It’s fitting that it’s November. Last November, after all, is what changed everything.
It was the first weekend in that November that I was sitting in our church membership class, sitting there because I’d promised to meet some people who never came. I was already a member–in fact, I was on part-time staff–and I’d heard all of this 6,7,8 times. I was sitting against the back wall, on the floor, letting my thoughts shift between the papers and the tests that were demanding my energy and the Future on which I couldn’t get a grasp. I had this plan–I was going to go to one of the Carolinas for grad school and become an English professor who spoke only in Fitzgerald and Joyce quotes and could pull off tweed–and this plan seemed like a good one. It would be challenging, for there were essays to write and papers to expand, but it would be worth it. And I had always wanted to live in Carolina.
As I sat there, I tuned out the service and made a mental to-do list. I considered sneaking out to find someone I knew in the lobby. I fiddled with my shoelaces and scratched my arm and did all of these things like revelation wasn’t about to break my soul. And then, my soul got broken.
Sometimes the voice and peace and direction of God–what we call revelation–is like a cat, rubbing your ankles until you notice it and take it into your lap. Sometimes, it’s like waterfall, drenching you in things good and scary and certain all at once, getting water up your nose and in your eyes until everything but what you’re hearing is blurry. That’s what happened to me as I sat against the back wall: My pastor said something very simple, words I can’t even quite recall; something something about a meaningful life and are you living it? I believed, wholeheartedly, that I could have lived a meaningful life as an English professor (in fact, that still sounds fun to me, and I even know more Joyce quotes now than I used to.) But inside my spleen or my sinew or my soul, or somewhere else deep within me, things began to shake apart. There was a fault line in the floor of Heaven, and my revelation slipped down to overwhelm me: I was not to go to grad school, I was not to be in the relationship I was in, and I was not to move to Carolina. “Go to Birmingham,” I heard, “for a writing job, one that will let you impact the world with your words.” Sitting there, I realized that the only thing harder than walking away from my plans would have been staying. So I walked.
This year has been one of a broken soul, cracked open where all things good and scary and certain can get in. I have sobbed on my bathroom floor because it hurt. I have sat across tables in coffee shops and placed my dreams between me and the person telling me there were no positions available. I have slept on my best friend’s couch and in her bed, promising that it would only be for a few more days. I have Googled “South Carolina” just to look at the photos of the beaches. I have said goodbye so many times to people who mattered that I began to think I’d never have a normal conversation again. I have packed the things I own into boxes and stored them in my parents’ garage, where they gathered dust as I waited. I have lost hope and found hope and forgotten about my hope and slammed into it again. I have held Truth and Grace like they were tangible, understanding down in my sinew that it’s always been about more than finding a job or moving to a city. It was always about whether or not I would trust and whether or not I would walk. It was always about teaching me to do that.
I graduated college, completely unsure of the next step (“A leap of faith!” they would say). I watched my friends get married and get jobs and move away, learning to rejoice with them. I moved to Birmingham, a place that had been sown so deeply in my heart that I cried for her people as I sat in a traffic jam. I met with editor after editor, begging them to give my words a chance. I worked three jobs, which was actually more fun than it sounds.
I unpacked my boxes. I decided to stay.
And one day in October, my internship editor asked me if I would like to start full-time, as a writer for a magazine that’s all about this city I love. “How would you feel,” he asked, “about beginning in November?” It was just the two of us in the office, and the sun was making everything in the room seem imagined, transient. I squinted back the tears.
“November,” I said, “is perfect.”