“What’s important is that you make the leap. Jump high and hard with intention and heart. Pay no mind to the vision that the commission made up. It’s up to you to make your life. Take what you have and stack it up like a tower of teetering blocks. Build your dream around that.”
The countdown is in full swing now. It's getting really real.
Twenty-eight years ago this month, my mom, dad, two sisters and I embarked on a cross-country trip. We drove to a college in Tennessee, where my sister T had received a scholarship. Once T was settled in her new dorm, we continued on to San Angelo, Texas, where I would finish my college education thanks to a scholarship. I had never been to Texas before, but had always wanted to go there. I had been wanting to "get away" for a long long time. I was excited beyond words.
My dorm was still "under construction" when we got there, so I moved into a temporary dorm room. Mom, Dad, and M helped me get my stuff settled in then turned around and started driving back home.
And there I was. My dream had come true. I had finally "gotten away."
And within about an hour after they left, I was terrified. Sick with fear and dread. What was I doing? How was I going to function - everything was weird there. Brown and flat and ... weird. And huge: I'd gone from living near a town of 600 to living in a "city" of 80,000. I had a car (my lovely 1972 Dodge Dart) -- but had no idea where to go to find anything and was terrified of getting lost. (Alas, this was long before google maps and iPhone direction apps.)
The first two months there were the hardest two months of my life. Everything was different. The land, the weather, the people, even the language. Or at least it seemed that way to me. People talked with this accent such that I couldn't understand 60% of what they were saying, and I talked so fast they didn't understand what I was saying. And the food was weird. I understand that most kids gain weight when they go away to college. I lost at least 10-15 pounds in my first semester, because I couldn't get used to the weird food. I craved Mom's green beans, potatoes, and hamburger dinners. Anything simple. Anything from home.
I eventually acclimated and ended up spending eight years in Texas. I graduated with my elementary education degree and luckily found a job immediately up in Richardson, Texas. It was there that I met Karen, my "boss," who would become one of the most important people in my life -- with whom I learned so much about myself and my place in the world and how to live joyfully in my own skin. Alas, that's another story for another time. I share this only to say that I thought I knew why I was going to Texas when I applied to 20+ schools there. I was going to "get away" and see the big world "out there." It was only years later, that I figured out that I went to Texas to find Karen. I just didn't know it at the time.
This whole thing feels kind of like "going to Texas" -- on steroids. I'm so excited about this. It is such a great chance to expand our experiences and our world, to travel to places we've not yet had the chance to see, to immerse ourselves in another culture and experience the world "outside the bubble" of the US. It's a great career opportunity for my husband too.
I'm somewhat terrified too. Next week this time, assuming all goes well, we will be unpacking some suitcases in our new home, or out shopping for some basics. And life as I've known it will be ... very different. I will be the foreigner, the minority, the immigrant. I will not be able to read the dials on my washing machine or the microwave in my new home. I will not be able to communicate with my neighbors, or the grocer, or the waiter, or the doormen and receptionists at our apartment. I will not be able to read maps, menus, or ingredient listings on packages at the grocery store. I will not recognize many of the vegetables in the produce section. I will not know where to get my phone changed to the network in China, or how to explain what I need when I find where to go. I will not know how to get ... virtually anywhere -- or how to explain where I need to go. It's going to take some getting used to.
But I'm still taking this leap.
And some day -- maybe a year from now, maybe ten -- the real "whys" will make themselves known.