When I decided to move to Nashville 5 years ago, I thought a lot about the Robert Frost poem The Road Not Taken. Two roads diverged in my Illinois life and I could have stayed the course. I chose to freefall and head South instead. I would never trade what I've learned in the years since.
I've made some great friends, gone to incredible shows, and become a healthier version of myself. I wrote a (still unpublished) novel. I see my best friend's family at least once a week. I learned it's possible to uproot your life and start again, just because.
I'd be lying, however, if I said my life in Nashville looked the way I had dreamed it would. I've been treading water the last couple of years, wondering if this was all there was, if this could be enough.
A couple of weeks after my nanny job ended last September, I sat in a room on a rainy day with some of my dearest friends and cried. I could not staunch the tears even if I tried.
I took the paper I'd written last year's goals on, then crumpled it in my hand unread. I didn't need to look at it to know I'd failed.
If it had been any other group of friends, I would have summoned an excuse to skip my turn. But when everyone's eyes turned toward me, I remembered they are my Someones. I let the tears slide down my face while I spoke in fits and starts about how I was truly doing.
It was not pretty. I could not dress my fears up. The future was blank, I told them. Not in that "the possibilities are endless" kind of way but one in which I had no plan B and no sense of direction, all while the rent and other bills need to be paid. My job search had remained fruitless. I had not figured out what I wanted to do with my life, which was the very goal I'd written down the year prior.
My friends saw me. They saw through what I said and didn't say. They asked me the best kind of questions, the ones that lead to a truth you didn't realize you believed, and they also spoke words over me that filled the aching spots inside. They loved me.
That was the darkness and even though I felt like I'd talked too much already, I began to share with them the light. Almost a decade before, I received an impression that 35 would be an important year for me and I could not help but wonder what 2015 would hold as a result.
One of my friends said this would be "the year of Leigh" and as the words left her mouth, a clap of thunder filled the house.
Since that weekend, my life has been a series of questions. When you're not sure what kind of job you want, job searching is an almost backward process. I've figured out what kinds of jobs don't interest me or that I wouldn't be good at. I've tried different jobs on for size. I've wondered which of these jobs would offer stability and consistency. No two days have looked the same.
Some days are flexible enough to include coffee with a friend or a slate of conquered errands. Some days mean working at one job, then working at another, and then another. Always, in the back of my mind, I wondered where it was leading and how long I could sustain myself this way.
The first glimmer might have arrived last September but certainly in January. There was no mistaking it, though I wasn't entirely sure what direction it would take me. Then there were impressions from two years ago and, of course, ten years ago. I would be remiss in thinking the particular set of circumstances that led me to move to Nashville weren't at work even now.
In January I knew something had to change but that blank slate remained blank. In February I contemplated moving out of state. I gathered up all the glimmers and started praying over three distinct options, each of which made me laugh in astonishment. In March I decided not to renew my lease. I keenly felt something was coming down the pike and I needed to be ready for it. Each week the glimmers were refined by fire.
I asked for and received wise counsel. Mostly, I listened to that still small voice.
Then came April. The week before Easter, "house sitting" leaped into my mind.
It would take a miracle, I thought, but all the interesting jobs were in San Francisco. Three of my cousins and a few of my dearest friends lived there but I'd never so much as visited.
I applied for a couple of dream jobs but nothing came to fruition.
And yet San Francisco kept coming up. It was relentless.
While I was back in my hometown for Easter, I went on a walk with my friend Megan. We were talking about how we make decisions and how our intuition plays a role.
"It's the jar lid click," she said. And that was it exactly.
You know when you're trying to close a jar and it's not quite aligned and you have to keep unscrewing it and trying until it fits the grooves correctly and snaps into place? For my friend and me, we think consciously and unconsciously about whatever decision we're making from a variety of angles and then one day, sometimes out of nowhere, it snaps into place and we know without any doubt what we're supposed to do. Jar lid click!
We can't rush it but we trust it will happen when it's supposed to.
The week after Easter I talked on the phone with one of my good friends from San Francisco. She already knew the things I'd been contemplating and I wanted to bring her up to speed.
I talked about how my virtual assistant work meant I could work anywhere and that maybe house sitting for July and August was the way to go because then I could cover my expenses while I looked for full-time or part-time work.
"You could house sit for us," she told me. My heart started to hammer as she filled me in on the details. I had no idea they had travel plans. I could test the literal and figurative California waters.
Could it be this easy?
Jar. Lid. Click.
When you take the road less traveled by, you get to see what lies beyond the fork and sometimes that means you wind up where you needed to go. Or sometimes you come to another fork in the road. You must decide, again, whether to stay the course or take the leap.
I'm taking the leap. I'll be moving to San Francisco at the end of June. I don't know if it will be a permanent move but I have no doubt it is the next right step. After months of prayer about what to do, there are so many stories and signs already that have confirmed this decision.
My spirit is lighter already. Though it will be hard to say goodbye to my Nashville friends, I am excited to see what San Francisco holds for me, no matter how big or small a role it will play in my life.
This is the time in my life to explore, try, leap. This is the time for adventure.
I'm heading around the bend.