Maybe it’s the family historian in me, or the romantic (hidden deep inside me it seems), but I always enjoy hearing how people met the loves of their lives. At family get togethers it’s been one of the things I hunt down my older relatives for and beg them to share their story with me. With new friends, it’s one of the ways I understand more about who they are and where they’ve been. And friends or family who have a different story that defines them- what they are passionate about, or they are going about their business and that kind of love is in their future: I love hearing those journeys, too. It just depends what they desire for their lives, and that is what I love to hear about when getting to know someone or knowing more about someone.
I always knew that I had a desire to get married and have kids someday. I didn’t know when or how that would happen, and with every relationship there was always the question of “is this the one?” Well, not every relationship. Long term or short, there were those doomed from the start. There were those that taught me how strong I could be, and ones that taught me to ask myself what I really wanted out of life. I’m grateful for those. Not that there were many. But enough. Enough to allow me to give up control of the desire to find “the one” and let it happen on it’s own. And without dwelling on that list I had made in high school of what I thought the perfect man for me would be. Because he doesn’t exist.
In the fall of 2004 I packed up my world that, at the time, was scattered in a 13’x13′ wood paneled deep sea blue painted room topped with a checkerboard painted ceiling in my parents basement. I had lived in that room since 1993. It had been a nice retreat from my little sisters and parents as a pre-teen then teenager then commuting college student. As I got older though, I noticed there was something wrong with my cozy basement room. It had no windows or doors to access the outside. I had been tricked! I loved my family, but I needed out! And I couldn’t sneak out if I tried! So I, along with five other AU art majors, moved to Pittsburgh for our Junior year of college to attend the Art Institute for a year in the Affiliate Program. We also lost my aunt that fall to a long, but incredibly courageous battle with Ovarian Cancer. I had the chance to visit her many times and say goodbye that summer before I moved away. She was an amazing woman of God and left a legacy of kindness and love on her students, family and friends. And so, I left Ashland for those nine months single and happy about that fact. It was liberating. I lived in Allegheny Center on the North Side of the city, and while there were many safety measures taken where we lived, this lifetime Ashland girl was definitely out of her element. Weed, profanities being yelled, not said quietly when stubbing your toe, homeless, drugs, guns, drinking heavily, different lifestyles, piercing and tattoos everywhere imaginable. It was interesting. The only thing in that list I was apart of was having my nose pierced (but I did that while still at AU) and I had a couple run ins with the homeless. Some truly in need, some became hostile and aggressive for money for drugs or alcohol. Some actually drove away in their nice cars at the end of their “work” day as a panhandler. Nice. My heart went out to those that I passed on below-freezing days in the winter on my walk to the AI from my apartment. They were covered in newspaper trying to stay warm and I wondered how they made it through the night. There were many homeless shelters around Pittsburgh, and I wondered why they didn’t go there and get help.
I did my art. I learned a lot. I felt more passionate and geekified about fonts. I got fairly good grades. I felt independent and a bit more grown up. I felt like I was understanding myself a little bit better and I think I felt closer to God that year than I ever had before. I think it took me moving away from the town I had always known and the familiar surroundings to see what I was really made of. I met knew faces of all walks of life in my classes and in my building and at my work at the Children’s Museum.
I came home for my sister’s graduation party in May of 2005, and that same weekend we had to put our 11 year old yellow-lab mix, Norman, down. It was a weekend of mixed emotions. Her party was missing Norman running around in our backyard, but we were glad to have so many family and friends around celebrating her graduation from high school; she was a great student and active in lots of academic and musical endeavors and we were proud of her.
Sunday morning I came to Park Street for the first time in a few months and it was great to reconnect with some old faces. That day I remember seeing my old friend Barney, who I had counseled with as full time staff at Camp Bethany in the summer of 2003. It was an amazing summer and I loved everyone on that staff. We would all write each other encouragement cards on construction paper and pray for one another; it was a lovely and uplifting summer. We said hi to each other and I asked him if he was attending Park Street now and he said that yes, he actually was hired as the new Youth Pastor back in March. I said something like, “Oh that’s great, congratulations!” and we went our separate ways, having others wanting to mingle with us.
Back in the fall of 2003, we had actually been on a date together. A double date. But not with each other.
He and his girlfriend at the time were trying to set me up with a couple different guys that Barney knew. I was high school friends with his girlfriend, so other than the guys they “picked out” for me, I was comfortable in the fact that I knew those two. And they were my friends. Although I asked him what he thought of my nose ring and he, being the blunt person he is said, “I don’t like it.” Wow. Thanks, Barney. It’s an artist thing, apparently. He doesn’t get me. During the few double dates/blind dates there was laughter and awkwardness and subsequent dates, but ultimately none of it worked out. For me- or for Barney. So seeing him again, even after becoming good friends with him during camp that one summer, was a little awkward, knowing that he and my friend were broken up and they both went their separate ways. As did I. I hadn’t really talked with either of them or others from Ashland in a while just because my life was going in a different direction while I was away at school in Pittsburgh.
After that quick weekend home, I headed back to my city home and a few weeks later I get this email. It was from Barney.