Two weeks ago, I let my knees buckle underneath my baggy sweater and my back slide down the wallpapered surface behind me. The pent-up hot air rushed out of my mouth. It didn’t last long. Maybe two minutes and a few tears dripping from the crevice of my ducts.
I put on my sleeping bag of a winter coat and scratched off more of the chipped-purple paint as I waited for the elevator. I opened the heavy metal door ignoring the thud behind me and glanced in the dimly-lit mirror. After deciding that my eyes didn’t look too I-just-cried-alone-in-my-apartment red, I let the machine jolt me to ground level and went into school to teach.
It was 8 am in Bulgaria which meant it was 1 am in Cincinnati. It was Thanksgiving Day, but no one here really knew that; it was just Thursday. No one knew that I wanted to be in my PJ pants with my sister, listening to every word and hurt of her first semester of freshman year with huge mugs of coffee (filtered coffee, not espresso) in our hands. I wanted to hear my mom rattling pots and pans in the kitchen, see my dad through the windows walking the dogs, and ask my brother what games would be on in the afternoon.
Several hours later I was home and packing. As I prepared to lock my apartment door for the weekend, I was quickly betrayed. The couple tears that were supposed to fall quietly and leave in peace, well, they had other plans. They came back, barging in and demanding to stay. They shoved their way up from my heart and down from my brain, panting to see the air and slide down the curve of my cheek.
You cry for yourself because you are inherently selfish and desperately want to be in a suburb of southwest Ohio. But then you cry for the rest of it. You cry for your friend’s family who will never, on this side of heaven, have their daughter coming home again for Thanksgiving. You cry for your grandmother who may not remember the turkey dinner. You cry for your student whose Mom is no longer with her and for your friend whose Grandfather left so recently and abruptly. You cry because on the day that should be marked with insurmountable gratitude, nothing feels normal.
You cry because, for a moment, you believe that the grass is greener on the other side.
Then you fall asleep that night. Then you wake up and get on a plane to Berlin.
Then you hug your friend who just flew across the Atlantic to see you, chow down on some curry-wursts, parade through Christmas markets and camp out at a Happy Hour for more than an hour.
Then you fall asleep that night. Then you wake up and get on a plane to Liverpool.
Then you hug your childhood friend who lives there, chow down on mozzarella sticks, parade through a rainy downtown and camp out at a Speakeasy to eavesdrop on the natives with British accents.
You forget about your Dad in a flannel attempting to deep-fry a turkey in the backyard, you misplace the memory of a life you were longing for. Because suddenly, for purely circumstantial reasons, you are happy with your grass. You decide that your grass is green and the world agrees — your friends are cheering you on, reminding you they miss and love you.
Then you fall asleep that night.
And the next day you wake up to fly back to Bucharest. You spend the night in a Bulgarian bus station with the company of a couple homeless men and stray dogs. You get home at 5 am, barge into your fellow ETA’s apartment (I love you, Mari) to fall asleep on her couch for a couple hours and wind-sprint through downtown to make it to class.
You are reminded that your grass is brown. Everyone else has green grass it seems. You want rest. You want normalcy. You want your family.
What if though, the grass isn’t brown. What if my grass is just, well, like, lime-green? And my friend’s grass is Kelly-green, and my sister’s grass is olive-green, and my old roommate’s grass is dark-green.
Maybe my grass isn’t fading to yellow or a dark brown or poorly watered or just outright dead, maybe it’s just my grass. Maybe it’s lime-green because I’m lime-green and right now that includes living in Bulgaria and teaching English and having women from church over for Jenga night.
Maybe you are in a mundane job because Jesus wants you in that office. Maybe you are taking an extra semester of classes because Jesus wants you walking through campus. Maybe you are single because Jesus wants you to be single, not because you are not looking in the right places or have the wrong posture. And maybe your friend is married because Jesus saw them fit to be husband and wife right now. And maybe your other friend is a missionary because Jesus wanted them bringing His word to all nations.
Maybe your grass isn’t as green as you want it to be, but that doesn’t mean anyone else’s is greener.
Gratitude is not based on the pigmentation of green in the yard, but rather the saturation of grace in your heart.
I would much rather spend my time in my front yard with my Creator, barefoot, running and spinning and twirling in my lime-green grass instead of looking over the fence at anyone else’s. Jesus gave that grass to me; He watered it for me before I stood in it. Maybe the real challenge in life isn’t getting greener grass, but embracing our shade of blades — tending and nourishing them — being fully there.
Every day I open my eyes to the orange walls surrounding me, peaking over my flower-printed comforter my vision comes into place: Hello, world. I am given a day. One day to make it what I want. One day to create the life I live. One day with the greatest gift.
And I want to live that one.
I want to breathe in every ounce and know that I am not wasting the most precious gift. I want to walk knowing that my feet are exactly where they are supposed to stand to learn the lessons I need to remember to gain the grace and wisdom to love the people and on and on and on.
It’s the train we are all inevitably on. And when my train ends with me walking through the gates, I’ll know I didn’t waste it. I didn’t waste the gift I opened each morning. I didn’t spend my days grieving over the colors that weren’t in my palette, but rather running with mine in a direction to glory.
And it’s a beautiful train, no matter the stations you pass through.
*This site, E (ericaboden.wordpress.com), is not an official Fulbright Program site. The views expressed on this site are entirely those of its author and do not represent the views of the Fulbright Program, the U.S. Department of State or any of its partner organizations.