(A Journey of a Leap of Faith)
This essay was first published as a finalist in Stratejoy’s Essay Contest.
I’m seated in a café bar in the art district of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (which may sound like an oxymoron to some). Live music playing behind me, soft lighting from the lamp on the table highlighting the features of my table companions, the bronze bar top gleaming softly.
“Go on” urged my friend to the guy sitting to my left, “Ask her where she moved here from.”
He obliged, turning to look at me and asked.
I smiled benignly “New York City”.
His eyes widened “Uh, then why are you here?”
“Because this is where I am supposed to be right now,” I responded.
He considered that for a moment and then turned to the rest of the table, “Well,” he said “you definitely can’t argue with that.”
You can’t but for the past several months I had been trying to.
In 2010 I left NYC to move to Thailand to work with The Sold Project; an organization which provides resources to at risk youth. Even before I came back at the beginning of 2011, I knew NYC was no longer my home and, while I was enjoying a seasonal live-in position out on Long Island (close enough to go to NYC on weekends), for months I knew somewhere else was calling to me. I just didn’t yet know exactly where was.
I was on the platform of the Long Island Railroad when I made the split second decision to move to Oklahoma. It was that fast to do but took that long to make.
In the spring I had attended an anti-human trafficking conference where I learned of the major trafficking occurring Stateside with Oklahoma being a problem state. I had girlfriends from NYC who had relocated there a few years back and, more importantly, I had felt called out to that part of the country even when sitting in my little wooden room in the middle of a rice field in Thailand.
I packed it up and moved cross country to a place I had never seen and got down to the business of figuring out what it was that brought me to the Midwest. And waited and waited. Getting oriented in the culture out here was more of a journey than I had anticipated.
In the beginning I was full of energy and positivity; I connected with anti-trafficking orgs, met some friends who took me in and took me out and around OKC, dated a ton, for the first time I was active in a church and I found myself saying “excuse me” and “ma’am” as I never had before but then the momentum stopped. It took me six months to find a job that I could say ‘yes’ to without feeling like I was going backwards (six months while I watched my bank balance dwindle and dwindle) then six months into the job, I developed shingles due to stress and a dysfunctional work environment and left.
I was so thankful for the friends I had made yet struggled with finding a larger community and more like-minded women. I always had things to do Saturday and Friday night but was accustomed to a richer social life. The dynamic surrounding relationships out here wasn’t one I was used to and a dynamic I wasn’t sure I liked participating in. I felt isolated and out of sync and, sometimes, not unlike how I felt before I decided to leave New York City. So what did this mean? What was the point? Did I have to re-locate again after only being here a little over a year?
I was struggling with emotions I didn’t have a lot of experience with. I felt like I was too young to feel this way. I didn’t doubt moving out here was the right choice but… was I really supposed to feel this unhappy?
In those raw and real and hard moments, I faced down and eventually answered questions I hadn’t realized I wasn’t even thinking about before. Those moments helped me figure out my life priorities and goals beyond just my calling career-wise. While I do believe when you are in the right place in your life things will happen but sometimes there are moments or places – twilight places- in your life you can’t rush through. When you’re in the biggest apartment you’ve ever had, surrounded by different attitudes, different life choices, accents and codes of conduct, you learn how you fit in or how you don’t and you learn how you interact with those new situations and what it brings out in you. When you are in a situation where you are considered (however kindly) the oddity and conversations peter out once the woman realizes you aren’t married and don’t have kids- you start examining how that makes you feel and why.
Being honest about how difficult this has been for me is something I have struggled with. But once I put aside my pride and put aside my determination to make it work and allowed myself to go through what I was feeling, it got better. I was being real and I was being honest and things changed. I stopped being resentful as it dawned on me the hard moments caused by my transition out here lead to important life realizations; and maybe those realizations are exactly why I was brought out here. My friends more than stepped up to the plate once I communicated how I was feeling. Suddenly career opportunities and encouragement came out of unexpected areas reinforcing the point that I was at the right place. I met more people thus building a community and more relationships that have depth. I started volunteering which helps me keep it all in perspective.
The other day at lunch a friend of mine remarked if there was one word to describe me she would say it was the word “truth.” I think that’s the best affirmation I’ve received in a long time.
This time here and all its ups and downs, career acceleration, and loneliness, created a lot of time with myself thinking about where I want to go, what I want, what I can do and what matters. Being unhappy has deftly illustrated what does makes me happy.
Thanks to Oklahoma, I am in a better place to receive and to give to whatever comes next in my life.