Part I: The most recent chapter in my story

I’ve always loved the song “Wide Open Spaces” by the Dixie Chicks. I think the whole song speaks to my most recent journey, but the chorus is particularly poignant. It says

she needs wide open spaces, room to make her big mistakes, she needs new faces, she knows the high stakes

Growing up in Norfolk was wonderful. I have an incredibly close knit and connected family. And I love it almost all the time. But I was a part of such a tight knit community and family that I never really established an identity for myself. I know what I like and what I want from life, but I never felt like Annie Blakey – the college grad, the independent and competent woman that I thought I should be. I saw myself as Annie Blakey – Karen and David’s daughter, a naive bleeding heart liberal with an unrealistic idealism and desires for a great big life but no idea how to get one. Some of those feelings may have been suggested by other people, but at the end of the day I believed them.

And then I did something crazy. I moved to Texas. No one knew me. When I showed up in Dallas I was nobody, and it was amazing. No one here had any expectation of me as a person. I wasn’t the girl who graduated at the top of her high school class and then fell so far in college. I got to build my identity from the ground up and it was beautiful, and trying, and liberating. I had room to make my own mistakes, and I knew the high stakes.

And I got to make my mistakes and face the stakes with the support of two amazing families, lead by strong women who I knew would love me no matter what. If I showed up polka dotted and in a bathing suit on a snowy day I would be welcomed with open arms and a giant blanket. These women love Jesus in such a way that it totally changes the way they relate to other people, and I got to rebuild myself with the comfort of knowing I wasn’t doing it alone and that no matter what happened there was a place where I could experience God’s grace in fellowship with friends. I have never in my life known such freedom and such security at the same time. I hope that everyone gets the opportunity to have such an experience. God is good. And Texas is exactly where I was supposed to be.

Moving to Texas has been one of the most gratifying experiences of my life. God has been so faithful in ways I never expected. In Texas, through a round about transition in my life I have found healing, and hope, and a love for life that I thought I had lost. I moved to Texas because I felt that it was where God was calling me. I felt a call to pursue my passion for counseling and I wanted theological training because I’m a nerd. And so I came to DTS, where I could get both. I also felt like moving to Texas made no sense. I didn’t understand why God would call my saltwater hearted self to the desert. Due to accreditation and licensure requirements DTS, while a wonderful institution, was not a logical choice for someone who wants to practice counseling professionally on the east coast. But there was a nagging in my saltwater heart that said that this was the way to go. And so go I did.

And while in Texas I realized that I want to build my life in North Carolina. It’s where I was born, and even though I’ve spent most of my life in Virginia, NC has always felt most like home. One of the perks of being a single woman in this day and age is that I can choose where I want to create a life. I have not committed to sharing my life with anyone else whose needs and desires need to considered. And as long as I am single I will choose to embrace that freedom. It was odd to find myself sitting in my room in Texas longing not for home but for the land of the pine. There’s a whole host of professional and personal reasons why coming back east makes the most sense. But here are the only two that I think really matter:

1. It’s the dream, and it always has been – I always figured I’d retire there (ironic since you must first have a professional career in order to retire), because in my mind that’s when people live their dreams, when they retire. But recently I found myself wondering “if I can live the dream now, why wait?”

2. Getting my masters from a school in the area will allow me to do practicums in the communities which I hope to become a part of. This way when I graduate I’ll have a professional network to support me in the job search. When I’m in the grind of the job search my potential employers will have a familiar context in which to evaluate my successes or failures.

I am so excited to be coming back closer to home. I’ll be back in Hampton Roads starting in August and will be there for probably a year unless I get a miraculous and incredibly hasty grad school admission. I’ll have time to work and thanks to my generous parents, the ability to sock away all of my earnings for school. I can’t wait to get back to Norfolk and get to be Annie – the determined woman who chooses to live the dream each and every day.