I started 2019 making $8.50/hour at a Boys and Girls Club in Knoxville, TN. I was barely paying my bills, barely keeping up in school, and barely holding on to my mental health and my dreams, but I was committed to doing the next right thing over and over and over again.
On my very first day there last autumn, I glued a tiny printout of the children’s version of the 7 Unitarian Universalist Principles on the back of my brand new name badge. It was a handy reminder of what I was working for. I had barely named my call to ministry, and soon after I said the words aloud, my personal life collapsed in ways I could have never imagined.
Sometimes, Love breaks your heart wide open to clear away what no longer serves you and to open the door to new possibilities.
“The wound is the point where the light enters you.”
Every Sunday morning that autumn and spring, I sang and meditated and contemplated alongside my beloved church community. I got more involved in the church – I joined several committees and was asked to be on the Board of Trustees. I cried in that sanctuary more times than I can count. I spent my weekday afternoons at the Club, supervising crafts and trying not to roll my eyes too hard when the church that owned the space bribed the children into Bible Study with candy and toys. I danced around my truth when the children asked why I don’t have a boyfriend or husband.
One day at work, a little boy of about six or seven was playing with my nametag. He mouthed the words in rainbow lines and looked up at me with a smile that I swear came straight from the Divine.
“I want to change the world like that!” he exclaimed.
“Well,” I said, “the good news is you can.”
I want to change the world like that too. I knew that when I named my call, and even before. My human mind didn’t understand what I was getting into when I walked into Westside UU Church nine years ago, but my soul certainly did.
One year ago, I delivered my first sermon ever at Westside. I spoke about embracing fear and doing things that scare us anyway. I didn’t expect to spend the next year doing even more things that terrify me.
I didn’t realize I would swipe right on my soul’s best friend just days later, that encountering spiritual family is beautiful and heart-crushing all at once. I had no idea I would take a family member to court for a restraining order. I couldn’t fathom what it would take to make sure my child has the freedom to grow up true to themselves. I didn’t realize the ways I would have to -painfully and gladly- become their advocate.
I had no idea what was waiting for me in Tallahassee, but I knew as soon as I submitted my resume for the DRE position that if they just offered me an interview, I would get the job that is now mine.
Solo parenting 500 miles away from my support system while moving and starting a new career has been exhausting and empowering. I am not the same person I was even six months ago, when we rolled into Tallahassee with a carload full of our belongings and little resembling a plan – and I am so glad for it.
Ending 2019, I am not rich by any means – my little apartment doesn’t even have a dishwasher and I’m writing this from the discomfort of the laundromat, where I’ve been spending a lot more time since we started potty training. But I make a living wage doing work that I love. I know my bills will be paid. I know we will have everything we need. I know my job will never be in jeopardy because I am queer or pagan or outspoken or desperate to save the world. In fact, I know the Unitarian Universalist tradition will continue to embrace me as a religious professional because of all those things.
Six months ago, I wanted to go to seminary. I knew I was called to ministry, but I wasn’t quite sure how to go about getting there. Today, I am ready in a way I didn’t ever think I would be, so much so that the first time I met them, my adviser at Starr King said, “You seem so grounded and ready and called.”
I hope that every action I take going forward speaks to that truth.
When I started working with kids 10 years ago, the director at the camp I worked for told us to “assume a confidence you may not feel.” He assured us that the actual confidence would come but didn’t ever say when. I hope nobody tells the baby-faced counselors starting there next summer that it might take ten years. But by Godde, it did finally come, and it brought joy and serenity and hope with it.
This has been the hardest year of my life, and the best one yet.
I am so excited for what’s to come.
“Boss up and change your life. You can have it all, no sacrifice…
Baby, how you feeling?
Feeling good as hell.”
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