This post is by Abby Hollingsworth, our May Pilgrim in Residence. Each week this month, Abby is sharing about a recent journey she never wanted to take and how she turned it into a journey of intention. -Lacy
There’s no real roadmap for walkabout. That’s kind of the point, I suppose. When I set out for Arkansas, I could see only as far as the headlights in front of me. That continued to be the case for the rest of my wanderings.
My season in Fayetteville was achingly beautiful. The leaves burned bright and fell with great flourish as I searched furiously for the key at the bottom of the pile. I felt certain my time there would be short, that the path to reconciliation would reveal itself any moment, that I would be westward bound for good by Christmas.
As the fall stretched on, I found kinship with the trees—my own pride and sense of control dying off little by little, crunching beneath the weight of the unknown. For all my attempts to manufacture a relationship-saving revelation, I could not force change with sheer willpower. My grip loosened slowly, reluctantly, as winter closed in on us at last.
By December, I waved my white flag across the miles. In many ways, the great experiment in independence had failed. We were no more on the same page than when we left in August, instead digging in to our separate solutions to our situation. Both wounded by the trauma but scared to make the final cut, we decided to give California a try, together.
I packed it all up again and drove 36 hours west. I saw the plains of Oklahoma, the mountains of Arizona, midnight casinos like desert islands all across New Mexico—uncharted territory I rushed to put behind me. Typically a drowsy driver, I was alert and eager, running on fumes of pure hope—maybe even blinded by their cloud.
I did not arrive in Palo Alto to a parade but snuck in the back door when given the chance. I dropped my bags, set up a home as quickly as possible, and tried to close the book on my walkabout. I had endured something hard, people said . . . been brave in the face of such uncertainty, they whispered. A survivor of sorts, I was happy to have answers, some direction, and a more permanent address. I painted Palo Alto as a fresh start—a place to rebuild and move forward. I was ready to shift the car from its stalling state at last.
But it didn’t start easily. We stuttered. We lurched forward then slammed on the brakes. Looking back now, I see myself moving in reverse. I wasn’t prepared for such disappointment at this stage in the journey. After driving solo across the country, I hopped right back in the passenger seat and waited for someone else to tell me where we were going.
Where Fayetteville offered community in the desert, Palo Alto shone a bright light on my loneliness. The people were kind, but I struggled to connect. The weather was perfect and the city full of opportunity, but I still felt like a visitor, a tired wanderer without a decent map.
As my walkabout drug on in this new and foreign place, I tried to redefine what growth could look like. I explored California. I trained for a marathon. I found independence within our relationship like I hadn’t known before. Still unable to release my grip on the future I wanted entirely, I admitted for the first time that this was not the happy ending I wanted for anyone involved.
For all my waiting, I still wasn’t home, and I couldn’t see far enough in front of us to find my way there.
How do you handle set backs in your journey—when hope shape-shifts and feels out of sight?