever social gathering my grief invited itself to. Just the other day, I cried surrounded by beautiful people in a church that’s not even mine. I was so broken over my human choices, by the boy with his hands up who reminded me too much of rejection and loss, by my failure to find a church to love well.
As we ended the service, the pastor asked everyone to put their hands on each other and prayed unity over the church–the church I’d been to maybe three times–and I cried again because a woman who didn’t even know I existed before that moment touched my shoulder and made me feel seen.
Celebrate those moments when grief rushes in and leads you to healing.
4. This season isn’t going to last forever, so learn to sit in it. Soak it up, embrace the hardships and laugh at the messes.
I wish I could say I was able to live this past year this way. The truth is, while my head knew this season of life wouldn’t last forever, my transition here felt eternal. My loneliness engulfed me so much, I could hardly remember what life was like before. Although I loved living with my older sister, I also saw it as a hindrance to my own growth as an individual. But now I wish I could have discarded my discontentment and fully embraced the unique amount of time I had living with them and watching my niece grow every single day.
Just like with grief, find those moments to sit in, process, and celebrate. Take a deep breath and sit completely still, void of screens and notifications. Watch the tiny little life before your eyes grow into a confident walking one year old. Count your blessings in the midst of transition–because I promise there are blessings in the thickness–and learn to laugh when life is more full of spills and wiping runny noses than what adults would claim as accomplishments. This season won’t last forever; how will you choose to live it?
My natural tendency is to run when things get unbearable. Last week I sat in a room packed with people who seemed to have this whole “normal life” thing figured out, and all I wanted to do was run back to two years ago when I crossed country borders with a massive backpack and sweatstache. Everyone looked so fancy while they networked their smiles to death, and I sat there in a dress I got for $20 and daydreamed of “simpler days” (but really, were they? Rose colored glasses have that affect).
This has been the most challenging lesson I’ve had to learn during this transition. Up until now, the majority of my adult years were committed to things with expiration dates–schools, summer jobs, mission trips. When I moved home, I entitled this season “Inevitable” because it was the first time ever that my life wasn’t mapped out for me. I couldn’t rely solely on job descriptions and a temporary address. I was committing to something completely blank and unending. I’ve never been more terrified in my life.
And here I sit one year later–journal entries, tears, and sleepless nights to count for it–absolutely floored at how much I’ve grown in the area of commitment. I just signed an apartment lease for one year without any sort of anxiety leaping in my throat. One year no longer sounds like a daunting amount of time. I don’t have any plans to move away from this city anytime soon; I’m just getting started in my time here.
So if there’s one thing you should take away from all these lessons, it’s this: commit. Commit to the transition, commit to the inevitable, commit to the awkward small talk and scribbled journal entries and counseling sessions.
* * *
I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t nervous about what’s to come. I’m beyond excited, but nervous. My future is still titled “Inevitable” with a giant blank slate hanging underneath. I still have a hell of a journey to walk. It will cause blisters and the breaking down of my own expectations.
But it will be good. Just as your walking through and out of this current transition will be good. Your blisters will callous and tomorrow you’ll walk farther than you did today.
And suddenly, one day, you’ll be recounting the stories of your younger years when living out of a backpack and pridefully claiming your passport as home was normal. You’ll be relaxed in your well worn leather recliner, your favorite people under one roof–your roof. You’ll laugh at your younger self, how convinced you were that settling down and finding home (for real) was a petty and boring life decision.
You will smile, your eyes crinkling, and you will be grateful. Because while being a nomad was grand and full of big adventure, you know you’d be nowhere without the people and their commitment to accept you into their lives.