I was 18. Sitting in the passenger seat of my boyfriend’s truck, all my belongings from my college dorm room shoved hastily in the truck bed, filling it all the way to the hardtop. It was 3 am and I watched the college I dreamed of going to disappear into the darkness in the rearview mirror. This was it. My defining moment and I would, in years to come, replay how differently my life would be if I had never done it.
The moments that define who we are
We all have them. The moment when you see your life very clearly. You stand at the crossroads, seeing the paths diverging before you, knowing that your life will never be the same once you choose your path.
For me, it was that dark night that I fled the life that I had always thought I wanted for the grand unknown of the road. My boyfriend of 3 months next to me and the open road ahead. The promise of a wedding in Nevada within the week and eternal bliss on my mind. At 18, you think that life is like the fairytales that you read growing up. And for me at least, it didn’t take long before that fairytale turned into an epic tragedy.
When you think you know it all
Not long after that fateful night, I found myself and that boyfriend of mine living out of that truck. We roamed from family members to friends, sleeping on their couches and trying to find odd jobs to pay for gas and bills. This was not my dream. I’m not sure where I thought the money was going to come from. I guess I naively assumed it would all “work out”. I mean, we loved each other, what could go wrong?
As it turns out, a LOT. We spent weeks in Nevada in terribly hot weather at altitudes that made my nose bleed. Only to then travel to just outside Death Valley, California, to a town where even grass did not grow. I remember begging him to drive me 40 miles to the nearest town just so I could lie on the grass.
I learned a lot about what I value during this time in my life. I love green. I love the grass. I love having a home. I like being able to have regular meals. I don’t like feeling indebted to people. I don’t like traveling constantly. I think it’s the tough stuff that teaches us what is truly important.
The real defining moment after all
As I was writing this post, I honestly thought of the moment I left college as the defining moment of this time of my life. The more I think about it, I realize that it was how I handled what came next that paved the way for every good thing that has happened since.
After several months of couch surfing, living in the world’s worst apartment (I’ll tell you that story next time) and barely eating; I had my real defining moment. I did something to change where I was. I finally owned up to the fact that I had created a mess of a situation, I needed help and I wasn’t going to live like this anymore. I called a friend back home and their parents drove 6 hours in the middle of the night to come and rescue me from that hell hole.
That is the real defining moment. That even though I was in the worst situation of my life, I didn’t give in. It took me a little while, but I got out of my own way and made things happen for myself. And so the lesson is…