Couldn’t Sleep, Still Dreaming

Every once in a while, for no particular reason at all other than perhaps the tide of the water or the alignment of the stars, my body refuses to produce the serotonin it requires to will it to sleep. Tonight was one of those nights. This is a list of things I did instead.

– Brain dumped a few ideas I’ve been meaning to write about (and I say that in the same way I say I’ve been meaning to floss)
– Organized my photo files (read: looked through 700 images completely unwilling to delete any of them because what if I want to create a photobook someday)
Tweeted
– Deleted Snapchat because enough tyranny
– Thought I lost my memories, realized they’re on Snapchat servers (my photobook dreams are safe), accepted they own my life
– Wondered what cold climate I could travel to this year so I’d have a reason to wear a beret
– Reconsidered if I could pull of said beret
– Determined to try anyway

Overall, it was a productive evening.

At Some Point, You’ve Gotta Hit Publish

“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.”

I’ve considered renaming this blog several times. Nothing particularly poetic, just something straightforward and to the point like Uncomfortably Christian or Reluctantly Christian or Don’t Know What I’m Doing, Thanks For Reading. When I reflect on why it has been so hard to write in the last year, this about sums it up. In the last twelve months, I went from living as an adult who accessorized her life with an inconsequential Christian dogma she found impolite to talk about to a woman in love with the Lord. As I type those words, they make me squirm because I remember how weird that statement has sounded to me at different points of my life. The fact that “In love with the Lord” sounds like a bad t-shirt you’d see in the South is not lost on me. But last September, I found myself hungering for a life with more significance than the one I’d built and longing for character that was deeper still. The only place I’ve ever found that measure of purpose has been within an unbridled relationship with God, in which I make Him the main thing. I have never known the Lord in a very formal way. I didn’t grow up in church, I have never experienced the trauma or dysfunction that many are subject to within the church body firsthand. I was lucky enough to become acquainted with Scripture and the personhood of Jesus at a camp that was full of leaders who may have been overenthusiastic at times but were overall sincere in their zeal for young people to know a God who loves them and welcomes them as they are. I realize I have the privilege of knowing an intimacy with my faith, and ultimately with God, that is unencumbered by the failures of religion. This has always made returning to the Lord a sweet homecoming of sorts.

I find myself returning to this blog now, even though I make fun of myself for having a blog to begin with (note: one that has been neglected for a year), because I admire pioneers in the online space that live their lives faithfully in devotion to God but make no illusions about their own perfection. I find it really difficult to return to this space with no sense of branding or niche for myself as an individual. There’s no real niche for messy Christians. There’s a niche for Messy Christians™ who write about untidy living rooms or cursing every once in a while, but as Jen Hatmaker soberly pointed out, once you gain admission into the mainstream Christian machine of Authors and Leaders and Pastors, you’re supposed to follow a script. I am really bad at that. Downright awful. If there’s anything consistent about of my life, it’s that fact alone. At 18, I lead a team of people to the Dominican Republic to volunteer in bateys where people are largely disconnected from access to education, healthcare, financial opportunity and live without government representation. 19, I moved to New York City with a suitcase and no apartment or job to be an unpaid youth leader. By 25, I had reached personal milestones working at a classically textbook start-up among the smartest people I’d ever known. None of it was scripted or fit the expectations of what others imagined for me. I have a bad habit of sharing what I think and I just kind of have always done what I think I should do, whether to my own detriment or not. I try to steward these freedoms more wisely now.

The measure of wisdom I’ve earned through a lot of loss and pain, both within Christ and my years wandering beyond, lead me to detach the value of my life with what I can succeed at and how many people are applauding at any given time. My last two years in New York are characterized by little else than performance (at least, beyond the kindred friendships that were forged). Society only offers rewards for such, but performing will cost you being human. At some point, you forget how to sit with the people who know you best because you’ve forgotten yourself in the truest sense. In September of last year, I began a journey to invest in relationships again, as well as in the growth of myself as a fully realized person. So, I moved away from New York City, moved in with one of my best friends, and grew close to family in Orlando. I reacquainted myself with my own idealist heart, resigned myself to its stubborn naïveté towards the world, and celebrated my twenty-sixth birthday a[art from the entitlement, and subsequent emptiness, that characterized my last few years as a New Yorker. As I welcomed the next quarter century of my life, I determined that if I remained real and showed the world an image of God that has margin for people that have been to the ends of the earth and back again (Christian Machine™ be damned), then I would be proud to inhabit this story and share it with others faithfully. I would just need the courage to do so.

Swimming In Grace Again

c-glowacki
Image by C. Glowacki.

After a long day at work last week, I drove to Rollins College (an old, romantic campus near my office) and I sat by myself on a bench near a lake.

I’d been restless all day.

Recently, I’ve gotten into the funny habit of speaking peace over my own heart. There’s no shortage of things in this world (and within our own thoughts) eager to steal it so reminding myself of God’s truths and the true nature of things propelled into His care has been a good habit.

This particular day, my best efforts were futile. My mind had settled into a discomfort I couldn’t quite put into words.

I’m reading a book about trees these days and learning a lot about the nature of their growth. Pruning a young tree, or cutting the branches back, helps them grow in the right direction and removes diseased wounds. They are cut so they are healed. The process forces them to grow strong enough to weather storms. I get why Jesus drew a parallel between this process and certain seasons He fosters into our lives.

I’ve also been reading the Bible again after a long time outside the church. Outside the church is a light way to put it. I spent almost two years sneering at the Evangelical Christian culture I identified with as a teenager, resenting the simplicity and struggle of it all. I didn’t want to struggle. I didn’t want to be “authentic” or trust in a faith I felt I’d grown out of. I just wanted to live.

My definition of “living” was defined by putting more value on, well, everything, above the Christ I once knew. And there’s always collateral damage to that. It’s a sad story but it’s not a new one.

Trees are cut so they are healed. And so are we.

I used to think when Scripture referenced the nature of creation as one of conflict, it only meant the world outside of our bodies. It made sense to me that wrestling tectonic plates and rising seas were crying to be freed from decay and unrest, ushered into the restoring presence of God once and for all. I now realize that, much like his thoughts on the vine and the branches, this truth speaks not only to creation beyond us but also creation within us.

I was frustrated that day on the lake. I was frustrated and wearied under the eager expectation for the restoration of all my wandering had wrought.

I prayed for faces I loved and sat there, silently waiting for the soil within me to quit moving when I noticed a girl swimming in the water I sat across.

She had walked to the end of the pier and jumped in while I had been in my own thoughts. A longing to return to dirt and earth and belong to something simpler woke up in me. I walked to the end of the pier and jumped in wearing my gym clothes.

Suddenly, it was just me and the lake and the smiling stranger in the lake who cheered me on with a ‘hang loose’ shake of her hand. I smiled back in a way that said, “I’m trying” and floated back. We each had a sense of our own rebellion in that moment—leaving the pressures of schedules and traffic and iPhone notifications to return to life itself. And on a Thursday afternoon no less, while the rest of the world pressed on without us.

I sank into the scandal and disappeared, tangling my feet through moss as I looked up at the sky and prayed to be untangled from my fears. The restlessness never disappeared and I admit I thought a jump in a lake would do it. Instead, it floated along with me. As I swam further out, the Winter Park estates felt smaller under the expanse I looked out onto. And so did I and all the concerns I carry within me in this life.

In that moment, my own being in this world made sense.

In the darkness of the lake, in the parallels of my fear for the future and what was swimming along below me, in the face of a God I realized I can’t control or distance or surprise, I grasped that I’ve always made sense. He made both light and darkness out of nothing and said, “good.”

He’s not scared of the wilderness within me or anyone else.

At least that’s what He spoke over me as He continued painting the skies while I watched, changing colors every few minutes, reminding me that each time I think He’s completed, He longs to show me glories I don’t have names for yet.

I disappeared under the water and thought of the people I missed, praying they knew God was with them in the wilderness too.

A City Cat Moves South

When I first moved to New York City, I wish I had done a few things. The first is I wish I had kept a journal of all the details that felt new upon moving to the city for the first time. I remember thinking I had grown up in multi-cultural areas like Miami and Orlando but nothing compared to the exposure I had to other languages and cultures simply through riding the subway to and from work. I also wish I had kept an obsessive log of all the restaurants I dined in throughout my 5 years in the city. If anyone asks, I have all of 5 fail-safe restaurants off the top of my mind to recommend.

I’ve been back in Orlando 17 days.

I moved down here on somewhat of a sabbatical under the assumption that I’d just stay with a friend, with no real plans other than to hit the springs, rejuvenate and give myself a month to apply to jobs. Since then, it looks like I’m starting a job opportunity I could not pass up on the 26th, making my time in Florida much longer than originally planned. I suppose I knew there was a chance of that when I bought a one-way ticket for $78 bucks.

Moving back to Florida has not been without it’s own series of culture shock. Here’s a look at a few of the #justsouthernthings (or #justsuburbanthings?) I’m still grappling to get used to again.

1. The sheer size of everything.
New York City is super compact. Like, I once had a friend whose kitchen you had to shuffle into sideways. Needless to say, the kitchen occupied one person at a time. Can you just imagine? That’s like building a kitchenette in one of those closets that hold ironing boards. Well, it happened. On the Upper West Side.

Meanwhile in Florida, I saw an outdoor shopping mall with a sign for Planet Smoothie so I pulled in, parked, got out of the car and just stared at the sheer size of the shopping mall. Where was this place? I saw a sign for it. Now, getting to it was it’s own challenge. It turned out to be behind the strip of businesses I had parked in front of, some 200 yards away. The open sky bearing down over the asphalt where Planet Smoothie remained in the distance made me feel so insignificantly small. Maybe that’s why New Yorkers feel so important, because everything is at hand and we feel like giants in the intimate corners of our restaurants and bars. Or the dorm-room size apartments we pay $1600/month for.

2. If you don’t have a car, you’re out of luck.
I have not owned a car in 7 years. Before moving to New York City, my life was compactly organized within a 5-mile radius of Winter Park. That’s when I paid $200/month in rent and had a front porch, a backyard full of rose bushes and a full-size garage. That we used for storage. I’m currently using my 17-year-old brother’s 2003 Honda Civic until I get my own but after doing some research on public transportation in Orlando, it would take you nearly 2 hours of transfers and waiting (in the Florida sun or rain, mind you) to get all of 5 miles North. The public transportation system here is atrocious. Even with a system as broken as the one in this city, 29 million passengers used public transportation services last year. The Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority, or LYNX as it’s more commonly known, has an operating budget of $127,045,444. Compare that to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority budget of 14.6 billion, servicing 1.7 billion New York commuters in 2015 alone.

3. Everything is so clean.
This point may only be magnified by the fact that New York City is famous for being so dirty. Between the subway stations that haven’t been power-washed since the 1940’s and the growing rat population, suffice it to say that you get used to living with a certain level of grime in New York City. It doesn’t matter how hot the water in your shower is, you’re just going to leave your apartment and get dirty again.

In Florida however, decency and order is rule. The stores are impeccably organized and the streets are pretty clean, too. Between going from the AC in the apartment to the AC in a newly washed car, I feel like I’m in a bubble of cleanliness and comfort. I have no criticism against this except that I feel like it heightens one’s disconnection from humanity at some level. What happens when we encounter circumstances, or even people, that threaten these comforts? There’s a disconnect between the have and have-nots in New York City, certainly, but in Florida, or in the suburbs let’s say, it feels like that disconnect is all the more grievous. You don’t have to think of kids that don’t have clean running water because you can just avoid that area of town. You don’t have to face things that make you uncomfortable because well, the windows in your car are tinted and you don’t have to make eye contact.

You don’t have that privilege in New York City.

4. Southern hospitality can be weird.
Shopping for groceries in Manhattan at rush hour resembles a dystopian Lord of the Flies experiment sponsored by Trader Joe’s. It’s every man for himself. Shopping carts are smaller for optimal aisle navigation, everyone has their headphones in and elbows out. I went to Publix the other day (if you don’t know what Publix is, imagine a grocery store experience in heaven) and I was in your average suburban-sized aisle (see point one) when two different men said “excuse me, ma’am” as they walked past me in the cereal aisle. I do not own the cereal aisle. Why do they need me to excuse them? They were at least two feet away from me when they passed by. How absurdly polite.

During this same Publix experience, two different produce attendants asked if I needed anything. Do you know how much eye contact these exchanges required? Do you realize how much eye contact they make in the South? What is everyone staring at all the time?

Which leads me to my next point…

5. It’s a village.
I feel observed all of the time in Florida. I’ve now begun to observe others, if only because I ran into two different people from high school in the Metro Orlando area of town. I went to high school 20 miles away from this region. The Cheesecake Factory is not safe, the gigantic Target in Millenia plaza is not safe. You will see people you know and will have to account to why you are in town and have not called them.

I went to Epcot earlier this week, you know, the Disney theme park that averages 31,000 visitors a day, and saw an old teacher and another couple I knew from the church I used to belong to. Greater Orlando may have a population of 2 million people but it’s actually a provincial town at heart.

The townspeople do not use turn signals.

From Unhappy to Hired

writing

On Monday, I was offered the position of Assistant Managing Editor at one of the quickest growing social content platforms available.

I’m excited to share that I accepted this new role supporting the development and promotion of diverse, compelling content from writers and thought-leaders across the country!

Searching for a job is such an ambiguous, often tedious, endeavor and I like the idea of building transparency and knowledge in order to demystify the process. I’ll share what I learned in upcoming posts but for now, I have to get to work.

About Those Leftovers

Ahhh, Thanksgiving.

A time when I am reminded how proficient other people are at cooking and muse once again about a domestic future for myself far in the distance.

At the moment, the reality of that future goes about as far as my reading this roasted cauliflower recipe.

Luckily, I will be going home for Thanksgiving this year where my parents will have selflessly cooked everything in exchange for the brief return of their only daughter and the entertainment my brothers and I provide whenever we are reunited. And our love, probably. I have a flight headed home to Florida this afternoon and my to-do list for the long weekend includes “eat chick-fil-a, visit the beach, text Gerty a photo of an alligator” but not much else.

Last year, my youngest brother visited me in New York City and we enjoyed a very hectic morning preparing to see the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in person. I totally recommend doing this if you ever get the chance to but make sure you line up to wait in a spot with maximum balloon visibility. See, we did not do this because my research towards these sorts of things is forgotten when I have to wake up at 5am in the morning and I only realized my mistake after the parade began. This prompted my brother and I to run along multiple avenues in search of a better spot along with all the other suckers that did the same thing.

littlebro

We looked like the pack of wildebeests in The Lion King, you know, in that scene where the plot takes a turn for the worst (NO SPOILERS) but alas, we were determined to watch a televised parade of large balloons pass us by in celebration of a holiday that preserves a fictitious historical narrative surrounding our country’s history. New Yorkers enjoying Thanksgiving from the comfort of their expensive mid-town apartments probably watched and laughed from the comfort of their heated homes.

And then I wondered… Are we their parade?

(I didn’t really, I just saw an opportunity for a Carrie Bradshaw impression and I took it.)

I also took this photo.

thanksgiving

Our hands and noses froze in the 30 degree weather.

The balloons look much smaller in person.

And we had the greatest time ever.

What are you and your family doing for Thanksgiving? Do you have any traditions? If you don’t, I have a suggestion for a new one where you save me a piece of pie.