It’s about 10pm on a Monday night and I’m sitting cross-legged, on an old blanket I keep in the trunk of my car for occasions such as these, at Michigan Beach, with my laptop balanced on my legs. This is the first alone time I’ve had in about two weeks. Previous days have been spent with my family sailing, swimming, playing, talking and laughing at our cottage in the U.P. and then biking, kayaking, and boating at our hometown in the Lower Peninsula.
Juli and Tino and baby Jonah have left for their home in southern Michigan and Kati has flown back to her husband, home, and gigantic Newfoundland in Tennessee.
Now it’s just me, the giggling couple making out down the beach, the red and green lights blinking at opposite sides of the pier, and the waves lapping the shore.
So, like any good counselor, I think it’s time to process what’s going on in my life.
I’m 28, and I just left my first home away from home, close friends, a fantastic boyfriend and a wonderful job in Missouri to move in with my parents, start waitressing again, and figure out what my next steps should be.
But before I get to those next steps—which I assure you I am both terrified and anxious to begin—I want to, I need to, debrief on the last three years.
Side note: I often refer to debriefing as a counselor’s cocaine. We love it. I once spent an entire 4 hour train ride debriefing with fellow counselor and friend, HaYoung, after teaching English to kids in a mountain town in beautiful South Korea.
It’s easy for me—since I have such high standards for myself—to see the last few years as a failure: I didn’t get into the PhD programs I wanted to and I was eventually laid off (nevermind that the main reason I lost my job was because I first told them I was leaving for more school and then didn’t end up going).
Yet, I have so many amazing, amazing friends, coworkers, and acquaintances in my head telling me that I have really achieved some important things in these past years. So, if for no other reason than the fact that I need a little encouragement at this point in my life, I’m going list all of the wonderful things that have transpired in my life these past years.
I moved to Warrensburg, a small-ish town about 50 miles east of Kansas City in January of 2009. I moved a 14 hour drive away from my home and family and at least 8 hours from anyone I knew at all. I also left Lake Michigan and Northern weather patterns without knowing how much I loved them.
So, here’s all that happened next:
- I started my first “real” or “professional” job
- I built my first client load
- I went to a climbing gym alone and found new climbing partners
- I led breakout sessions at our women’s retreats
- I lived in my own apartment for the first time
- I trained for and ran a marathon
- I planned and spoke at my first Single’s conference
- I created my own community and fabulous group of friends
- I learned how to use Photoshop (which I believe you can’t really fully appreciate until you yourself have spent the countless frustrated hours trying to figure it out)
- I started my first “serious” relationship with a pretty stellar guy
- I started my first blog
- I became a fully licensed counselor
- I explored Kansas City and fell in love with Westport
- I helped design and start a church coffee shop
- I learned how to make pretty mean espresso drinks in that coffee shop
- I applied to eight PhD programs in psychology and attended two interviews
- I planned various girls nights out and girls nights in
- I hosted and attended various dinner parties and game nights
- I traveled to Serbia with a group from church
- I traveled to South Korea alone
- I read the Harry Potter series
- I enjoyed countless cups of coffee over hours of meaningful conversation
But perhaps the most important things I’ve done are not things that can be listed in bullet points.
As with all things in life, my years in Warrensburg were characterized by a mix of what was hard and what was good. Warrensburg holds many great memories and many painful ones.
Warrensburg was a time of creating friendships, of exploration, of shedding lonely tears, of missing family, of creating family, of growing professionally, of growing personally, of losing friends, of gaining new ones, of feeling challenged, of feeling defeated, of feeling alive, of feeling strong, of meeting people in their pain, of letting people share my pain, of transition from young adulthood to adulthood.
I’m not the person I was.
I’d like to think I’m a better person.
These last few years have been a time of redemption and restoration; they haven’t been painless.
But the pain has been worth it.
I accept who I am more- the good and the bad, the masculinity and the femininity, the crazy and the calm. I have more grace for others because I have more grace for myself. I have deeper relationships because my walls aren’t up quite so high. And I’m working on trusting God in a more radical way.
So, reader, if you happen to be from Warrensburg, chances are that you’ve played some part in my transformation- that somewhere along the way your phone call when I was lonely, or dinner invitation when I was eating macaroni for the third day in a row, or children who made me laugh, or shoulder you let me cry on- has meant the world to me.