I’m a bit embarrassed to see how long it has been since my last exercise in written therapy, but if you only knew the magnitude of everything that’s happened to me in the last three months, you’d definitely understand. And, the sooner I start writing about it, the sooner you’ll know so let’s get started.
When last I left you, I was hot on the heels of my “dream job” with my “dream company” in my “dream city” – and quite freaking out about it, if you recall – and I could feel it all coming together. Problem was, that feeling was not a good one. How could that be? I’d be talking, dreaming, chasing New York City for years. I always said that’s where I should be, pounding the pavement with all the other fearless citizens determined to etch out a living in the capitol of the world. But the closer I got to achieving it, the more the anguish and unrest set in. It just felt WRONG. Emotionally wrong, financially wrong, spiritually wrong. There I was, staring at the hard-won job offer in black and white on my computer screen, and I wept. Just wept. I had spent several months rebuilding my soul, trying to steer it towards light and bravery and joy, and this felt like a sharp left turn away from all of that. And then it occurred to me – this was just a shinier, more inflated version of everything I’d walked away from the year before. I would be working harder than ever, in an environment that glorified “busyness” more than anywhere else on earth, defining my worth and my identity by my career and cutting out my availability for anything else of value. This was NOT who I wanted to be anymore. Truthfully, I’d outgrown that girl and that dream. Twenty-seven-year-old me might have jumped at the offer, but thirty-two-year-old me wanted MORE. I wanted to fill my life up with good people and invest in their lives. I wanted to finally fall in love with someone, maybe even have a family. I wanted to make time for the travel on my bucket list. I wanted to find a career path that fulfilled me but didn’t consume me.
So, I turned it down.
Even though I was terrified what everyone would think. I’d been sprinting down this path with everyone watching for a long time, and now I was just going to throw it away? I was terrified of declining an offer from a company that I had vigorously pursued and in which I’d come to have a lot of cheerleaders who were doing all they could to find a place for me. I was terrified of what my New York friends would think of the time I’d come and spent there, all thanks to their kindness and generosity. Would they think I was flighty and selfish?
Of course I was wrong on all counts. My true friends CHEERED my decision to pursue the journey of my soul instead of my career, the company was wonderfully understanding and gracious, and my New Yorkers only wished for my true happiness.
You’re probably wondering the same thing I was – “What now?” And oh my, did I get an answer to that. But first you need some history.
During the month of June, while I was interviewing for the aforementioned position, I scratched an itch to learn more about farm life. I’ve always been a home gardener, and the granddaughter of a true California farmer, as well as a girl who fell head over heels for ranch life I grew up experiencing every other summer in the wild White Mountains of Arizona as a child. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but for some reason I wanted to spend time in the country and learn more about what life there was like and how to make it work. Maybe I’d even find a new career path there, managing a farmer’s market or a CSA? However, not knowing any farmers or ranchers, I wasn’t sure how to start. Then two exciting things happened. First, I remembered my buddy J had recently bought a small one-man farm out in the country! Perhaps he would teach me a few things. Second, my friend M told me about WWOOFing, a global, volunteered-based farmwork program.
J actually ended up directing me to his neighbor, Mama D, who had a much larger ranch and was the perfect woman to teach me about keeping it running, as her husband was gone for weeks at a time for work and it was all left to her and their ranch hand, S (who, by the way, has an amazing story of his own that I’ll get to). My first day on the ranch, Mama D and I fell madly in love with each other and she was my second mom and I her third daughter by the time I left at sunset.
While I was learning farm life from Mama D and S, I learned more about WWOOFing and saw that I could make an extraordinary summer roadtrip out of working on a couple farms while also visiting friends and finally returning to Montana and exploring the Northwest – a big bucket list item for my life. I decided to take nearly two months and drive west, looking to find refreshment and focus on my way.
Can you get your head around the amount of change I experienced in that one month of June alone? I changed the direction of my life completely in a matter of weeks, and it felt INCREDIBLE. I didn’t know what I was going to do with my life past the end of the summer, but I felt more peaceful, alive, and invigorated than I had in years.
And then came Cowboy.
Like lightning out of a clear blue sky, I walked into a little country store with Mama D for lunch and walked out with a big crush. We walked into the store, which is white inside from ceiling to floor. We’d been here once before, and it had been pretty empty, but this time the largest table was full of local working boys, most of whom were in shades of white and grey and denim. But not Cowboy. He wore a bright blue shirt and a green ball cap and my eyes locked on him immediately. I can’t recall a time when I was drawn to someone so magnetically. I’d never bought into that “across a crowded room” thing until now. His strong arms had seen lots of summer sun, and the dark hair and eyes I could see peeking out from under the hat made my heart skip several beats. Cowboy was a friend of Mama D and S, and being the brilliant mastermind that she is, Mama D called him over from his table to sit with us. Turns out those eyes were actually golden up close. I tried to hide behind my soda bottle, utterly embarrassed of my sweaty, dirtcaked appearance from the day’s mulching work. He spoke quietly and sparsely, with perfect “Yes ma’am” manners and a Southern accent so thick you could cut it with a knife. Mama D invited him to the 4th of July party they were having that weekend, with an offhand mention that I’d be there as well, and I was elated when he said he’d come. Thank goodness, I’d have a chance to look good, or at least clean, and make a better impression.
By the way, this was the day before I got the job offer. The next day, it came through, and the day after that, I turned it down. It was not at all because of Cowboy, but the timing sure seemed Divine.
Come the weekend, and the party. Long story short, Cowboy and I ended up on the porch swing that night, talking long into the night well after all the other guests had left, and we didn’t even realize it until Mama D came out to say goodnight and go to bed. Oops.
We exchanged numbers with his promise to taking me horseback riding the next day, which of course he delivered on. Dinner followed riding, a drive followed dinner, and by the wee hours of the morning we’d left the friend zone far behind.
Inner Monologue: Oh Lord, what are you doing!? I just majorly changed the direction of my life, I’m about to leave for a soul-searching two month roadtrip in a week, and you send my dream Cowboy hurtling into my life at a hundred miles an hour?
The following week had three more amazing evenings, lots of mushy texts, and countless breathtaking kisses. The night before I left, we sat in the moonlight, not wanting to say goodnight after the best but most beautifully simple date I’d ever had, and I realized I had in my life a very, very special man. The thought of leaving him for seven weeks was like a punch to the gut. What if he forgot me? What if he met someone else? What if I returned and we’d lost our spark? These questions raced through my mind, but everytime he kissed me they disappeared like mist. The truth was, God was sending me Cowboy AND He was sending me on this trip, and if both were meant to be, I had to just let go and let Him do His work.
This would prove to be a repetitive lesson in my summer and still now into my fall.
I will leave you there for tonight, and take you on an amazing journey across the U.S. and deep into my confused, hopeful soul along the way in our next installment…