Written on November 28, 2015.
Every stone, every tree, every river, and every person has a story. My own story is always changing, flowing like the water between smooth rocks, sometimes rushing hard with fresh rain, other times trickling along, lightly lapping on the shoreline, slowly eroding the bank that becomes one with the water. I want to share a bit of my story with you, a perspective that I have in this moment as a write, but remember that my story is always changing, flowing like the river...
“Life is a choice between heaven or hell. You can choose to be free or trapped in your cell.”
I wrote those lyrics a couple of years ago pretty soon after my twin sister and I moved to Austin, Texas. I had just graduated from college and was more than ready to move out of Mississippi, where I had lived for the past 22 years. My home town was beautiful in its own way, rolling green hills and vast empty fields, lined with blackberry thickets and dotted with muddy water ponds, perfect for achieving that lovely squishing in between your toes. I grew up in the most poverty stricken state, with the highest rate of teen pregnancies, and other bleak statistics I’m sure. The good memories from my childhood look like deep forest exploring with my sweet sister, arrowhead hunting in empty fields, spotlight with neighbors on muggy summer nights; the memories sound like hill country blues leaking from the juke joints along highway 4, my dad and his Lebanese brothers shouting foreign obscenities during dove hunting season, the constant chirping of cicadas or locusts, since we called them both. They taste like mud pies and grass salads, deer meat and brown gravy, smoke from a barrel burning piles of fall leaves.
As I got older, I remember some sort of passion rising within myself, some fire being stoked at the bottom of my stomach, snaking its way into my throat, releasing itself first as experimentation in saying cuss words and then at the authority figures at my school, those people in power who clearly did not know what justice looked like. I became an advocate of some sort, speaking out for those who felt silenced, standing tall to face those that bullied my peers and myself. I was an odd combination of scrawny and strong, short and wiley, innocent to many things but not naive to all of the craziness that I observed around me. I felt extremely out of place in that small town, a willow tree amongst the oaks, a butterfly released, knocking desperately on the cocoons of those around me, hearing nothing but silent screams. I wanted out of that cocoon covered environment. Out of that small town where people got stuck, feet in the quicksand of Mississippi ground. I wanted to experience more than I ever had. I wanted to catch a ride on the wings of a hawk and soar over vast oceans, deep valleys, snow covered mountains, the exhilaration of the flight squelching any fear of the height at which I flew.
I finally caught my ride out via my 99’ Camry, cruise control set, Austin Texas on my mind. I get asked all the time, “Why did you move to Austin, specifically?” From the first day I arrived, my answer was and still is, Austin is a vortex. It sucked me in. That’s not to say that I’ll never leave, but the energy of this place is amazing and has accelerated my personal growth ten-fold. Once I moved to Austin, I felt like I came home. I felt completely accepted by this place, welcome to be as quirky and free as I felt on the inside.
Feeling accepted and welcomed by those that surround me offered a sense of freedom and security that was integral in a deep discovering of my true self and purpose. I moved here fresh out of college, fearful but excited to start a career as a teacher, independent from my parents for the first time and completely naive to what life was like outside of going to school. Unfortunately having a full time teaching job didn’t shine any light on that existence that I thought I’d taste after college. I was still stuck in a school Monday through Friday, all day long, staring out of the window, wanting nothing more than to play outside, surrounded by the beautiful nature that was quietly but strongly calling my name. After 2 years of teaching, I made one of the hardest decisions of my life and quit my job, not knowing what I would do or how I would make a living. I felt as if I was on the edge of a cliff, a pack of hungry wolves charging at my back, an unknown abyss in front of me. I knew I had no choice but to jump and when I did, the most magical thing happened. My wings opened and I realized that I could fly! I had found my ride and it was within myself the whole time.
Now I’m still flying, although more silently, like the wise Owl, gently landing on opportunities, sometimes sight-unseen, but feelings strongly felt. I am learning to trust my Self more than ever, realizing that it is this self that has guided me along my journey. My life is nothing more than my experience; rich, real, messy, and joyful. It’s not what I read in books, or see on the internet, or hear from my friends. It is not what is I grew up thinking was right or what I think needs to happen as I grow up. It is exactly what is happening right now, and only until I took the leap and jumped off of that cliff was I able to have the perspective to see beyond the trees, out to the edges of the very Universe.
“We gotta take a step back, become the witness to it all. We gotta spread our wings if we feel we’re gonna fall.”