I carefully packed every corner of my ‘97 Toyota Camry, leaving only the driver’s seat and the passenger seat clear, the tan fabric the single saved space in a sea of controlled chaos. 19 years of my life were carefully stacked and tucked into any open spaces until not a nook or cranny remained and everything I might need would have to be plucked from between the front two seats – I didn’t dare open a back door.
It was the most careful and balanced selection of necessities and childhood memories in one, tiny, space. I patted the empty space on the passenger side and my spotted cattle dog jumped up to curl into a ball perfectly proportionate to the circle of tan fabric left just for her, her nose tucked into her tail.
With her, at least I wasn’t alone. And young love was calling, waiting at the other end.
I slid a CD into the player, rolled down the windows, and pulled out of the driveway – the only home, city, country, I’d ever known fading in the rearview mirror.
We sat three wide across the truck seats, the shadow of the Ruby mountains holding us in their shade one last time. Their secret and hidden oases our sacred spaces for so long, brooks of cold water tucked deeply in the folds of their peaks providing the only relief from the unrelenting desert heart for us, our horses, and our dogs, summer after summer.
As we pulled away, the brown trailer rattled with each bump and pothole, the occasional bark resounding from it’s belly as the only acknowledgement of life within. My spotted cattle dog found her place in there amongst our pack of dogs as she settled into the deeply bedded straw for the journey from desert sand to midwest cornfields, curled nose to tail in a perfect ball.
The hope of a safe and secure life awaited. Something to call our own tucked between the cornfields of the midwest.
I thumbed through my notebook, identifying the first of many fairgrounds we would rest at to water and feed the dogs along our cross country journey. The only true freedom I’ve ever known, the expansive landscape, and the simple dusty town life fading in the rearview mirror.
The cornfields of the midwest did us dirty; there was an unbecoming there. There was a darkness where the light wasn’t just blocked out, it was sucked from existence – and our happiness went with it. It wasn’t just dark there – it was black. Pitch black.
The eternal sunshine of Florida didn’t whisper to us, it screamed our names. From the moment our toes touched the sandy beaches of the Atlantic coast and the sun cradled us in a warm reprieve from a horrific midwest winter, we knew this would be our next escape.
Our first night there we sat across from each other in a restaurant in Jacksonville and just listened to the laughter around us – the lives being lived with such simple and unabated joy. It was such a contrast to the life we had been living.
This was where we were going to land next, whatever it took, leaving the darkness and the despair of those cornfields in the rearview mirror.
It eventually didn’t matter how warm the winters in Florida were – it grew cold. It was lonely when our family left. It was no longer “us”; it didn’t reflect who we were, how we wanted to raise children, or what we believed in.
It was beautiful, though. We’ll always love the Jurassic beauty of Florida. The way the Spanish Moss creates the perfect lace patterns for the sun to stream through in the early afternoons. The way the springs glisten in their unrelenting and crystal clear waters, teeming with life and sustaining complex ecosystems within its glassy surface.
But our life was anything but beautiful there. It was lonely. And the moment we got pregnant with our second, we questioned everything:
Seduction over security? Beauty over bounty? Fantasy over family?
And then the answer came, sitting on the corner of a quiet street: our little house in our little town, family around the corner and a local chocolate shop up the block.
It never felt easier, six months pregnant with a three-year-old in the back seat, leaving the endless summer in the rearview mirror for a new season of life.
And a small office, that faces our little street where my old spotted dog curls up, nose tucked in her tail, day after day and decision after decision as life slides past the window.
This isn’t a story about my life – although I know you think it is.
This is simply a story about the decisions we make.
The stories you’re meant to tell in life, the ones dying to be told, begin the moment you make the decision to tell them. They start with the decision to take action, take a risk, and stand for something.
You can only understand their power after they’ve been lived and after they’ve been told…
but the story will never be told until you make the decision to live it and then the decision tell it.
Until you commit 100% to telling your stories, despite what reservations or fears you may have (even though they’re all completely valid,) you will find yourself fighting internal battles daily. If you commit 98%, that other 2% of the time spent trying to ignore temptation, ignore objections, and find the courage to take action will exhaust you and wear you down.
The only thing you have to do is make the decision to go all in. To go 100% of the way.