I’ve Never Been More Hopeful and Terrified

Last week I “celebrated” the one-year anniversary of my cross-continental road trip’s conclusion. And by “celebrated,” I mean to say I cried multiple times by day’s end. No dramatic gasping wheezing weeping sessions, but I dabbed my eyes throughout the afternoon and evening as I looked back at some images from the road, including that final one of myself gazing over Charlotte’s sparkly skyline.

It was “supposed” to be the end of all my wandering. And by “supposed,” I mean to say that not even a year later, I hit the road once again.

It’s not all doom and gloom, though. While my move to Asheville has indeed featured shopping alone and hitting various coffee shops alone and strolling city streets alone and coming home, yes, alone, it’s also seen lots of team-building and vision-casting at my new job as a mentor working at a residential recovery center for teen boys.

I mean, look at where I’m working. A mansion full of bedrooms and classrooms, a woodworking studio and an art studio, a music room and a game room. I stare at this picture often in my loneliness.

I still can’t believe I get to work in one of my favorite cities, here:

My new job is with a brand new organization, and our majestic mansion isn’t quite ready for the first batch of student-residents. We’re shooting for end of the month, but in the meantime we’re cleaning windows and painting walls and assembling IKEA furniture and disassembling baby manikin dolls during CPR sessions together.

I’ll be working alongside eight fellow mentors to start, and we’ve hit it off pretty well. They’re fantastic people, the salaried staff too, and I look forward to working and talking and laughing more alongside them when the students start funneling in.

We’re all endeavoring down the same fresh waters, the nine of us. Whether we all go on to work here for years and years or something much less, we’ll all be able to say that we were the very first mentors to work in this big, beautiful building.

I find this compelling. To step into a new team environment and blaze a new trail that will hopefully be trod by dozens upon hundreds of mentors in the years to come.

Helping lay this new foundation was a significant draw to my relocation from Charlotte, two hours westward into the heart of the Blue Ridge.

How many people get to say they helped start a new team venture, be it work-related, sports-related, community-related, or otherwise? I mean, I painted the student lounge midnight purple last week! Forever and ever (or at least until they decide to repaint said plummy wall), I can look around the room and see my brushstrokes.

The vision of my new organization is palpable. They want to revolutionize education and treatment and staff connection. If you couldn’t already tell, I’ve never been more excited about a new job — a full-time one, at that.

So, it’s been a good start in Asheville. I’ve had total reign over my very own living situation for the first time in life, and while intimidated at first, I’m quite proud of my progress these last couple weeks. My living room actually looks and feels homey, a rug and coffee table and bookshelves full of books and a bright red couch rescued from a nearby dumpster — just in time, too. Because I wound up hosting my first Couchsurfer later that week!

I didn’t expect to host anyone so soon, but when I received a desperate, last-minute request from a recent college grad setting out on his own cross-country quest, how could I turn him away?

He was the perfect first guest. I’ll have to write more about that experience some time . . .

I never had all this in Charlotte – the team, the vision, the freedom. I still need to find a church community somewhere, and that admittedly stresses me the most right now. I haven’t exactly had the greatest track record when it comes to church-searches and community at large. But I know I’ve grown a ton in this realm the last few years, and I’m hopeful I’ll be able to plug into one of the plentiful churches in this communal, artsy city soon.

Assuming I find my tribe and that this job indeed goes well, as I have legitimate feelings it just might, then will I have forever lost my wandering affinity? Will I never again hit the road for weeks or months at a time, or will I never move to another city?

Isn’t the perfect city and perfect job and perfect community exactly what I’ve ever wanted this side of Eternity? Place-people-purpose?

After leaving Charlotte, I now realize more concretely that nothing in life is perfect. People change, people leave, hurt happens, and to a very sobering extent, none of us can do anything about it.

It’s admittedly terrifying to consider staying put a while — a year, two, five, ten, even longer?? — because I’m always so desperate to turn the page and hop in my car and see what’s next, what else, who else is still out there waiting to be discovered.

But maybe, just maybe, my “next” will stay the same for a while. Because by staying the same, aren’t I actually experiencing something new?

Maybe, just maybe, I’ll learn to like “the same” for a change.