July 22, 2014…the day which changed my life forever. It’s never easy to leave home, to embrace change, to step out into the great unknown…literally…but I did.
I grew up on a small farm in the hills of West Virginia. It was always beautiful. I was surrounded by a loving family and the best friends I could ever ask for. I told them all that I was leaving for a job. When you come from West Virginia, that is not an unbelievable statement. The poverty rate has always been high and good jobs are scarce. But, truth be told, that was a lie conveyed in a selfish attempt to make the separation easier. I wasn’t fooling anyone – especially myself. Leaving my family, and West Virginia, was one of the hardest things I have ever done. But, at that time in my life, it was just harder to stay.
Small towns are beautiful. You feel the connection to everyone around you. There is always someone around willing to go out and have fun, or to grab a cup of coffee if you want to chat. You can’t go out in public without running into someone you know. Which can be great since you never feel alone. But there is nothing worse than being in a small town when you want to be alone because you don’t want, or can’t, talk about what is going on in your life. The events which led up to my breaking point could fill up a book, much less a blog post, so I will save that story for another day. What matters is that I found myself in a state of…restructuring…for lack of a better term. My life, plans, and emotional stability took a major hit. Actually my life plan was completely obliterated. I was left clinging to nothing but my faith and hope that God could make it all work out someday. Looking back now, the transformation that those heartaches allowed me to go through dramatically, completely, and utterly restructured me into the best version of myself. But believe me when I say that it has been a LONG road…a road that has led me to the opposite side of the country and back again.
Escape. A fresh slate. That is what I wanted – to go to a place where no one knew my story. That was the only way I could get past it all. I had to move on. I needed to forget, and that meant leaving everything that I knew and loved. I applied to internships all over the continental United States and then I waited. Believe it or not, I didn’t wait long. Actually, it was all of two days before I received a phone call. After a phone interview and a smack to my own face to make sure I wasn’t dreaming, I had accepted a job in Twin Falls, Idaho. To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t even sure where Idaho was. I had to Google it. Potatoes. Right? That’s all I knew having never been farther West than Kentucky. I packed my bags and my car with reckless abandon and prepared for the long (2000+ mile) journey ahead. I was excited, and terrified, and overcome with all the emotions swirling through my heart. Everything happened so quickly. It had all fallen into place so easily. I thought that somewhere in the midst of all this chaos must be God’s plan. Or at least I hoped it was.
Worst case scenario – it was only for a year. After my internship was over, I could finally finish my graduate degree and I could come home again if I wanted to. I remember that morning like it was yesterday. My Rav-4 was completely packed to the ceiling with my belongings. I said a tearful goodbye to the animals. My mom got into the passenger seat of the car. It was time. My Dad is not a man of many words. Well…that is not entirely true. Normally, if I was leaving on a trip, he would begin chatting off a large check list of things to do, and check, and ways to be careful. But not that day. He just looked at me and I at him. Neither of us could say goodbye and we were both on the verge of tears. So I hugged him, really hard. And then I practically ran to the car before I could call the whole thing off. Then I drove. Praying to have the strength not to turn into a crying ball of mush.
We needed to make time the first day. Well, I needed to put enough distance between myself and West Virginia so that I wouldn’t turn around. My mother and I had big plans and sights to see. It was to be a Mother-Daughter-Trip-Extravaganza! Road trip playlist was a go, and so was the coffee. We headed West – through Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, and into Missouri – St. Louis to be exact. Lucky for us, I had a friend who was living in town with her husband. They were kind enough to let us crash on the couch for the night. The next day we were given the grand tour of St. Louis from the Gateway Arch down to Union Station. We walked through the train museum and ended the evening with a pasta dinner at Anthonino’s Taverna which had been featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. It was certainly worth the stop. We enjoyed the company of friends and prepared for our next stop on the journey. As much as my heart was still hurting, the sense of adventure was starting to set in with each mile and every new sight.