I'm honored to be writing this post as part of Emily Wierenga's blog tour for her new book, Atlas Girl: Finding Home In The Last Place I Thought To Look!
"Don't go," my mother would plead in tears one day and, "I want you to go. I don't want to hold you back," the next. Her emotions were back and forth, up and down for weeks before my planned departure and it broke my heart to see her struggle like that, but my mind was made up. My school year at MSU–B was concluding and I was taking a Greyhound with a friend to Bloomfield, New Jersey–a town just past Newark.
It wasn't that there was anything spectacular waiting for my friend and me there. A one-bedroom apartment, four roommates and a job at a steak house is all that awaited us.
But I was twenty-three and had been longing for home since I was eleven, when my five sisters and I were abruptly uprooted from our home in Pennsylvania and our roots in New York, and moved to the middle of nowhere in Wyoming because my mom had a friend who said it was a good place for a single mom to raise six girls.
A Greyhound to New Jersey was simply the closest I could get to where I thought home had been. And although I thought I was running to a place I once called home, I was really running away. I thought I would do and find and be everything that my family couldn't in a broken, dysfunctional upbringing.
I ran from church and God, though I wouldn't admit it because I wasn't abrasive by nature, so it still looked like God when I believed the power was within me and I couldn't put my finger on why I felt so discontent. So alone.
I ran from limitations and feelings of inferiority. I ran from fear, betrayal, abandonment, and disappointment.
I ran from needing to have my life in control, and from binging and purging when it clearly wasn't.
I didn't know what to do with those confused feelings that surfaced, so I stuffed them, then got rid of them, then cried – day after day.
I ran because I knew I was created for something more, something important, something with purpose and meaning – and I didn't know how to get there without crashing hard in trying.
I could see where I wanted to be – that bright meadow just across the way. But a deep cliff leading into a valley separated me from that glorious place, and I simply couldn't keep my footing.
Maybe I was looking for a way around it.
And so I left.
And the next year I spent searching. I earned my rent most days and learned how to survive in the big world–a world that didn't have answers, just a lot of activity. A world void of meaningful relationships, but best if you had connections.
My roommate and I rode the bus to NYC on days off work and spent many evenings in local pubs. We spent the summer weekends on Jersey Shore, and in this area of city life everyone wanted to know whether you were an actress, singer or model.
The thought of being somebody was invigorating.
Maybe if I were one of those I would have at least known who I was. But I didn't have the upbringing that pushed me to strive for any of those – except maybe singing, but I wasn't meant to sing alone. So I continued to feel lost, clinging to those opinions that claimed I "should be" one of those, famous somehow.
Or maybe if I found Mr. Right, everything would fall into place. I played the part of being set apart – picky, in other words – so that I would surely find the "right" one. But instead of finding him, I made him up in the charming ones I met. Because I didn't believe he was really out there and I just wanted so badly to be cherished and rescued from an empty life.
And what I found in this place two thousand miles away and only hundreds from where grew up, was that I was farther from home than ever. I found that disappointment followed and discontentment grew, even in all of the fun – all that empty, worldly fun.
I found that the power in me was not strong enough to win those battles I fought within. I wouldn't remember it just yet, that greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world, and without Him I was powerless.
I didn't want to go back to Wyoming, but a broken relationship and a persuasive sister convinced me to go back to the university town because she wanted me closer to home to sing in a sister group they had formed, because we sang together growing up and music was the one thing that bonded our broken family.
So I set aside my pride that I needed to prove something and said okay as long as I could finish my degree. I bought my plane ticket, packed my bag and weary heart and said good-bye to my one roommate left, the one I came with, then landed at the University of Wyoming for the following school year.
I wasn't home, but familiar faces and fresh, clean air made me feel a little closer.
How and where did I finally find home? Click here for the conclusion of A Quest for Home.
I've been reading Emily Wierenga's book, Atlas Girl: Finding Home In The Last Place I Thought To Look, and loving her story and journey that reminds me so much of the moral of my story and journey – our journey's. We can all relate to this travel memoir, on some level, about how God gently pursues us where ever we go and gently leads us back home. Emily is and award winning journalist and author of four books. All proceeds for Atlas Girl go to The Lulu Tree, a non-profit helping moms and orphans in Uganda. Get your copy here!