I never thought I would end up here. I’m sure I never expected to end up anywhere, but in the rare moments that I would try to plan my future, here was never part of the package.
Let me explain.
For the past 3 and a half years, I have been living in the small town I grew up in. Even admitting that now brings me a wave of shame and guilt as I have been taught to feel by almost every peer that I grew up with. I am marrying a man who has never lived outside of Northeast Ohio, and loves his family more than anything else in his life. I assure you, many people never would have guessed that I would have ended up here.
The words ‘ended up’ are fundamentally wrong for any statement about my life, and it is partially the fault of social media that had made me feel this is the end. But that is an argument for another life.
I’m not ending up anywhere. I’m not ending. This, all of this, is the beginning. I wouldn’t be marrying this wonderful man if I didn’t truly believe so. And that says a lot. Because it’s taken a whole hell of a lot to get me to stay.
I’ve never known much about my life. I mean planning-wise. I’ve never been a planner. I always just thought things would work themselves out if I found things I enjoyed doing and people I enjoyed being around. That’s not to say that I haven’t worked hard. Many of my closest friends know the, “I’m too tired and stressed to function,” face which rears its ugly head far too often. I remember panicking in the fourth grade because we had to do a career project. I had no idea what I wanted to do. Even then, the decision for a career felt so concrete.
In college, I remember wandering around outside, talking to my dad, crying that I wouldn’t know what to do with a creative writing degree, that I didn’t want to teach, that I didn’t have any clear path.
The world likes clear paths. It likes logic and step by step analysis. It likes rushing who you are into a box so everyone else can compartmentalize you into a theory, an allegory. You’re easier to swallow that way. When I looked around at 21, I saw no one like me. The path to graduate school didn’t suit me. I had no clear understanding of what I could do with all of these new critical thinking skills.
I traveled. I had 2 years of gritty, real experiences. I found faces that longed for the sun, and hearts that wandered. But during that time, I missed things. I wasn’t there for family, for illness, for near death. I was too far to hold them. Part of me felt that it was ok. They told me to live. They told me to go.
But I am missing the point.
This letter is for those souls who feel stuck. For those who feel like they ended up, instead of chose, and are bitter and shame-driven and guilty about it.
There is a whole world out there, and yes, I know that to you it is already painfully obvious because you feel like you are missing it. I know, I feel it too still. But to those who are still in their hometown or not where they want to be, please know – this place that you are in is a place. It is somewhere. Maybe you are the change that it needs for now. I know you do not need these things to rest only on your shoulders when you already feel so heavy, but understand that when you shed the weight of guilt and shame, you can now carry this responsibility.
You’ve heard it before – you are not here forever unless you actively chose to be. The things that happen in your life take time. Think of what has really shaped you. The things that are worth it take time, and you’ve got plenty of it. No matter how young or old you are.
These reasons seem frivolous. Ultimately it’s your decision to make amends with this life.