Aug 8, 2016

Wy[home]ing or bust

It hit me like a freight train. 

It was the sort of sensation similar to walking barefoot for miles and miles on a set of train tracks. A train could come; it likely would; but maybe, somehow, it would miss me. 


I graduated high school with a sense of wanderlust so far out there that many of my friends and family didn't understand. I used the excuse of pursuing softball and college degrees and the fact that one program was far better than the latter to move from place to place. By the time my college career was finished, I'd moved a total of 4 times in 5 years. I jumped from the plains of Nebraska to the hills of California, straight to the desert heat of Mesa and Scottsdale, Arizona. 

They tend to say that those who wander aren't lost. Whomever 'they' is, is likely only half right. As I wandered across the better part of the western states, I knew very well where I was. To say I was lost would be a mistake. But to say I wasn't looking for something would be wrong, too. 

Wyoming runs deep in my blood. 4 or 5 generations deep to Jackson Hole and all corners of the state, in fact. Several grandparents and both my parents proudly attended UW and sported brown and gold. I knew at a young age that I wanted the type of life that would allow me to see the world and how different people live. By the time I reached 18, my tiny town in the corner of Wyoming didn't feel big enough anymore. I wanted bright lights and big cities and any ticket that could get me there. On that day in August when I finally moved away from home, I threw my napsack over my shoulder and walked barefoot down my train tracks; following signs pointing to anywhere else. 

At that point in my life, I wanted very little to do with Wyoming or the way I grew up. Which looking back, saddens me. I quickly traded my boots for heels and howdy for hella. Though I had a genuinely clear vision of how I wanted my life and my person to be, I found myself looking in all the wrong places and all the wrong routes to get me there. At the end of one year, I'd find myself feeling as though I'd 'mastered' a place and I'd seen everything I needed. If I stayed too long, I felt stuck. A quick and easy "I'm done here," and I'd look to my map for the next adventure. 

As I moved from state to state and city to city, I always went home for Christmas. Wyoming meant family and my dear friends. I always loved coming home - but I wasn't ready for it to be home. Over holiday breaks, I would go to the grocery store with Mom or out to eat with Dad, where we'd inevitably run into everyone we knew. We were always greeted with warm hello's and often times hugs, followed by a "How's Arizona?" or another state two moves behind the current. It wasn't unusual to get a, "Now, where are you again? I just can't keep up." These friendly exchanges - you could almost bet on it - would end with a "you'll come home soon."

But, would I? 

This was the train. Everyone and everything I knew and loved was back in Wyoming. To my young self, it seemed like a hollow inevitability that eventually I would return home from whatever city I then resided. At my youngest, I would laugh and respond with a, probably not. Which later morphed into, maybe someday. And eventually, not for awhile yet. As I walked on those damn tracks that I thought headed straight out of town, I realized that the further down the road I went, those tracks went in a huge, eight year circle of avoiding collision.

And then the train came. 

I was sitting with Jeremy in the airport of Bozeman, Montana as we waited for the time to say goodbye. I was heading back to Dallas from spending a weekend in Wyoming and Montana visiting both Jeremy and his brother Josh and sister-in-law Caitlin. If we're being honest (which in truth, this blog is full of brutal honesty), I was grumpy almost all weekend. Even though I'd loved spending time with the Brandl's, it was one of those times where everything felt completely off. So the fact this life changing realization came to me in this moment, is practically miraculous. 

We were sitting together quietly as I looked through the large picture windows, showing the mountains against the hazy, rainy sky. 

"What am I doing?" I said. 

Jeremy looked at me with a more than confused face. 

"I mean, this doesn't even make sense. Why do I even live in Dallas?"

He tried to be supportive. "Your business is down there. And your house?"

I shook my head. The train I had always avoided finally hit me - fast and hard - like I'd been working on a math problem for hours and the light bulb had suddenly came on. I had been thinking, why do I have to go back? You have to go back. You have work. Your house. Work. Work? That's not enough. You don't have to go back. You don't have to go back. 

"This doesn't make sense anymore," I repeated. "You're all here, and I'm there. Why?"

Jeremy shook his head this time. There was no argument. In fact, there never had been. The thing I had been looking for and unconsciously waiting for had finally hit me. I was ready to be home. 

It's funny how life works out. By funny, I mean that I'm in full belief that we're all apart of some cosmic joke. 

The timeline for my life the last year looks about like this:

May 6, 2015: Bought and moved into my house in Dallas. 

May 20: Emily accepted a job for the governor of Wyoming and moved home. 

June 12: Jeremy and I met (whistle whistle).

July: My dearest friend found out she was pregnant with my future Godson, Parker.

September: My Father announced his divorce - it's tough to help from thousands of miles away.

October: My busiest and most successful wedding photography month of my career so far. All in Texas. 

November 1, 2015: The day the train hit. 

We can't see the future for a reason. And for good reason, probably. On that day in early November, it all of a sudden made absolutely no sense for my work to keep me away from everyone I loved. I waited for a solid week for the whimisical thought to go away and for me to settle back into my Texan life. Instead of it leaving, I sobbed for a solid seven days. It felt toxic to be so far away, so I finally accepted that this was how it was meant to happen. Soon after I broke the news to my parents of my decision, my Mother had a health scare with skin cancer. I'm thrilled to say that she's fine - but it just added to it.

I find this post appropriate today. It's my 26th birthday, and I count my entire experience a "coming of age" tale. I had held my work and success at such a high priority for the majority of my adult life - until the day that I realized how little time we actually have. I won't trade a day of work for the time I have with these people I love so much. And I hope none of you do, either. 

I did compromise with my location. A little. I have officially moved to Laramie, WY, a place I had sworn off for at least 10 years of my life like the hipster I am (because everyone was doing it). I'm 2 hours from DIA, 2 hours from home, 2 seconds from Emily (we're roommates, woo!), and a 1/2 day trip to Jeremy; which is a large improvement from a flight & six weeks inbetween. I still get to travel back to Texas and other states for work, and see my favorite people almost whenever I want. My Mom is on her way as I type to take us to the traditional birthday Sushi and see the new place. I get to hike with Jeremy and Jax and Lila (who love being mountain dogs even though we aren't very good) almost whenever we want. I get to drive home to see my family, Chelsi & Parker just to say hi. After being away from home and these people for a solid 8 years, it's the little things that create luxury. Without a doubt. 

As cheesy as it is, follow your heart. I guarantee you won't regret it. 

Cheers to that train that finally caught up with me and showed me the way home,