After my first year of college in Seattle I spontaneously decided to move to Portland with my college roommate. I was fleeing really. I was 3+ years into the wrong relationship with my high school sweetheart, 1 year into the wrong university learning nothing, and quite ready to attempt to have a life away from the chaotic habits of my family that I feared I would simply absorb if I stayed too near. I was young.
Living in Portland created many opportunities for travel. Primarily, back home to visit friends in Seattle, but also trips to the coast to hike in to see the sunrise over the beach, or meandering drives through the gorge, and plenty of adventures wasting gas while exploring a new city. I am fairly sure I have stopped at every Chevron on the I-5 corridor between Seattle and Portland, dressed in everything from an evening gown to pajamas. I have found that Chevron has the most reliably clean bathrooms, which is nice when traveling. I put 26,000 miles on my car that first year away from home (to the horror of my parents, for I didn't quite understand the concept of a car lease's mileage requirements).
There were also plenty of miles traveled without me piloting. In 2000 several friends and I decided to go to Memphis, TN to participate in "One Day" a youth gathering of prayer and worship for the nation. We wanted to hear John Piper preach, and try to change our nation through the fervent prayers of thousands of young people. Ah, youthful lusts! Three of us decided that the most affordable route would be to take a greyhound bus. Yes, a greyhound bus from Portland, OR to Memphis, TN. This is roughly 57 hours on a bus one way. Followed by 3 days of camping ("One Day" was a 3 day event...go figure), and a 57 hour return trip. Another joy of this time on the bus, was that one of my travel companions, and beau of the moment, was a VERY caffeine addicted Starbucks employee who worked the graveyard shift at a 24-hour Starbucks in Beaverton. He decided that he should take a caffeine fast for the trip, and that I should be his accountability for it. Suffice it to say the end of the trip was also the end of our relationship (for many more reasons than caffeine withdrawal, but it surely didn't help).
Somewhere in the midst of these adventures I was having disturbing encounters with the wonderful world of men. Two different classmates wanted to have affairs with me, and the apartment manager where my roommate and I lived actually asked me if I would run away with him, leaving his lovely wife and very young child behind. I was horrified and confused at these inquires, as I really did not believe myself to be that kind of girl. I was just nice. I just enjoyed people and took a sincere interest in their lives.
A good acquaintance at the time from the community college I was attending (we were both in a student ministry program there) had a quiet wisdom that I was deeply lacking. As I shared with her some of my horrors at the way men were responding to me, she calmly asked me to examine what I was doing that would communicate that they could ask such things. It hadn't really occurred to me that I could be responsible for these encounters. I wanted someone to tell me that these men were lost and reproachable, and that I was just being a good Christian and trying to love people. Unfortunately, that really wasn't true. For loving people requires acting in a way that truly benefits them, that pushes them toward facing their maker and making healthy decisions for their life.
I learned a hard lesson about men and women during that first year away from home. I learned what it is men crave from women and I learned that giving a man the things his wife might not have the time for (respect, focused attention, genuine interest, support) due to the busyness of their lives, is not appropriate because it causes temptation, no matter what my own motives are. There is a level of emotional support only appropriate in marriage and there are things (far beyond the physical) that belong only to our husbands. I learned that it's not actually flattering to have another woman's partner wish they were with you. There is a pop-song out now, "Don't you wish your girlfriend was hot like me", and every time I hear it I am sent back to this time in my life and I cringe on so many levels at the misperception the young women in our culture have about what is truly beautiful or sexy and where to find validation that you have it.
This small conversation with my friend caused a large amount of reflection, and spilled over into other areas of my life. It was a first step toward inwardness and true awareness of the way my own actions affected my life and the lives of people around me. It was also somewhere around this time that I first read "Till We Have Faces" by CS Lewis, which only deepened my conviction to learn to see myself as I truly am.
The miles have continued. A 37-hour return flight, from Ghana to Germany to San Francisco to Portland, gave me my first real taste of claustrophobia. Miles of subway systems in New York gave me my first real taste of almost missing a flight home. Miles journeyed by a friend on the World Wide Web introduced me to a little college named Gutenberg that took my mind miles back in time through the history of western thought and continued to open my eyes further to who I am.
For the moment this journey has brought me back to a place literally 4.21 miles away from the home I moved away from 9 years ago. Full circle in space, but a more tempered woman than the girl who left.