By any measure, my epic journey of 2015 was a roaring success. I ate, prayed and loved my way through three continents, five countries and fourteen cities (not counting those where I didn’t leave the airport). I slept in eleven beds and travelled on sixteen flights, three boats, one ship and two trains. I rode on uncounted trams, buses and subways, and in several cars and one bajaj. And I had phenomenal firsts – my first safari, as well as my first time eating gourmet food, seeing glaciers and taking a cruise.
I believe that trip was a gift from God meant to nourish my body, spirit and heart, and to set me up for the unfathomable opportunities that were, and still are, to come. I returned to Jamaica almost fully heart-healed and definitely different from when I left. I returned better, more whole than I had ever been in my life, and knowing that I couldn’t stop my journey now. The thing, though, is that my epic trip turned out to be so much more than a trip. It opened my eyes and my mind and my heart in unexpected, and sometimes inexplicable, ways. It started opening me up to possibilities that made it impossible for me to embrace “ordinary” life the way I could and did before. It reminded me that it’s OK for me to dream big…huge, even…because the moments when those dreams become reality are the moments that remind me of God’s awesome power.
I started writing this series because of a terrible speech, hoping to articulate my story coherently so that anyone who wanted to know it could have a reasonably clear understanding of why I am who I am today and how I came to be this person. I also wrote this series with the hope of conveying the lessons that I have learned so far in the new chapters that have opened up in my life. I hope I’ve told my story well, so now it’s time to share the lessons I’ve learned, specifically on that epic journey and generally over the last two years.
The first and biggest lesson I’ve learned is that change is not a bad thing, even as awful and confusing and heartbreaking and as it can sometimes feel. I’ve found that change forces me to try something different, which causes me to grow beyond my self-imposed boundaries into someone I never thought I could be. In fact, these days my goal in life is to squeeze every ounce of God-given potential out of every day that I live. Without change, that can’t happen; without change, I have the tendency to settle into my routine and not challenge and push myself beyond where I’m at.
As a sort of offshoot lesson to the one about change is another about hanging on to dead things – seasons, relationships, things. Not everything or everyone is in my life forever; some things and people are for a season. And when that season is over, it’s OK to let them go. Hanging on to things and people whose time has passed can be counterproductive or even painful, and causes me to miss new opportunities because I’m clinging to old news. If I had kept clinging to the dead job, relationships and stuff, I would never have had the far more awesome experiences that I’ve been privileged to partake in over these past couple of years, and, more importantly, I wouldn’t be walking into the far more awesome plan that God has for my life.
That trip also started to help me reestablish my identity and my confidence in myself. I had lost both somewhere along the way over the previous few years by allowing people to steal or chip away at them. In some ways, I had even given them away myself. Journeying the way I have over the past couple of years, starting with my epic trip, has helped to remind me that I’m a perfectly complete person who actually doesn’t need anyone else in order to have a wonderful life that is full of amazing experiences. Don’t get me wrong, there are times when I get lonely for companionship, and I do want someone with me sometimes. After all, who doesn’t want to be able to say to another person, “Remember when we (insert brilliant experience here)? Wasn’t that a brilliant experience?” Shared memories are wonderful, but to be honest, I have all that I need as long as I cling to God. Getting my confidence back and becoming truly, honestly and unapologetically who I was made to be has been indescribably wonderful.
Not only have I reestablished my identity and my confidence in myself, but more importantly I’ve established a deeper confidence in God as my daily, unwavering companion. I now know that it’s possible to feel His presence because I’ve experienced that. I now know that He’s always with me because I’ve experienced that, too. And He’s shown me through all of this that He hears me! No matter how much I want to feel sometimes like He doesn’t hear me because He may not answer immediately, I know for sure that He’s not ignoring me, because He’s shown me that He loves me too much to ever do that. And through all of that, my faith has become deeper and is becoming deeper still. I wouldn’t trade that for anything.
Thinking back on all of this now, just over three years since my former life started to rip apart at the seams, I still don’t know where life will take me, I’m still learning what my life’s purpose is, and I have yet to find the home of my heart. So I have no idea what will happen next, or where and when I’ll settle in that place called home – make no mistake, I want that place for myself very badly. But I’ve continued to have epic and awesome experiences since that epic and awesome journey, and I hope that never ends.