“It’s about me learning who I am and who I depend on”
My “Aha moment” is something I think I’ve shared probably half a dozen times over the last decade or so and it’s a story that I look back to as being really foundational for my entrance into adult life. So I’m 31 now the story takes place when I’m about 20 or 21?
So Emily who I’ve already mentioned was choosing to study abroad and I think very wisely, encouraged me to study abroad as well. We had been dating seriously for a couple of years in college at that point in time. And she had grown up traveling and she knew that we had shared some similar interests and thought that me traveling abroad in my own study abroad experience would be very meaningful. And I agreed with her.
I was 21 years old, or on the eve of 21 and I had a great couple of years at University of Oregon. I had been doing very well academically I had a great social life, and so it seemed like the time to branch out and grow again. And I had grown up in Indiana and so I figured “well I made the move successfully from Indiana to Oregon I can make another great leap.” And kind of almost “pin the tail on the donkey”-style, closing my eyes (not quite that bad), but I chose Denmark which was a country knew very little about. And long story short is I ended up going to Denmark with this very confident demeanor to myself.
I had always been a pretty confident person and I thought I should study abroad. This is a great place to do it, and in that time my grandfather was very ill. He was dealing with cancer and the writing was on the wall that he was on his way out. I ended up living in an area on the outskirts of town which was a very isolating place to live and I hadn’t forseen that challenge. Lo and behold the culture was a lot more distinct and rich in ways that I hadn’t anticipated. And I found myself a fish out of water. And so, I had this experience of thinking “the world’s my oyster, here’s another great leap and growing opportunity for me as a young man forging my own path,” right?
And a month into this experience, I’m having to grapple with my own rapidly declining sense of confidence, and it was a really foundational, informative, spiritual experience for me in a sense almost bringing me to my knees and then that way lovingly welcoming me back into a spiritual facet of my life. I didn’t have to turn to God–there were many other ways I could have justified or rationalized what was happening. But that was such a natural place for me to turn. I’d been raised in a Christian household. I’d been raised more than anything just to love then get to know God on the whole. And so I found myself realizing this trip is not about me forging my path in the world, it’s about me learning who I am and who I depend on.
I was also missing my girlfriend who was in Ecuador at the time and we had a really rich relationship and she was living her own life separate from me. And so I look back to that as being a tremendous “Aha moment” whereby my agenda for self-aggrandizement and growth was quickly and profoundly transformed to an experience of…seeking out family seeking out friends, seeking out God in a place that was foreign to me.
And that was the springboard to working in the Peace Corps with Emily. That was the springboard to my experience as an educator, and that was my experience of re-exploring God and recognizing that being 21 and confident is not all that there is to the world. And a decade later having done a whole host of things in that span of time, I still look back to that as being profoundly… a profound transition my life. And I’m so grateful to have been brought to my knees, in a sense, because I had a much better vantage point as to what actually happens in life and who I am and who my community is. So, that’s my “Aha moment.”