“May we never lose our wonder, wide-eyed and mystified.”

I will be returning home to Minnesota next week, and my heart has been so restless. I cannot wait for 9:30 pm Applebee’s and Hillsong Young and Free in the car and 8 pm half-priced donuts from Cub Foods and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and church on Sundays and Bible studies with my small group from high school and Dinkytown and LAKES. I miss the water so much. The closest thing to a “lake” in Denver is Cherry Creek Reservoir, a man-made sorry excuse for a lake. I can’t wait to walk around Lake

I will miss it here, though. I love going to the Mercury Cafe every Sunday night for the jam before the slam and the open mic for poetry and the poetry slam with Liana and Grace and Stephanie, where I always order an $8 Santa Fe breakfast. I love going to the Bible study for young women at a nearby church on Wednesday nights. I love taking the southbound lightrail to work at American Girl, where I can see the mountains to the west from the Belleview Station. I love sitting at Backstage Coffee (like right now), watching the theater-goers walk by as I drink a 3rd Street chai latte with skim milk. I love sitting with my aunt and uncle in the evenings, with the door to the backyard wide open (not worrying about mosquitos!!!!). In my final days here for the next couple months, I notice that there is a culture of self-love in Denver. Everyone is very laid-back and friendly–it feels like Minnesota nice, but with more marijuana and man buns. People are just happy to be here in this city. My friends say that no one is more proud than Minnesotans to say that they are from their state, but I disagree. Minnesotans will be quick to tell you how proud they are to be from Minnesota and how much we love our state, but I’ve never heard more people say “Born and raised” when I ask if they’re from here. Lots of people moved away and came back here. Just now, I heard one customer ask another how long he’s lived in Denver, and he proudly responded “Eleven years.” People are so happy to live here.

And that was my dilemma when deciding whether or not to transfer schools. On one hand, I love Minnesota. My people are there. Minneapolis will always have my heart, with its abundance of water and people who will let you go first at a four-way stop, even if they got there first. The University of Minnesota campus is one of my favorite places in this world. I have loads of financial aid. They have all the programs I am interested in. I have friends and connections there. But I love living in Denver. The culture is fantastic, and there is so much to explore. I have family here. I have friends here. However, the University of Denver wasn’t exactly what I expected it to be. I am not a fan on the quarter system (my school has three ten-week segments in an academic year, not two semesters), because it is virtually impossible to completely immerse yourself in learning as much as you can about a topic. I feel like I barely have a grasp on what I’m learning by week seven or eight, and then it’s finals week and we begin a new quarter with new classes. The musical theater program is almost nonexistent (in my opinion), and I am a music minor, with hopes of continuing to perform throughout my life. And a lot of difficult things happened in my life this year. It may sound as though I am “running away from my problems”, but so much has happened that it really is very, very difficult to just bounce back from it all. I have a fantastic therapist here, and she is helping me work through this time. Today, she even went as far to say that I have some post-traumatic stress from everything that has happened. Hearing that made me feel so validated in everything, because there was a part of me that wondered if I had just overreacted–everyone has problems similar to mine. But things affect people differently.

I am so grateful that I took this spring quarter off. I have never felt that defeated and lonely and trapped in my entire life, and I do not know how I would have completed this quarter. I wasn’t able to smile at my Starbucks barista and say thank you, I wasn’t able to go to class, I wasn’t able to put clothes on anymore. This time off has been such a blessing–I am writing again, I am going to work and loving my amazing job, I am spending more time with new people. Although I am not completely healed, I am so much better than I was, and it’s because I took a break. I took time to breathe. During this time of separation, I realized how overwhelmed and lost I was in the midst of everything.

After making it official that I would be transferring to the University of Minnesota, I took my aunt and uncle’s dog on a walk. I passed an elementary school, where the kids were playing outside on recess. Watching those kids reminded me how simple things can be, if we choose to look at everything in that way: either life is going to happen to you, or you can navigate this incredible thing the best you can, probably falling off the path over and over and over again. I looked over at the Rocky Mountains, and remembered how I felt before I moved here. Everything was a mystery. I was so scared. I cried all the time thinking about leaving. And this year, I let life happen to me. I fell off the path again and again and again, and it all finally caught up to me this spring. But as I looked at the mountains, I realized how much of myself is here. I might not be invested where I want to be, but I realized how much I did not want to leave. Of course, I want to be home now for the summer–this year took an incredible toll on me, and I am ready to come home for a bit, but I do not want to leave. So I went back and forth a million times and told everyone I was coming home, but I will be staying at the University of Denver. I will be double majoring in Sociology and Religious Studies with a minor in Music. I am still scared; it feels like I will be starting over again, making myself new again. And I am by no means ready. But are we ever ready for anything? What does “ready” even feel like? I am beyond ready to come home to Minnesota, but I want to spend my time there preparing to return here, where my heart is, for now.

“I’m holding onto hope, I’m holding onto grace.”

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