During the 30 days leading up to my 30th birthday, I am posting a letter a day expressing thankfulness for someone or something that has played a major role in shaping the first 30 years of my life.
(I have missed a couple of days in the past week,
so some days may have two letters as I get caught up)
Well, I'm almost going to be really cliché and write about how I found myself while backpacking. Is is less cliché if I say I remembered myself while traveling? Eh, either way, the month I spent backpacking around Europe with two of my roommates after I graduated from college made an important impact on my life.
I was 21 and was very much trying to figure out some things about my life. I had spent nearly 2 years trying to fit a boy into my life, or trying to fit myself into his life. Even though that effort had started to unravel 6 months earlier when we had broken up, I left for my trip thinking that maybe it would still all work out in the end. Europe, you provided a space for my mind and heart. Space for some things I had been ignoring for a long time to crawl out of hiding. You see, in my attempts to make this relationship work, I had started silencing little bits of myself so I would be more compatible with him. It wasn't his fault, he was a nice guy. I hadn't dated someone before, so I guess I just thought ... I don't know what I thought, I just did it. At first it was little stuff, like the music I liked. It's not a big deal to like opposite music, right? It probably isn't, but it is a big deal to never share the things you're excited about when you're dating someone because you don't want to rock the boat or make the other person feel like they don't understand you. Anyway, over time I had started doing the same thing about big stuff: passions and interests that God had put in my heart.
Thank you, Europe, for providing long, rocking train rides that left me with lots of time for reflection and journaling. Thank you for lovely, scenic landscapes that soothed my heart. Thank you for the opportunity to meet interesting people and have conversations that reminded me that there was great value in those bits of me that I had been hiding. God used that month to tell my heart that He had created me to be who I am for a reason; and that at the right time, the right boy would value those things. A month after I got home, I had a moment while I was working in a factory (paying off my trip) when I suddenly knew who that boy would be. Five months later we started dating. A year and a half after that, I became his wife.
Europe, thanks for being beautiful and different. Thanks for reminding me that God made me that way, too. You helped me to be ready for the boy who thinks my particular brand of different is beautiful.