I sat in my car in the parking lot, a familiar parking lot for once, instead of a brand new place I was going to have to brave on my own.
At least I’d been there before. At least I knew my way around.
But that didn’t calm any of my nerves; I still didn’t know anyone, and I still had to break the barrier of stepping out of my car, walking the distance in the parking lot, through the doors, and into the lobby.
Alright, I’m here. I thought. I came. I showed up. I need to know you’re going to be faithful again because right now I don’t think you will.
I was thirty minutes early, so I sat in my car listening to the silence. I’ve done this so many times, and it’s never worked. It always looks like this time will work out, but I don’t even want to hope in this if you’re just going to take me away again.
I struggle to stay.
My heart is conditioned to leave my walls up, to not let anyone in, all in the name of protecting myself from getting hurt. But really that’s because I haven’t been settled in one place for years. I’ve been to five different churches, a different one each year, since my freshman year of high school. In the span of one year, I graduated, went out of state for college, came home to commute, and I’m about to change again.
So maybe I struggle to stay in part because my heart has never known what staying feels like. It doesn’t know how to make itself a home with simplistic walls and fill it with people who are going to share breakfast and good conversation with it.
I’ve grown too accustomed to renting my heart out instead of building a home.
Temporary people have their place. They come into your life anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, sometimes a few years, and then for whatever internal or external reason, they’ll slowly drift away, pieces of your heart attached to them. It’s a beautiful and tragic thing, that somewhere out there, x amount of people are carrying parts of you and me.
But it sucks when temporary becomes your anthem. When you expect the person to leave. When you struggle to let your guard down not because you aren’t trusting or ashamed of your story, but because you like this person and their vibes so much and so badly want to be their friend but you’re not sure if they’re going to be someone who stays or eventually goes.
You start losing your hope in someone ever coming and just staying for a while. And in the meantime your heart is left ceaselessly looking for your tribe. Your people. Your place. Your home.
And that makes sense, we’re all seeking places of belonging and feeling accepted for who we are; that phrase has borderline become a cliche. Sometimes months or years will come where you’re in a period of restlessness, when you try x place and y place and meet a, b, and c, and it just doesn’t click.
I’m learning to be okay with that. I’m learning to not hold on to people so tightly that it affects my mental and emotional health if something shifts in our relationship. Essentially learning how to not put my validation, worth, acceptance in someone, yeah?
I don’t like the phrase “settle down” because that makes me think I’m not being productive, that I’m not proactively shifting and expanding my story. I don’t want to become comfortable or complacent or inactive. And the last year has definitely forced me to not feel comfortable. Truthfully that’s been good for me. I’ve frequented so many new places that I’ve learned to control my social anxiety and push through anyway, knowing that not every person I meet has to become my forever friend.
Sometimes someone just really needs to hear your story, and you hear their’s, and then both of you will be on your way.
But honestly, I’m ready to stay awhile. I’m ready to find a place that I can say, “yes this is my home, yes this is my tribe, and I will continue to go and I will continue to change, but these are my people. These are the people who keep me grounded, the people who challenge me to continue questioning and to continue growing. This place is my stomping ground, and this is where life happens and where we do life together.”
And so I took a breath, pulled my jacket around my face, and stepped into the snow flurries, the city skyline bright against a backdrop of black sky and white dots of snow.
And two hours later, I left with ten new contacts in my phone and a heart that hasn’t felt this excited in a really long time.
There’s just a moment, after trying and failing and trying and failing for so long, that you try something and it just works. It just feels right, like you know you’ve come home.
Like you know that maybe, just maybe, this time, this time will work. And you still doubt, and you still wonder if it’s all too good to be true, but it infuses your heart with hope again.
That one day it will work out. That one day people will stay longer than a two-hour coffee date. That one day someone will step up and say, “Hey you. I like you. Let’s be friends.”
And I didn’t realize it until now, but all of those times I’ve moved around, all of the times I’ve had to walk into a new place with no backup, just me, myself, and I, only for it to not work out, has given me all the more brave. Almost as if your heart reaches the point of giving up and saying, “Why not, you’ve tried ten billion other places before, this place probably won’t work either.”
That sounds so pessimistic but it’s not meant to be. I think sometimes our hearts just become tired of moving around and feeling like restless wanderers, and yet somehow, without intending to, that fuels us to go at it without expectations, without strings attached, and one day…
“And so we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby.
So we keep going.
We force ourselves to try again.
We get up when we fall.
Rise and rise again.
Because I promise you, the day will come. And your heart will sing a new tune because it has found its place. Don’t give up, whatever new thing you’re throwing yourself into or being called to do. The more terrified you are, throw yourself into it 10x more, and then wait. Because even if it’s not what you want in that moment, and even if they do leave, even if you do have to move, even if you do have to try again, the people you meet will be what you need in that moment.
Stay faithful where you’re at, that’s what I really want to say. You’re okay if you hate it; my story is filled with more moments I’ve hated where I’m at than moments I’ve felt at rest. So if you’re at unrest and know you’re not where you need to be, make a change, but until that change comes full fruition, stay faithful. Keep reaching out, keep telling your story and your brave, keep talking to people. Don’t isolate yourself because one day you’re not going to be there. Make the most of this temporary time, because the more faithful you become in the temporary, the more faithful you’ll be in the permanent.
It sounds contradictory to what I’ve been talking about, but there are two different types of people here: people who need to learn to stay, and people who need to pack up and go. What these both have in common is brave. Sometimes it really sucks to have to come home from being away at college, living in a dorm room on your own, trying to make friends in a new state, and commuting to a community college when that wasn’t what you wanted. Sometimes it really sucks to try five different churches and know you like one, but can’t go because you’re going out of state.
But then one day, five months later you’re back and you try it again, and this time something feels different.
So sometimes you aren’t ready for the place you’re meant to be in. Sometimes you have to follow a different trail to end up in the place you least expected, but where your heart begins to feel like it’s at home.
At some point, things are going to start making sense again. You’ll start seeing why certain things happen. You’ll start using your voice and realizing there are so many people out there who feel just like you and know where you’ve been because they’re there now. And while everything is still subject to change, everything could still shift, your heart finally feels like it can breathe again and peek out from its walls.
Keep going. That day will come.
Because tonight on a tiny rug, in the middle of a room of 500 college students, a tribe was formed.