Yes. This week I have returned to the great west that is Abilene. Except not as I left it. I left it on a very hot day on May 30 in 2010 and returned to an 18 degree frozen town. It has been 8 months since I have been back in Abilene, and I am here to see some of my great friends and family- Jeremy, Chai, the ladies at Grace Home, and my little from BBBS, Blue. This is quite special. But it is so interesting.
I have changed a little since the last time I was here. Abilene not so much. Jeremy and Chai still live in the same place. The same really great house with the same great pictures with the same great food and the same great and incredible dog Buck. The town is still small, and still has that feeling of being too small to me. It has the same dust drawn areas, even if covered in some version of white powder now. The town still lacks many of the ethnic food I l love in Houston (Vietnamese, Indian…). But I no longer come here with trepidation and that feeling of loneliness. Not because I live somewhere else but because I have changed. I changed in that…
– I go to the gym on a regular basis and work out and lift weights as though I were actually a self confident person.
– I cook a lot. When I came to Abilene I thought I wanted to cook but never really did. I cook all kinds of food too.
– I wear beanies and layer my clothes. Can you believe I lived in Abilene and never layered clothes because I thought it was uncomfortable, even in the bitter cold.
– I actually can speak my feelings now. I was so passive and afraid to actually share my perspective much- but now I feel confident give feedback and my thoughts.
– I watch movies. What? WHAT? Yes. I regularly watch movies on Netflix and go out to the movies at least once a month, which is unreal considering that I refused to go watch movies as a undergraduate and discouraged my family from seeing movies as a kid. All kinds of movies- dramas, comedies, documentaries…love those in particular.
– I drive a different car- a new car. No it doesnt mean that I am wealthy but that I was driving something that was older, beat up, and reflected a certain stage of my life in Abilene. Faded, beat up, and not really fitting into a particular style. Now I drive a car that is extremely reliable, fun, and at least it is new- so it has a cool look that I can keep up according to how I like and is my car and my car only (no cosigners!).
– I work full time at a hospital doing what I love to do and feel skilled doing. In some sense I have arrived upon some of my dreams rather than waiting on those dreams. But that full time job also speaks to a routine I could not have as a student in Abilene.
– Ultimately, I have a more secure identity. I am still self critical and have my moments of feeling inadequate and unwanted. But I feel like I have a home, an identity to claim and people who I faithfully claim as confidants and sojourners. I don’t need to feel lonely going through the small town and to a place of wilderness like Abilene because I don’t need Abilene or any other town or any other friends to make me feel good or successful or faithful. I can witness to that through my own “home,” my identity. What comes in those other relationships is somewhat a gift of life. I find hope, meaning, and significance in my identity- a more confidently claimed identity that begin with emerging from the need to please or find blessing through others. Thus, I have changed. Life is more free this way I suppose. Free enough to let me come back again to Abilene. Ha!