Crazy story: I’m actually going to talk about Spain today. For those of you who were becoming dismayed that my travel blog was turning into…whatever you want to call my last string of entries, fear not.
Two Mondays ago, I skipped stats to mosy on town to Houston and get my visa worked out. Against what my advisor from the CIE office had warned me, I was in fact able to get the paperwork taken care of in Texas and didn’t have to go to San Francisco, Chicago, or Seattle to do it. The thing that made this such an interesting adventure is that every question that should be simple for an ordinary human being is, for some reason, quite difficult for me to answer. What is my name? I in fact have three legal names—two separate last names and a combination of them, all of which the government accepts—and each is used on at least one form of identity documentation in my possession. The name on my driver’s license is not the same name on my passport, which is not the same name on my most recent birth certificate. Confusing? Yes. What is my name? Well, I in fact have three legal names, and the form is asking me for a different one. Which would you like?
And don’t even get me started on who my program coordinator is. I have six at the moment, and I’ll have more of them soon. Thanks, guys. Do you want all of them? From which country? I’ll write really small.
So that was fun. Setting up my housing has been downright easy after that. The program coordinator I’ve been doing the most work with actually contacted me about this, providing the name and e-mail of someone the department had found who might be willing to house me. I made contact with her and we seem to have hit it off. Right now, then, it’s looking like I’ll be living in a house that’s somewhere between a boarding house and a family residence about a 10-minute walk from the school, which is basically as good as it gets. But the best part?
IT’S RIGHT ON THE BEACH, GUYS.
I was joking with Luke not too long ago while we were planning his visit to my hometown in Oregon that when I moved from San Carlos in 2000, the one thing I never got used to in the 10 years I lived in Bend was the fact the ocean was three hours away. Bend has just about everything else: real seasons, beautiful mountains, lakes, rivers, forests, desert. My mom would tell you I swam before I could walk, though, and nothing makes me feel closer to God than standing in front of that much water and feeling it shake the ground.
What’s really wild, though, is something I realised last Thursday. Most of you guys know I’m not just studying abroad: I’m leaving in January, travelling around with my friend Elizabeth for a while, starting my studies February 5th, then meandering my tail up to France to start walking the Camino de Santiago. I’ll arrive back on US soil in the middle of August. None of that is that wild because none of it is new: when I last spoke with my mother, though, she pointed out that I could only take a backpack with me, since I’ll be travelling around both before and after my actual studies.
Well, I’ll be darned. The last thing I want to be doing when I’m travelling around with Elizabeth and walking the Camino is lug around a rolling suitcase. Not only is that beyond tacky, it’s also cumbersome. Thus, all I can take is what I can fit in that backpack. I’ll be over there for eight months.
Y’all have no idea how excited I am about that. Just when I thought the challenge of being away from home during this stage of my life couldn’t get more challenging? Bam. Now it’s hard. There just isn’t room for a lot of the creature comforts I’ve gotten so used to in a bag that size, plus, if I want it to be moveable, it can’t weigh a lot. Everything I pack will be thoroughly assessed for its practicality and I will bring as few single-use items (necessary or otherwise) as I can get away with. I know how to do it, but man, I’m really going to do this. For eight months. It’s happening.
I’ve long joked that if I believed in reincarnation, I would believe I was the reincarnation of Chris McCandless. There is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon. The thing I still have to figure out is if I’m starting the climactic battle to kill the false being within or if I’m going for some other purpose. If you’d have asked me three months ago, I’d have said some version of that it was all about me, but now I’m not so sure. Even until about a month ago, I still asked why a lot; why am I going? Now I have my answer, but I still don’t have an end in sight. What does that mean?
Here’s the way I’m thinking about it. In the real Christian life, everything you do is an act of service to God. Since everything already belongs to him, there’s nothing you can give him—not even your time, ‘cause that’s already his, too. All God wants from those of us who have accepted Christ’s gift of salvation is for us to love him and, in so doing, show up and follow through with the plan he’s set out for our lives. Because everything I do is already an act of service to God (even my homework! That’s why I take my grades so seriously!), that makes this a mission trip—it might not be a church that’s sending me out, but the big-C Church is, since I’m part of that body simply by being a Christian. That means this trip is not about me. This trip is about me being obedient to what God has for me—as he’s promised me over and over this semester, everything that’s ever happened has prepared me for this. I am ready: I’ve been through the ringer, been broken multiple times, and finally been put back together in a form I barely recognise. I wouldn’t have it any other way because I can’t imagine a better way—I’ve never been happier. I feel like I’m glowing and flying all the time, even when I have a rough day. Welcome to joy, though, it’s a mindset.
This has been, absolutely and without a doubt, the best semester of my college career. I know where I’m going. I know I’m about to embark on what will very likely be the last epic solo adventure of my life—better yet, it’s not about me, this time. I have someone to come home to and friends already preparing to welcome me back even before I’ve ever left. At last, the first chapter of my real adult life is opening: this is not only real life, this is the best that life can be, and it’s only getting started.