I bet you have one, probably more. Those memories that you return to for strength and encouragement. I’d like to share one of those with you today.
In this post, I mentioned that 20 years ago I was waiting to get cleared to enter the Peace Corps. I had quit a great job in San Francisco and had moved back to live with my parents for the month prior to my departure date in mid-July,. Two weeks prior to that date, I was informed that my departure would be delayed. I needed to do a few things but once I was cleared I would be able to go. It was likely at least a six-month delay, maybe longer.
So here I was. Unemployed. Dejected. Annoyed. Determined to still go. Uncertain about how to spend this unknown time. So I became a Kelly Services employee and began a temp job as a proof-reader. I worked the night shift, from 3:00-midnight, looking for typos and errors in the introductory sections of the phone book. Little did I know I was learning a skill that I would use nearly every day as a letterpress printer.
I spent time as an adult with my parents and my grandmother, my mother’s mother. My grandma needed to be ferried to doctor’s appointments and other things. I helped my mom do that. My grandma and I shared meals at Arby’s and sat together watching Wheel of Fortune.
My parents and I started walking the trails of the Cuyahoga Valley trail system, a system that I didn’t even know existed even though I grew up practically on top of it. We each earned our walking sticks that fall by walking or running the required number of trails. My parents went on to earn annual badges for those sticks in subsequent years. I started seriously trail running at that time and found comfort in long-distance running and sit-ups.
Mostly I learned how to embrace uncertainty, to manage my frustration with the unknown and to hold onto faith that I was still on the right path, even if I didn’t quite understand what that path was. I also learned how to be an adult child in my parent’s home. And to see and be with them in a different way than I had as a teenager.
Then, on November 26th my grandmother passed away.
On November 29th as I was pulling on my stockings in preparation to attend her funeral, my mother called me to the phone. This moment is one of those very clear visual memories. I picked up the receiver and was informed that I was cleared to begin my service as a Peace Corps Volunteer and that I would be leaving on January 3. The whole past six months immediately made sense.
I was able to be there with my mom. I was able to go to the funeral. I was able to honor in person the woman who still to this day inspires me with her determination and perseverance and dedication to family. I learned all those other things, too. It’s likely that had I already been in the Peace Corps that I wouldn’t have been able to attend any of that.
Coincidence? Maybe. Instead, I gather strength from this. It reminds me to keep the faith, to persevere, to trust that maybe something else is at work and to do my best to be as present to the current moment as humanly possible.