When I was eighteen I went to Great Britain and France with my mother and my aunt. The purpose of the trip was to "show me the world" in hopes that I'd change my mind about marrying my high school sweetheart. It was a trip filled with everything I loved: art, food, beautiful old buildings, books, music and long thought-filled walks along the Cam, the Avon, the Dee and the Seine. And for the first two weeks that's what it was. I even considered staying. Getting the visa, a job in a cafe, and looking at the works of all "the greats." If anyone were to learn to paint or write this would be the place to do it after all! Then it hit me. Like a ton of bricks the thought came to me, knocking me off my culture filled high. What good is all of this, if I have no one to share it with?
That someone I had was truly an amazing someone. He had loved me with a love so sincere and uncompromising that I was overcome by it. It permeated every inch of me and it changed me. I had become better for it. So to think about losing that love to distance (whether in Europe or off at fine arts school hours away); I knew after two weeks that I wasn't willing to risk it. So I finished my time in Paris (by moping down the Champs Elysee, bursting into tears in the D'Orsay, and making my wedding plans by the Fontaine de Medicis). It was at the end of that trip that I put my artistic pursuits aside. I packed them up with my notebooks, my pens, and my souvenirs for the long plane ride home to the boy I was madly in love with.
The man I am still madly in love with eleven years later. I was younger then and immature. I thought I had to choose between my loves; and maybe at the time I did to some extent. I threw myself into our marriage and our church and eventually- our babies. I strived to be the best wife and mother possible. But the funny thing about both of those roles is that their very purpose is to humble a person. I came to the very end of myself quickly and cried out to God for help. It was a very difficult and sleep deprived season of life. I believe it was also very necessary. So here I find myself now; on the other end of those eleven years. I've gained some battle wounds for sure; but I've also gained a beautiful marriage and three little individuals that call me "mom". And I'm looking back to my eighteen year old self trying to sort out which parts of her still exist within me. I work at it day by day (in between the daily duties and the life lessons I'm teaching my children). I'm making the time now to read the books she would have read and to paint the pictures she would have painted and to write the stories she would have written. Only, I think they're different. They're not young and naive. I'm now reading and painting and writing through seasoned eyes. One's still full of hope, but better able to appreciate beauty found in "small" things. Better able to focus on things that matter most on this journey. Because they've been on one.