Dear Pepper, We make decisions every day, but lately I've been confronted with some big ones—decisions that scare me to a point of inaction. I have the opportunity to move to the other side of the country to further my education and to get one final step closer to the career I've always envisioned myself in. This both excites and terrifies me. I keep telling myself I've done it before, so I can do it again, but I'm not sure if that logic is sound a second time around. My dilemma is twofold. First, I've been accepted to two schools (I'm not complaining about that part); I am so undecided that I'm sifting through every moment of every day, looking for a sign to tell me what to do. Secondly, regardless of which school I choose, it means leaving the place where I have spent the majority of my life and entering distant and unfamiliar territory.
I know what you probably want to tell me: that there's no right or wrong decision. And I would agree with you, but it's so much more deeply rooted than wanting to make the "right" choice. It actually is a lot about roots. I feel like shit's getting real. I feel like life is coming at me with all of its tough realities and responsibilities. And some mornings I wake up terrified at the thought of uprooting myself from the cozy confines that is home and family and friends and familiarity. But other mornings I am filled with excitement at the thought of adventure and something new. It is this struggle to reconcile old and new, safe and unexplored, that keeps me on the fence.
So how do I do it? How do I do what I know I need to do but am scared to do? How do I leap?
Sincerely, Seeking Encouragement Dear Seeking Encouragement, I am at this very moment in a coffee shop staring out watching the sun cascade over glimpses of a small quaint town. And I almost laughed that I would receive your letter at this very moment in life. As I looked outside after reading your beautiful words, I remembered a passage from Donald Miller's book Through Painted Deserts. He opens his book from the standpoint he is in now, after the journey that the book is based on. He too is in a coffee shop looking out at Portland expressing his love for the city that he ended up in. I like to say that books come to me when I need them most. And Miller's book came to me as I stood at a crossroad. I was like you. I was torn between living in the city that I grew up in and venturing forth, seeing what else was out there. I took a trip to San Francisco during this time. On my way back, my parents and I stopped at one of the schools I applied to, only five hours from my home. We walked around the campus, the promise of spring heavy in the air, and I knew it was not the place for me. It was that bone-deep knowledge that so often there are no words to express how you know. I remember standing at an intersection with my mom and she knew that I knew, which only meant one thing. As the cars sped past she said “Pepper, it's going to be really hard.” She said “I promise you, you will hate it, but you can always come home.” I didn't finish the book on that trip. I tried. I tried really hard. I wanted Miller to give me something that I already knew. I always knew that I would leave, I just didn't know where or how or necessarily when. You know when I did finish that book, Seeking Encouragement? I finished it in another land a year later. But this time with harder questions. This time I was not asking if I should go, I was asking if I should go back. And I think that is exactly where you are. You are asking: Should I leave again? Life is in its very nature complicated. You really cannot possibly foresee what is going to manifest in your life. You cannot know that you will meet one of your best friends on a trip to a foreign country. You cannot foresee that your sister's baby is going to have seizures. You cannot foresee that someone you dated for four months will die in a car accident over Christmas break. So you are asking about roots, but I am asking, what is going to make your life large? Because in a world full of so much sadness, that is what matters. I want so badly to be able to tell you to go or to tell you to stay. But you are right, it doesn't really matter, there is no definite answer to give to you. I want to sit here underneath the warmth of sunshine at the end of four hard-earned years and I want to tell you to risk again. Yet, I just received an email from my mom expressing how frustrated she was at me for not making appropriate time for her. So I understand the tension. I understand the weight of importance. I understand that it seems like leaving can be an escape, but also a complicated disquiet of leaving a familiar, comfortable place. But neither answer is any more right or easier, they both have consequences, and both have rewards.
I keep thinking about roots. I keep saying that word over and over again in my mouth. I pride myself in not having roots. There is something so safe about not having anything right now. I am a nomad. And when I think about what I want to do after this, I see a vision of myself in the South Pacific and then in Australia and then maybe London for a time. That is my dream life, to wander, to never own anything, to never be anywhere long enough for anything to find its way into my heart. My dream is, essentially, to never grow roots. And yet, at this very moment, I'm surrounded by two people I love so much. I am in a relationship with someone I care immensely for. I actually do not want my dream life, it just seems ideal because if I pick to grow roots somewhere that means it matters. It means that it can hurt me. I read the end of Through Painted Deserts in Cambodia. It was odd that the importance of the story did not really pertain to me until I actually did leave home. Miller writes of a beautiful unfolding, full of love and friendship and ends with a lot of unknowns. I often think back to when I could not finish that book. I think it must be because I needed to read the end at another place in life. I think about why I love it, why I would say it is my favourite of his books. And I think it's because of the God underneath all of it. How God is actually in Miller’s interactions with people. In all the times his car breaks down, in the sunrise, in the pulse of the road as they drive across the states and at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. That's how God manifests Himself in my life also. I think what my mom was saying all those years ago was that my roots will always be her, no matter what. Even if the place she resides does not feel like my home anymore, she can be my north star. And honestly, that is all that mattered at that time in my life. I held so tightly to that knowledge these past few years, even if I didn’t necessarily need her. Nothing else mattered because the overarching love is what gave it all meaning. So here I am in a coffee shop in a town that I fell in love with slowly. In a town I am not yet committed to. But in a town I am still happy I journeyed to. Here I am, telling you that there really are no right answers, only the story you want to write for yourself, only the love that manifests itself out of the ordinary miraculous. Love,