Wanderlust: A Big Dream’s Small Beginnings

I was raised in a small town in northern Utah. It is a beautiful little town surrounded by majestic mountains. Pine trees are everywhere. Everyone knows everyone, though it has grown significantly since my childhood. The kids I graduated with are the same kids I played with in kindergarten.

Don’t get me wrong, it is a wonderful place to live and raise a family. But I never felt like I belonged. Growing up, I didn’t have any friends. People were friendly to me, but we weren’t friends. Eventually, I made some friends, but that ended in disaster. (That is a story for another day.)

When I was in the seventh grade, I discovered my love for writing. J.K. Rowling was a big influence on that discovery, but there was one other person who had just as much, if not more, influence: Nicholas Sparks. (Yes, I was that sappy hopeless romantic who read The Notebook before I even started high school.) I lived for his books, so it was only natural that I pick North Carolina for the setting of my first (cringe-worthy) novel.

It was a teen romance novel (because what else would it be?) set in Wilmington. The heroine was a stubborn, guarded preacher’s daughter who finds it in herself to forgive the star football player for the pain he caused her. They were both seniors facing an uncertain future. (Yes, it is as cringe-worthy as it sounds.)

In my research, I came across the University of North Carolina. I’d never thought about where I wanted to go to college, (Give me a break, I was twelve.) but the idea of going out of state intrigued me.  It meant exploring a world outside of Utah, of finding myself and somewhere I belong.

I’d been bitten by the bug.

Discovering UNC was merely the spark that started a fire that has been growing in me ever since. My journey started with that one moment, and it hasn’t ended yet. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

When I started high school, North Carolina was my goal. When it was actually time to fill out applications, I knew I couldn’t just apply to one school. I applied to Western Carolina University (a cheaper alternative to UNC), University of Washington, University of Maine, Savannah College of Art and Design, University of Utah and Utah Valley University. (My father made me apply to the last two, citing safe bets. In all honesty, though, he was right. Somewhat. Don’t tell him; it will go to his head.) Western Carolina was my number one choice, and the day I got my acceptance letter, I screamed. Yes, I screamed. Scared my mother outright! It was the first of five acceptance letters; I did not get in to Washington. But that was okay. Washington was pretty far down on my list, anyway.

I must pause this story here to make a confession. I am LDS; my religion is very important to me. Don’t worry, I have no intention to use this site to force my religion down your throat. But to understand my story you need to understand what I believe in. Going out of state was not just some middle school fantasy I carried with me through high school; it was a spiritual prompting I felt.

I struggled with the decision to move out of state for a very long time. Everyone in my family was telling me I shouldn’t go, that it was going to be a major culture shock, that I was going to hate it and come back, so I might as well just stay. It was like I was at war with myself. One part of me knew what I was feeling, what I wanted, but another part of me questioned the validity of the spiritual promptings I thought I had. I agonized constantly over whether I really had a spiritual prompting or if I had confused my own desires for spiritual promptings. Not only that, I agonized over where to go. Was North Carolina where I needed to be? Or was it Maine? Or Georgia?

Finally, I decided that whichever school offered the most assistance (because out-of-state is ridiculously expensive) would be where I would go. This was not an easy decision to come to, but in the end, I knew it was the one that made the most sense.

Maine took the lead, offering me a thirteen-thousand-dollar scholarship. It was by no means a full ride, but it did cover about half of my tuition. It wasn’t what I had originally planned, but I was still excited. I was finally leaving Utah, and despite what my family said, I knew it was a good thing.

Then God intervened.

Throughout my senior year, I searched high and low for a job. I wasn’t naïve; I knew it wasn’t going to be cheap moving to Maine. I probably did thirty interviews before graduation. None of them panned out. I’d had one job before, one job interview. Clearly, I was inexperienced.

By the time July rolled around, I knew I couldn’t go to Maine in the fall. I had no job, no money. I didn’t even have a car yet! That broke my heart. I wanted so desperately to leave Utah, but I felt like I was being trapped in the very place I wanted to leave. It terrified me, too, to think that maybe I was wrong. Maybe I was never supposed to leave Utah. To never see the world, to never experience other cultures, to wake up in ten years and realize I never did all those things I wanted to—that was my greatest fear.

But it couldn’t be fixed. I couldn’t pull a few thousand dollars out of thin air (no matter how much I think all of us wish we could). There was no getting around it. I had to stay in Utah. But I still felt in my heart that that wasn’t right. I wasn’t meant to live and die here and never experience anything outside this bubble. So, I made a decision. First, I needed to find a job. Then, I would start my generals at Weber State the following year. I would finish my associate’s degree here in Utah and transfer when I was finished.

I didn’t find a job until August, five months after graduation. It paid very little, and the commute was atrocious, but it was a start.  A year flew by. I worked, and I worked, and I worked. The problem was that I was only working part-time, for minimum wage. Needless to say, I wasn’t saving very much.

Then, God intervened yet again. He gave me the perfect job. Two miles from my house (versus twenty-five), and two dollars more an hour! And, better yet, He led me to the exact choice I feel is right for me.

My dream is to attend American University in Washington, D.C.

Don’t ask me why. I have no idea. Heaven knows I have absolute no desire to be a politician. I don’t know what is waiting for me out there, or why I feel like this is something I need to do, but I do know that whatever it is will be more amazing than anything I can possibly imagine. It will be an adventure, one I’m hoping you’ll follow me on!

Now, you may be wondering why I am telling you this. The truth is that I feel like I am finally on the right path. God led me to that crappy job because it was the only way to get my dream job. He led me to the decision to start this very blog. I would like to think that, another year from now, I’ll look back on this article and be so grateful I went through everything I have because it led me to something better. I finally feel at peace with the choices I have made because I know that there is a reason for what I have been through.

I have never been more at peace with a decision. I don’t know what is waiting for me or there, either, but it is going to be one heck of a ride!

So, what do you say? Do you want to tag along for the ride?