One of my favorite things to do is recall what I was doing a year ago, or two years ago or however many years ago to the day or time period I’m currently living. Doing this helps me to see the fingerprints of God in my life when I was clueless to his hand even being there. Also, it helps me to learn from my past mistakes and achievements. And sometimes it’s just really funny to be like that is what I was so worried about? Oh please!
Sometimes I wish I could go back in time and tell myself to stop being so stupid. When I think about two years ago this month, I think about me desperately trying to find a job in Nashville before I moved there. I was so stressed about it and was slightly convinced I’d end up living on the streets. I wish I could go back, look myself in the eyes and say it’s all going to be okay – you will get two jobs in Nashville. They won’t be the kind of jobs you want, but you will meet some great people and get to eat 1/2 price boneless wings whenever you want. Does it get any better than that?
When I think about this time last year, I don’t just want to look myself in the eyes and say it will all to be okay – I want to smack myself straight. But I also feel really, truly sorry for myself.
My team was in Turkey for the month. Turkey is a spiritually dark place, and the weather was cold, overcast and often rainy – the perfect representation of my soul. I was the worst version of myself that month and I knew it. When I took showers I wished I could wash away the person I was allowing myself to be.
I was absolutely trapped in my feelings for a guy on my team (note: bad idea), and it didn’t help that we were all trapped in a tiny apartment together. Often times I would fall asleep and wake up mere inches away from him. I couldn’t get away from him or my feelings for him, and that led me to go a little crazy at times. Not a good kind of crazy (if there even is a good kind.) But we were all a little crazy that month – I swear it was the result of us being prisoners of that apartment. One time Anna tried to have alone time in the bathroom. That’s how bad it was.
When I think about Turkey I get a nauseous knot in my stomach (…which probably means I still have some healing to do, ugh.) I think about myself writing in my diary things like, “I never want to like anyone again because it’s DUMB” and “I JUST WANT TO BE ALONE, OKAY?”
I think about the plastic grocery bags we hung on wall (“stockings”), as well as our dwarf-sized Christmas tree – our pitiful attempt to bring Christmas cheer into that suffocating apartment.
I think about waking up long before any of my teammates on Christmas morning. I listened to The Polyphonic Spree and Regina Spektor on my iPod and tried not to be depressed.
A lot of people struggled with homesickness on the World Race, but I never did. Except for Christmas day. On Christmas day there was no where else in the world I would have rather been than good ole Hilliard, Ohio. I felt like a stranger to my team and I missed the cinnamon rolls my family eats every Christmas morning. It’s not the cinnamon rolls I necessarily missed, mostly the idea of them. Of the tradition. Of belonging to something.
A few days later I wrote in my diary, “I felt sad, I’m not sure if it was homesickness or not, it just didn’t feel like Christmas at all. It felt like an ordinary day, and we were playing house or something. I felt better when we went over to Austin’s and I forgot it was Christmas.”
That last line makes me really sad.
After writing about the longest and most intense game of Uno I ever played, I wrote, “The rest of Christmas day was pretty anticlimactic. I took a nap, we ate dinner and turned on A Christmas Vacation. I went to bed, though.”
I remember falling asleep alone, feeling depressed as I listened to my teammates laugh at the movie in the other room.
Recently my friend Marissa gave me some great advice. She told me to not let my bad memories taint the good ones. It’s true that I’ve let my bad memories of Turkey taint all the good ones. Good things did happen that month, usually I just forget about them because of that nauseous knot that takes over my stomach and soul.
I threw myself into ministry that month. I was determined to make the most of every opportunity, and in terms of ministry I think I did. Exhausting as it was, much of my time was spent at a faraway apartment complex with a Turkish family we had befriended. I would sit on the couches with them and drink chai, laughing as we tried to communicate. I’d eat dinner with them. And one time breakfast, because we woke them up when we popped over late in the morning. I wore the crazy European hip-hop jeans they gave me. I took a nap on the 16-year-old son’s spiderman bed. I prayed with them and spoke the name of Jesus. Before I left for the last time, Grandma looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, “Turkey, again. Turkey, again.”
One night my team went to our American friend’s apartment. His parents and sister and fiance were there too. I remember sitting on this red couch next to Emily – we kept sneaking M&Ms from the bowl on the table and we were acting so hyper and weird.
There was a plastic, little kid’s hair styling kit lying around (I have no idea why.) Not caring that everyone else was watching, Emily and I began to play with the toys. Meaning we held the tiny plastic blow dryer up to our heads after using the tiny, empty shampoo bottle. It was so much fun. It was one of the rare moments I was actually myself that month – when you like a guy you are always so awkwardly aware of yourself, you know? For some reason I just didn’t care this one night and it felt so so so good.
And even though Christmas day sucked, Christmas Eve was one of my favorite days on the entire race. A bunch of us girls walked to Starbucks in the morning and then we found a place to get authentic Turkish baths. We hardly knew what to expect. We were each given our own changing room, where we exchanged our clothes for plaid towels and ugly plastic sandals. And then we walked into this fairly large cement room, where a big, jovial Turkish man began tossing hot water on us. We screamed.
Eventually he left and we continued the water party, all the while singing songs like “Single Ladies” by Beyonce and “Don’tcha wish your girlfriend was hot like me” by the Pussycat Dolls.
We lounged, laughed and chatted for a while, and then Uncle George (that’s what we named him) came back in with a plaid towel around his waist. We all glanced curiously at each other. Was he really the one who was to scrub our bodies? The answer was yes, definitely yes.
When our baths were done we washed each other’s hair. It sounds weird, but it was such a beautiful moment that bonded us girls together. We were given fresh plaid towels and, of course, chai. We changed back into our clothes, feeling more clean and relaxed than ever.
That night our three teams hiked up a hill (it was more like a paved mountain) to get to Chili’s. What can we say, we were desperate. The food wasn’t amazing (at least mine wasn’t), but for a moment we felt like we were in America (…especially because we acted like Americans. Meaning we were LOUD.)
So yeah. I suppose there were good times in Turkey, probably more than even these few memories. And even though it was an incredibly hard month and I was a horrible, selfish, immature person for most of it, I learned from it. It’s a big part of why I’m currently fasting from boys, because I allowed myself to become too consumed with one – to the point of compromising myself and my relationship with others.
And suffering through last Christmas has given me an entirely new appreciation for Christmas this year – and probably for many more to come. Those cinnamon rolls are going to taste like a little bit of heaven, I’m sure.