Stories in your twenties are maybe the only time they are and should be mostly about you.
And so I have a story. I went to Lynchburg, Virginia a few weeks ago to see about a future. It’s a magical place. Downtown is filled with antique stores and gorgeous loft apartments. There are no chains, or blinking neon lights. Everybody in their twenties knows everyone else in their twenties, at least of the artistic hipster variety. I am thinking about moving there and it was strange. I walked streets that seemed very beautiful and very bare. There were no memories to cushion the sight of cold buildings and unknown faces. But my heart was there and it seemed enough.
My friends, Ally, Matt and John, have their own film/design company in Lynchburg (http://duckduckcollective.com) and they are pretty much hot shit. They were incredibly busy while I was there, so I spent a lot of time exploring the town and hanging out at White Hart, a coffee shop that only offers the best Christian books around. Only the classics and philosophy. None of this self help, Jesus get me money crap.
John Carl, Ally and Matt live in the red brick apartment right next to White Hart. They are definitely three reasons I was contemplating a move.
John is brilliant, an artist and philosopher, but nicer than you would think a combination of those two characteristics could be. His house is a treasure trove of books and electronic geekdom. He has mounds of equipment and camera stuff and the crown jewels of the literary empire strewn about like underwear. The man keeps Dawkins in his bathroom. Needless to say, he is a hundred times smarter than I and I love it. He is one of the few people I know who can call me out on weak philosophy and I couldn't bullshit him if I tried even though I do every once in awhile.
His girlfriend, Ally, is a kindred soul. All I knew of her when we met was that she was an extreme introvert and generally disliked girls. So I, of course, liked her immediately on that information alone. But I assumed much would not be different with me, since I have pretty terrible first impressions. But to Matt and John's amazement, Ally and I fell perfectly into a complementary form together. We ran past small talk and settled into the Heart and Soul and Questions and Fears. She is perceptive and sees the world in a beautiful way. We are very different; she has too much Emotion, and I have too little, and that is the secret to us, I believe.
So I came to Lynchburg to see how I would 'feel.' I applied to Liberty for their Counseling masters and wanted to poke around the university and town. I wanted to see if I could meet any other friends, see if there was a fit for me in Duck Duck, and drool over the gorgeous loft apartments littered over downtown. I took pictures (like the one above) with Matt by the James River and slept a ton and read.
But more than anything: I wanted to hear from God. I thought he had a pretty good idea about what it is I would be happy doing with my life, and I pretty much had none. So every morning I would troop down to White Hart- books; bible; computer; pen and try to wrangle some answers out of him.
It always makes me feel pretty shitty to only pay attention to God when I need an answer.
I hate seeking you only to get an answer. I am weak- to be able to manage without you in the daily little things, yet to run to you for confirmation in the large. All the little things are what make up the large- the sum total of my life. I know this, but I cannot keep myself consistent. Consistent in my thoughts, my books- but not my heart-
God, as usual, felt gracious in my soul. He opened himself up in my seeking, instead of slamming a door in my face. Sometimes wrath would seem more appropriate than a never ending stream of grace. But we slipped back into each other and for the first few days I learned very little about my future but some wonderful things about him. Like-
Reading scripture is like interpreting a friend. There is a way that a friend searches my face- like he is looking for something. It does not matter what I am saying; my eyes, or the set of my chin when I'm annoyed, or the way I'll arch my eyebrow- these things speak to him more than words. And I think the bible is like this. Without the context of history and culture; without knowing whom Paul was rebuking and why- information you can only learn extra-biblically- we will never truly learn the bible the way we should.
I sat on the revelation that the road block to God in my life is not necessarily my sin, but my trying to be good. Because it looks like good religion- being a good person at all- but we cannot. I cannot be good separate from God. And so it's not about being a good person, or not hurting people, or worrying about others- I am just called to be close to Christ. That is all. But from that comes many things. My roadblock to God is one of moral effort; of trying harder and harder instead of moving closer and closer. I cannot Lord, but you can.
And so I would sit there, secretly pining for Starbucks soy latte’s but dutifully drinking White Harts', reading books and perusing their collection. I read Anne Lamott and wanted to write. I read C.S. Lewis and wanted to be that brilliant. I would look at everyone else in the cafe; and more than anything I just wanted to be sure of something. I am overwhelmed with choice. Counseling seemed a smart bet. I believed in it, believed that people needed help. I am selfish enough to want to impact people directly, to see health and healing and wise enough to be unsure if giving advice about the heart for the rest of my life would be a good thing for anyone.
The heart is tricky, mysterious. I have always preferred thoughts; my own and others. Thoughts are safer, easier to predict.
It was in White Hart I looked at the class schedule for getting my masters in Counseling and was not looking forward to it. It was there I looked at the Masters in Religious Studies, picking an emphasis in Philosophy or Apologetics, and my heart beat fast. It was there I called one of my closest friends and told her that I secretly wanted to be a professor. I think I could spend the rest of my life reading and writing and grading papers and encouraging students I saw something beautiful in. I had never considered being a professor before because I didn’t know anything I loved enough to teach. But I really, truly love things of God. I have fallen in a lovely awe of the philosophy behind Christ. That laws and science and philosophy that point to Christ outside of blind faith and just the bible. And I could certainly spend the rest of my life teaching and exploring that.
My personality type according to Myers Briggs is an INTP: the ‘thinker’ or ‘philosopher’. And the mystery of God, the proof of God, the correct context of scripture and science- these things I love. These things I think everyone should know.
And that was it. The moment I have been waiting 26 years for. So I decided to go home.
When I was packing up my car to go back to Orlando, I dreaded the long drive. Matt Mackey and his band were leaving at about the same time for their hometown, Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
They had come through town the night before and rocked out in Johns' loft. They have a four person, damn good looking band. They all sing and play an array of instruments- a mixture of folk, blues and good old rock and roll. It's an incredible show to watch them weave through instruments, their voices layering songs, especially when considering the amount of whiskey they ran through.
I walked up to him. “Mackey, I am having a thought. “
“Lay it on me, darling” he said, taking a drag of his cigarette.
“Howsabout I come to Tuscaloosa with you guys and crash for a few days?”
They are coming to stay at my house in Orlando this weekend anyway for a show. And I could help them drive their gear down. So I jumped in my car and headed to Alabama.
Matt Mackey and I sipped from a flask filled with Jack and enjoyed intermittent conversation. I've known Matt Mackey for a year or so, but have only really hung out with him a handful of times when he would visit Orlando. He is bestfriends with Matt and David, and the three of them together are ridiculous. He is kind of a walking tragedy and living legend. He has a raspy voice and a rolling memphis accent that everyone else seems to pick up when they are around him. He just wants to sing, to play and tour and he rocks out like a medium channeling Joplin and Jagger. It is fearful and beautiful to behold. He has a wife and baby and you can tell by looking at him that his heart is split. We vibed immediately when we met, talking shit and trading stories- the genetic gift of our irish ancestors.
He looks at me from the corner of his eye.
“If you want, I could be that inquisitive questioning friend,” he starts in his cool-cat southern accent, “or we could just keep it chill.”
“I just want to keep it loose” I said, smiling at him. “I don’t need to talk about much for the next few days.”
“Fuckin right.” Matt said.
That night I crashed with two of his excellent band mates. Rachel and Stuart have an incredible little tree house apartment. It is a tiny thing located on top of what looked like a garage. But that shit is magic. Stuarts' type writer is huddled by the kitchen. A more than comfortable vintage orange sofa by the window. The tiny bedroom shoved in the corner. The place was littered with great books and better records and damn fabulous boots. I fell in love and fell asleep, listening to them talk about music. I have never had a very strong connection to music, minus Fiona Apple and David Grey. But these two live it, breathe it. It’s a part of them and Stuart played me record after record.
Stuart is beautiful, in a CK model sort of way. Tall, thin -ridiculously tall. Rockabilly hair and a great smile, and this boys heart is nothing but tender. I gave him shit from the first moment I met him and he threw it right back at me. Stuart is 20.
We were on the porch next to the loft the night they played in Lynchburg, drinking Jack and smoking American spirits. He is making wise ass comments about my age.
“What was it like when the beatles came out?”
Suspense hung in the air. This was an interview of sorts, a test. I could laugh it off, or do something cheap like give him the finger, but I was ready.
“About as great as when your acne cleared up.”
The porch exploded.
And who knew the next night I would be crashed in his apartment?
It was a strange thing. To wake up breathing in cool Alabama air from an open window. “Where am I” I thought, “who am I?”
I am Kate Lynch. I am 26 years old and two nights ago I fell asleep in Virginia and last night I slept in Alabama. Life had a strange, hysterically beautiful quality to it.
Rachel is tiny, dry and beautiful. She has a gorgeous voice, green eyes and hair that kills. Looking at her relationship with Stuart, lover bestfriends, made me envious for something I have never had. I loved their apartment, their friendship and talent. The way they barely knew me at all but let me crash with them.
"It's the rocknroll life!" Stuart laughed.
This life had better be good to them.
My step mother lived her twenties in rock and roll. I thought about her when I was in Lynchburg, hanging out in beautiful lofts, with beautiful artists and bars. I knew this was her existence in the 70’s and 80’s. She had Stories, Lovers and Tragedies. I wanted desperately to speak to her about those things. To learn what wisdom I could. I spoke with her the next day and her voice felt right. It felt like everything I wanted to hear. I told her of the past week and she laughed with me. “That’s something I would have done” she said when I told her about hopping on with the band.
I walked around Tuscaloosa, from the apartment the next day. Stuart was making us dinner and I put on praise music and walked. The houses looked like something from the shire. Close together and different and beautiful. I walked and thought and talked to God and fully realized how amazing it was that I wanted to teach. How beautiful it was to have the freedom to change and to move and travel. I was already dreaming of a bearded history professor husband and books, and all the kids that were ten now but would one day be in my classroom. I was getting stupidly ahead of myself; but for the first time in a year, the future glittered like an ocean instead of looming like a storm. I had hope in something, in a future. Not a man, but in me, in God.
And the last picture I'll leave you with, I took on my ride home from Alabama. Yes, it is of a rainbow. Piss off, I dug it.