I missed my train at 7:25 a.m.
I mean...I ran through Union Station at 7:23 am (the way I used to run through my university's library when a paper was due--and I was ten minutes late).
Amtrak policemen directed me, but then prompted that the gate was closed. I hesitated, a bead of sweat making it's way down my back. "What?" I spat. "What do you mean the gate's closed? I have a minute! It's 7:24. I have a minute!"
"Gate's closed," they said. (They stared as if I spoke gibberish.)
"No, no, no, no." I sprinted through, but there was no escaping: the train was gone.
I put both hands on my head, sweating, my ticket hanging limply from my fingers; my eyes were stretched in disbelief and anger - at myself. This was a possible job; they paid for my ticket; they paid for me to go to New York! I've ruined it--by being my usual, slow self.
But soon after that moment, I began to problem solve; I bought a ticket in for the next train, coordinating with the interviewer to make sure things would still work; she was gracious and lovely and said it would be no problem. I sat down and waited at the gate. I did not move. And I did not miss the train.
I rode and saw cities I'd never experienced; Philadelphia, PA; Trenton, NJ. I took a breath. I prayed. I listened to music that helped my heart take a break from it's Olympic sprint. I arrived in Manhattan and took a cab to my destination.
And then, I took an even deeper breath. Because everything about the interview--and its process--felt right; from the moment I stepped in and made friends with the Front Desk and Finance staff member, Josette. We talked metro fare and not playing; and waiting on our Friday paychecks.
I met with the COO; Executive Director; their team. (Did I mention: They have a branch that works specifically with Cuba.)
Everything felt right.
I could travel, be around like-minded people, have a work environment that was enriching. I left around 5 pm on the evening train, and reflected. Things felt oddly cohesive--even with my very "Lauren" mistake. I made it to the interview, I loved the people, and the job.
And yet. Something also felt...flighty. (Let me say that "Flighty" is kind of my style. Flighty got me to Yosemite for 4 months; flighty got me to Alaska--twice--Seattle, Utah, Colorado, and even Washington, DC.)
But something about this felt flighty and...unhinged. So, on the train home, I prayed: If this isn't right, don't let me get it; if this is "running", keep it from me.
And I'm not sure if this is adulthood or "maturity" rearing it's ugly head, but maybe these things aren't as tasteless as we paint them. Because two days after the disheveled and yet wonderful interview, as I prayed for things like direction and guidance, I found myself walking through Southeast DC, in seventy degree weather, smiling like a kid who'd found the hidden Oreos.
I stopped, looked around, and realized something: I really liked my life.
I was overwhelmed with so much GRATITUDE. I was overflowing--like too much cotton candy on a stick--and I felt like the warm joy that overtook me had to be visible; in my head it looked something like sparkling, golden apple juice; or caramel ice cream with chunks of chocolate brownie.
The warmth overwhelming me was, ionically, the thing that I once labeled "suffering". But now it was joy. It's my current city; my job; my church and community; my friends; my roommates; my LIFE. I felt so deeply thankful. And this thankfulness overflowed to the point where I was, literally, laughing on the sidewalk on the way to the metro station.
I reveled in what I had around me.
I saw families of all shapes and sizes, people of all backgrounds, buildings and sidewalks of all calibers and qualities—and I was overwhelmed.
Today, I received an email from the organization I interviewed with. It had been between myself and another candidate, and apparently it came very close (or at least the woman was being kind). Overall, they wanted to keep me in mind for future positions, as I seemed like a perfect fit for their team, but I didn't get it.
And as I read through her kind words, walking down Massachusetts Avenue, I laughed. I prayed, and I got an answer. And guess what? I'm still looking around this city, and REVELING in it. I'm looking at my life, my friends, my community, and I'm REVELING in it.
I am in a season of reveling, and I'm staying put.
And though this wasn't necessarily my choice (as I didn't get the job), I also think I realized it was the right choice, even before I got the email.
And guess what? I am still me. I'm still flighty, wandering aimlessly (and too slow) at times, still looking for the "gold at the end of the rainbow" while others have things called "Savings Accounts".
But, I am also very different. Grown slightly more sturdy; slightly more grounded; choosing things like community instead of flight plans.
I am so, so different.
Because even if I'm scared of staying put, (or just scared of facing myself long enough to deal with the repercussions), I am doing it. I'm facing it--whatever "it" is.
Courage is fear that gets out of bed. It doesn't always feel secure, but it moves forward anyways. So I'm learning to ground myself; to be overwhelmed with the joy in this "present", instead of being burdened by a past that is gone, or a future that is never guaranteed.
I'm learning to sit at a friends house, to drink wine and eat pizza, and to be completely content by the varying conversations (ranging from beards to Star Wars to Justin Timberlake).
I'm learning to recognize that their laughs--resounding through a kitchen in Northeast DC at 9:30 pm on a Thursday--are worth more than the paycheck I'll cash today. And though I wish their laughs could pay my bills, I'm also keenly aware that they (their laughs and love and simple presence in my "present"), are paying a debt and cost of much higher worth than my monthly rent.
I am so overwhelmed. And so grateful. And I stand here on my own two feet--alone and yet held tightly--realizing that the "worst" is never the end; that hope is never foolish; and that isolation is never completely true.
There is so much to be seen. There is so much to praise God for. There is so much more than the four "walls" that cage in my brain, my heart, my life.
And I'm so grateful. Because I'm staying put. And it's never felt so right: to invest in people; in a job; in a city; in a church; in faith; and in myself.
Nothing about this time in my life is expected (nor did I welcome it).
But when it comes down to it, you have to live through this day. And you need to find a way to do that with such a spirit and fervor where you can learn to smile; or at least diligently add value to wherever you are. Find a way to protect, to grow, and to learn more deeply about yourself, and the way you can thrive in situations that aren't mountaintops. Because most aren't.
But, my dear dear dear friends--that I want to hug and hold close until the day I leave this life--there is so much to be seen. There is so much to revel in. To praise and give thanks for. To be present for.
So I'm staying put. And I've never felt this good about letting go of the need to run.
Will you stay with me?
Let's do this.