Ice crunches underfoot as I cross the tarmac toward the small plane. 5 a.m. on January 2nd and the sky is frozen over, comatose beneath a sea of starless cobalt. Over the howling wind I hear the scream of the jet engines call my name. Every foot forward is a war, my legs as foreign to me as a child learning to walk. Still, I walk. I feel the cold on my hands, the cold on my face replacing the warmth of your goodbye.
I mount the stairs and board the plane, greeted by a flight attendant with a tired smile. The lights are off, and the cabin is a trembling tunnel of darkness and sound. Through the shadows I can make out only a few faceless figures staggered throughout the rows. The flight is almost empty. I make my way down the aisle to 12A and sit in silence. I am a patient on an operating table, vulnerable, every nerve exposed.
In the row to my left a girl is already curled up across both chairs, and the young man in front of her does the same. I close my eyes and listen to the engines, wait for your voice to wake me and tell me it’s a dream, but it never comes. A flight attendant at the front of the plane recites airline safety regulations in the light of a single bulb. No one is listening. She knows. When she finishes, she sits and I hear the click of her seatbelt. I remember my own and I couldn’t care less.
The light goes out and the plane sways as it positions itself on the runway. The pilot never says a word. Outside, a pale amber glow breaks on the horizon through the bare trees. Somewhere at the back of my mind, I’m afraid the dawn will never break again. Afraid it will. The plane comes to a stop and so does my heart. And all the world holds its breath.
I wish I could describe what it feels like to hold you, so you could understand what it feels like to be anywhere without you. It’s the feeling of being on a plane without anywhere to land.
I never missed home until I missed you.
It now seemed that the deepest thirst within him was not adapted to the deepest nature of the world. — C.S. Lewis
It’s only right before I go on to fill in the blank between the departures and arrivals, the uprooting and the settling. I haven’t written in months, haven’t taken the time in a long time to sit and come to an agreement with my mind on so many things, most of which are now either forgotten or lost somewhere at the back of a million others. Life moves fast, faster than you think when the days are passing by painfully slow. So much to cover, so little patience, so unhealthy the hours I keep. Come to think of it, I’ve never written anything worth reading in daylight. Not that anything I write is worth reading.
I arrived at Northwestern on September 12th, a month after my friends. Ready for life to start, terrified, not at a new beginning, but at an ending. It was a book I would have never closed, a story I loved. The only story I’d ever read. The walk to my dorm from my parents’ car was the longest distance I’ve ever had to travel. Over my shoulder, the view of the lake wasn’t enough to keep my mind off my aching heart.
Speaking of which, I apparently have a heart condition agitated by caffeine and lack of sleep. I would never have guessed my favorite things could hurt so much.
I discovered what it actually means to write a paper, that free delivery is great food, what a football game is like, how to get from one city to the next, how cold Lake Michigan is at midnight. I met a thousand people, but more than anything or anyone else, I’ve learned about myself. I discovered what it takes to get to class, how to make friends, how to lose friends, that time alone is vital, how long I can stay awake and how hard I crash, how fast I can read a hundred pages, that I might not love the job I think I will. That the world is so much bigger than the spaces you live, and that living in one space isn’t such a bad thing.
Stress? The only thing more stressful than sorting through first-quarter relationships was the work. Not the work load, no. I can promise you that I had the most pathetic work load of all eight thousand students on campus. I just couldn’t focus, the motivation was just not there. By the end of it all my routine was to start homework around 2 am and sleep at around 5 until 10… the final week I bought myself an extension for a late paper by agreeing to see the Academic Advising Center, Counseling and Psychological Services and the Director of Undergraduate Studies personally. This is a very different Nicco than the one you might have known a year ago. I still don’t know how I made it here.
But have you ever been absolutely certain that you’re where you’re supposed to be? Certain that you’re standing in the place where God wants you? Until coming I’d never realized it. The challenges I’ve faced here and the opportunities I’ve had to grow are beyond what I ever expected. Ask me about it sometime.
The one regret I have is that I stopped writing. Somewhere in the process of figuring out who I am and who I might become, I lost something critical to what makes me tick. I let go of it, rather, tired of a pet I had to feed and clean after, without realizing it was part of me, quite literally, like any schizophrenic counterpart. But I’ll try to find him. I just wonder if, after all this time, he’ll want me back too.
At the end of our exploration
We will return to where we started
And we will know the place for the first time
— T.S. Elliot
“To wait is not merely to remain impassive. It is to expect – to look for with patience, and also with submission. It is to long for, but not impatiently; to look for, but not to fret at the delay; to watch for, but not restlessly; to feel that if he does not come, we will acquiesce, and yet to refuse to let the mind acquiesce in the feeling that he will not come.”
–– Dr. A.B. Davidson, Waiting on God
Not Lost, Just Wandering.
Eighteen. The number of years I’ve lived. The number of houses I’ve lived in. After eighteen new beginnings, adapting is as much my instinct as settling is for most. Whether a blessing or curse, maybe I’ll never quite decide. But I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
The culture shock that normally accompanies the return home is at an all-time low this time around. Maybe part of the reason is that I’ve become too accustomed to being a stranger to mentally register that I’m here indefinitely. To everyone who asks I call it home, but the truth is that hearing myself say it is worse than belonging nowhere at all. But it’s the easy answer; sometimes I get tired of expecting people to understand life outside the United States, let alone their own State.
Don’t get me wrong - I love Chicago. I was born not ten minutes north of the Sears Tower (yes, it will always be the Sears Tower). My favorite place on Earth is the edge of the lake on the east end of Solidarity Drive. And of course, I love being close to family again. But my mind refuses to bend around the idea that someday I’ll settle anywhere. Home is where the heart is, but of late my heart has been anything but consistent.
And still there’s always an aching for the familiar. Routine, maybe. People. Sometimes I wonder what it is exactly that I’m searching for, because sometimes I’m convinced I’m running recklessly, and yet certainly, toward some unknown destination, that there’s a place somewhere out there that I alone was destined to find, that place I belong.
Then again, aren’t we all? I’ll tell you when I find whatever it is I’m looking for.
But what if that place is here, now? What if we were designed for the present? In Psalm 37 God commands us to bury our hearts in him and promises that he will satisfy our longings. Like any race, every single step forward is absolutely necessary to bring us nearer to the finish line. We must be focused on the running as much as the finish line, “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12). In the end, it’s less about the destination than the journey - less about where we end up than who we are when we get there. So why wait for tomorrow to take joy in our fulfillment in Christ? This is our moment.
Tomorrow will come - tomorrow.
I’m sitting in the kitchen of my train-wreck of a house, tired, but naturally too stubborn to go to sleep and at the same time, a little restless. Moving out aside, I’ve had something gnawing at the back of my mind all day. And that is the question: knowing a friendship would fail in the end, would you put as much energy into building it to begin with?
There are some major cons to leaving a place, but there are some major pros. Such as: starting over - starting new with a blank slate and fresh beginnings in a different setting. But - excuse my pessimism - what if there are cons to the pro? Such as: the possibility of having left without closing all the right doors? Or without having opened the all the right doors to begin with?
My answer to the question about friendship would be: yes. The reason for it is that God allows situations into our lives to use us, to challenge us and to teach us, whether or not each story has a happy ending. In relationships and in other situations we might find ourselves desperate to escape, to get out and start over, it’s important to stop and recognize that everything in our lives is directed by a sovereign God who desires to bring glory to himself through us in all things. He will always give us the choice to surrender or run, and though by running we could never rob him of his glory, we rob ourselves of an opportunity to grow into the person he is constantly challenging us to become.
Make sure you open and close all the doors that were meant to be opened and closed before moving out.