Monday, May 5, 2014

Leaving Cherokee

I never wanted to live here. I say this with much love and gratitude and apology to the people who have accepted, guided, and known me while I have been in Cherokee this beautiful year and a half. You have sustained and cared for me this whole time, and you have made it worthwhile. But it wasn’t in my plan to move here, and Cherokee was the first place I’ve ever moved without looking forward to it.

When John first mentioned his job interview for a position here, I thought it was a terrible idea. I thought it would put pressure on our first year of marriage. It did, but it also gave us a space in which to really focus on our relationship. I thought it was the wrong job for him and not worth moving for. It was the wrong job, but while we were here he found another which led him to the perfect career. I thought I would be incredibly lonely moving somewhere I knew no one and did not understand the rural, native culture. I was, and I have misunderstood and hurt some people because of it, and I am sorry for that. But I also drained away my city-life stress and ambition, and learned to listen to the birds and to write, so maybe the loneliness has had its fruit.

When John was given the official offer, I kicked and screamed and begged and asked for more time and complained to several trusted friends and mentors and appealed to my mother-in-law, pastor, anyone who might be able to talk some sense into John. I prayed and journaled profusely. Please God. Don’t make me move. Not now, not just when things are seeming to come together here in DC, not just when I feel so surrounded by love, not just when I am sensing the stirrings of a career—a calling, not just when I am going to be starting a marriage.

Despite all my begging and pleading, though, I think I knew from the moment John said he wanted to go, that we were going to go. I just needed time to accept it, to realize that I couldn’t allow myself to stand in the way of a chance for him to explore his calling.

So we moved, and at first I worked at Subway, and I felt very lonely. Then I found a job I absolutely loved (even if only part time), and slowly I began to find beauty and grace in the days as they passed, while still looking with hopeful anticipation to moving on quickly, which had been my goal from the start, because after all I knew I wanted to go to seminary at Duke.

The time is finally here. While I am itching to start my classes, and get a chance to be in ministry, and take concrete steps toward my calling, and connect with new community at Duke Divinity School, and eat Thai and Indian food, and buy organic produce—I am also surprised to find my reticence to leave.

You see, I want so badly to see my GED students through this journey, to see them pass all the tests and then give them a giant pat on the back and help them apply to college. I want to keep the habit of long runs by the creek on Saturday mornings, and then eating brunch afterwards with my running friends. I love the comfortable rhythm of socializing and introspecting, teaching and writing, that allows me to have energy to give to John and others. I have come to appreciate that my small band of friends here includes people at such different ages and life experiences, who have so generously offered me themselves. I feel something like joy in these spring blooms and the blue skies of the Smokies, and I wish I had spent more time hiking and camping and taking it all in.

I am sad to leave these things behind. I am also full of uncertainty at what is ahead.

I’m scared of re-learning and adjusting all over again with John, of new rhythms and new communities and new pressures affecting our marriage. I’m scared of the inevitable return to a busy, stressful, overexerted lifestyle, of starting all over again, of examining my faith under the microscope again, of making big decisions about our future.

And maybe I am reluctant to move forward without ever having really loved my life here—a life there were so many reasons to love—without ever really felt it was home, without having understood why I had to come here and what I was supposed to learn and whether I learned anything at all. Maybe I worry that the sometimes-aimlessness and confusion of this stint is the new standard for my life, that I have become someone who doesn’t know how to live fully and gratefully into the places and experiences in which I find myself.

I hold in my heart all of these things as I sort and pack boxes. There are days it overwhelms me.

But I believe I should act out of my love rather than my fear, which I guess means finishing well for my students, saying thank-yous and goodbyes as best I can, and trusting that the grace that has sustained me here goes on before me.


  1. God is WITH you--no one, no circumstance, no problem, can overcome you. May God be with you as you pack and say your goodbyes and as you settle into your new life with new lessons and new living.

  2. Thanks Anita. That's a reminder no one can hear to often :)

  3. margarita chukhinaMay 27, 2014 at 4:41 PM

    i like the "scared of re-learning and adjusting all over again" thing.. i wonder how many of us deal w that or let it hold us back