A different kind of beginning

(My new blog can be found at — theytoldmeidbefine.com — for those interested in keeping up)

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I thought my ‘coming home’ story in July would be my last post on this blog. More than anything, I think that says a lot about how simple I thought coming home would actually be.

There is a community of people, I’m discovering, who have tried returning from the road only to find that home has changed, that friends have changed, that they’ve changed. I discovered this community, not because I was looking for it, but because they knew I would need to be found (to those people who reached out to me, thank you). Within the first week being back in San Diego, friends who grew up in military or missionary families, who studied abroad, who’ve already tried coming back, messaged me with ‘how are you really?’s and more than one ‘hang in there’ – little liferafts that I didn’t even know I needed.

“Moving back is bittersweet,” a good friend reassured me over chat as I huddled under the lip of the kitchen counter around midnight, the sound of 4th of July fireworks still echoing gloriously in the back of my head, the smell of American-summer breezes still caressing strands of my tossled hair. My first 24 hours Stateside were glorious, but they had not been what I’d expected. “I’ve dealt with going back many times,” my friend told me. Military kid. “It looks like it did. In some ways maybe it feels that way. But it’s not like it was, and it won’t be.”

I lost two things that night – the idea of coming back to the home I grew up in and falling right back into where everything left off, and the promise of being able to return to Prague. Because Prague will change too.

I’ve also discovered a community of people who have no clue what they’re doing with their life. These people I stumbled across on accident as well. Most of them I’ve known for years, but because I’ve always been the ‘man with a plan’ they never confided in me just how directionless they were. Probably for the best. I would have judged. I would have patronized sympathetically, and then I would have judged so hard.

But the longer I’m home, the more I realize just how far into my quarter-life crisis I really am. All my pretty plans are falling apart and the ones that remain intact I have begun to dissembled with my own bare, determined hands. And with this terrifying liberation, I find myself closer to the other wanderers of the world, waiting for direction, hoping in the promise that God has a plan for our lives.

No one talks about being lost. No one my age. We rush from goal to goal, trying to make our place in the world. Trying to meet the expectations of our families and communities. Trying to prove to ourselves that we have a purpose. We don’t have time to be lost.

And yet I think that’s what many of us need: time to realize where our strength comes from. Time to realize that we can’t save ourselves. Our journeys are not our own. Our destinies are written in the stars by the stars’ Master-Planner, and His plan may include twists and lulls that we never counted on.

I wish someone had told me it was okay to be here (here being that weird, undefinable stage of “um, so what next?”). Actually, several people told me it was okay to be here. I just wish I had listened sooner.

So I suppose that’s why I’m writing again. (I’ve got a new blog, though. Take a look at it here!) This is how I process, definitely. But this is also how I reach out. If my trek through the lost years of being twenty-something help embolden my fellow sojourners, then it’s worth it to keep blogging. This is for the communities who’ve helped me come home, who’ve welcomed me into the ranks of the wandering. And for those who followed me through Prague, may I just say, ‘thank you.’ 

Here’s to the next step.

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The art of opening doors

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My friends and captors on Charles’ Bridge, February 2014.

“Just pull the handle down,” Kat said in a tone that suggested I didn’t know how to open a door.

“I tried that.”

The large double doors of the Old Jewish Synagogue in Prague sat there lazily, refusing to budge. I felt mocked.

“Maybe it’s closed already,” said Kačka. She too attempted to open the door – like Americans don’t ever do that sort of thing and must not know how.

Kat smirked at both of us – it’s a friendly kind of smirk that Czechs are good at. The clouds rolled over our heads and began misting us with cold droplets of sky, so we walked to the other side of the narrow lane and through a door (which did open for us) to ask about the Synagogue. It was late Friday afternoon so Prague’s Jewish Quarter was settling down for the Sabbath. We, however, were just getting started.

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Okay, who broke the sky?

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Outside the Rodulfinum concert hall in Prague.

Seriously, who broke the weather? I don’t understand. Wet stuff keeps falling from the sky. It’s like someone pulled the plug on a magical layer of the lower atmosphere and the galaxy is draining through the hole in liquid form all over Prague.

As pretty as everything looks all sparkly and wet… I WAS NOT PREPARED FOR THIS. I came to Prague with one pair of pants, two pairs of walking shoes (which are already worn through) and several cardigans. I thought to myself, when it gets cold in November, I’ll buy a winter wardrobe. Even the people I talked to at the school said September stays pretty warm.

How was I to know that “warm” can also be translated as “chilly,” “windy,” and even “cold?”

I grew up loving the rain. In San Diego it rains like twice a year and those two days are our snow days. School doesn’t happen. Hot coco is made. Frolicking in puddles occurs. And when we’re cold and soaked down to our DNA, we head inside and get warm (I mean actually warm – none of this 62 degrees thing). It’s beautiful, it’s rare, and it’s very regulated.

But here I don’t have the option to head back inside when I’m done. I have to get to school to teach, I have to wait for the next bus. I certainly don’t get hot chocolate and – as we’ve already covered – I don’t exactly have warm clothes to change into.

On top of this, I’m also still adjusting to the basic practice of hanging laundry on a clothesline. It’s not as romantic as it always looks in books and movies. There is no running through white sheets blowing in hot summer breezes. There is not a magical glow that makes everything look clean and fairy-like. It’s just a bunch of plastic clothespins holding up your undergarments for the whole neighborhood to see. (I actually strung some dental floss between my bed post and the bottom of my bedroom window because some things just shouldn’t be aired in public – the only downside is that now everything I own smells a little minty).

I had just gotten used to this system of drying clothes when this rain stuff started happening. Like, c’mon.

I began checking Prague Weather on Google before starting a load of laundry to find out if I had enough time to wash the clothes (2 hours with European washing machines) and then dry them (and you have to start pre-4 p.m. to get the light or it’s pointless) before the next rain shower.

One particularly busy day I forgot to bring it all in. At 2 a.m. I was awakened by the horrifying spatter of rain against my window. My consciousness immediately jumped to one awful thought: my laundry!

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