“I spent 20 years trying to get out of this place. I was looking for something I couldn’t replace. I was running away from the only thing I’ve ever known.”
That Bon Jovi/Jennifer Nettles song stuck with me when I first moved back to Pittsburgh. Except in my mind, I was singing about Ohio, the place I just left. That I would go home to Ohio and everything would be okay. That I was never really leaving it.
However, as time went on, the more I realized I was singing about Pittsburgh every time that song came on the radio and I cranked it up as loud as I felt comfortable. “There’s only one place they call me one of their own.”
And that’s this tiny town in Western Pennsylvania.
Tonight, I went to Theology on Tap, where basically you drink beer and talk about God. Sounds like a pretty cool gig. Well, I always put it off because I didn’t want to enter back into that world again, the world I tried for 18 years to escape. Plus, some past hurts and grievances played into it that I didn’t want to confront. But tonight, I actually had an open Wednesday, so I decided to go.
I had a blast. The speaker talked about love and fear and how his life’s journey took such a long-winded path and eventually led him to faith. I took a lot from that talk. But even more than that, I connected with people I haven’t talked to in a long time. And I learned something. I can try to run away from my hometown, and I can try to run away from the Pittsburgh area. But the reality is that even if I end up moving back to Ohio, I am still from Pennsylvania first.
Who says you can’t go home?
Daily, we’re accosted by photos, media images, and commercials telling us we’re not “beautiful.” For the longest time, I stared at myself in the mirror and thought, “If only I had less acne, if only I had a smaller nose, if only, if only, if only.” Then last summer, I decided to stop using make-up on a daily basis. No foundation covering the blemishes I tried so hard to hide, no mascara or eyeliner to frame my eyes (I was always rubbish with eyeshadow). And then I made a valuable discovery. I was still beautiful. I looked less like a doll and more like…me. I looked the way God intended me to look.
There are always days I feel rejected, when a guy doesn’t notice me or when it seems like all these girls walking by me have flawless hair. But the reality is that I am beautiful. My hair looks better shorter because it’s thin and fine, so I rock that look. My face is fine the way is is, so I don’t wear make-up, except on special occasions, like friends’ weddings. I’m even learning to accept my body for all its imperfections and to scoff at people who tell me I need to eat (I eat all the time). It only makes me self-conscious.
When I don’t feel smart, I remind myself how much I learned from reading books over the years and all the random trivia I can spout. When I feel like I’m not beautiful, I smile (I love my smile, if I do say so myself). When I feel like I am not good enough, I remember that God put me here for a reason. I also remember the Doctor Who quote that “in nine hundred years of time and space and I’ve never met anybody who wasn’t important.”
You are special just the way you are. Don’t ever change who you are just because someone thinks you should be a certain way or because you don’t live up to our culture’s “beauty” standards. You are important. You are necessary. You are beautiful.
Everyone always says it to the point you want to punch them: “All good things come to those who wait.” Yeah, you need to wait a couple more seconds until I slug you.
2014 was a year of learning contentment, learning about appreciating life in Pittsburgh, and understanding that nothing ever goes as you think it will. The grass is always greener on the other side, but if you are happy with the way you cut your own grass, you don’t notice what others have except to congratulate them for getting their lawn so green.
2015 is going to be a year of waiting. Waiting to finish grad school, waiting for a job, waiting to know what’s going to happen at this stage of my life. Waiting stinks. I am a naturally impatient person. I want it NOW and if no one gets it for me, I’ll get it myself! But that’s not the way life goes sometimes. Some things are worth waiting for. The right job is worth waiting for. The right romantic partner is worth waiting for. Wait, but don’t forget to appreciate the stops along the way. Those are where you make your memories.