“I don’t know.”
That’s probably the most common phrase to have come out of my mouth these past two and a half months. Whether I’m talking about a type of equipment at work that’s in my manual, where a particular restaurant is located (or even which restaurants are a must), where I would be living after July, what my career goals are, or what the weather will be like in next five minutes (Pennsylvania is just as fickle as Virginia when it comes to weather patterns), I often come up blank. It’s been one question after another, and the answers aren’t able to keep up.
Thankfully, the housing question has been answered; in the span of two weeks, my roommate and I found and moved into a new apartment on an adorable street with very pleasant neighbors, who happen to speak German. It’s perfect. I’m not kidding when I say we spent a good fifteen minutes freaking out over the sink disposal, the water pressure, and the multiple outlets we had in our kitchen. It’s definitely an upgrade. But one of the most important features of our new place is that Frick Park, one of Pittsburgh’s city parks, is nearby.
A haven for dogs and their owners and home to a playground, sledding hill, creeks, environmental center, and paved fitness trail, one of Frick Park’s more interesting features is the Iron Grate Trail. Situated on one side of the park, the trail is narrower and more secluded than the park’s other walking paths. At several points, it’s easy to forget that the park is actually in the middle of city and very close to the parkway. But the best part about the trail is not its isolation, but the multiple forks that force the rambling traveler to choose either the left path or the right. Sometimes a particular choice will take the wanderer to another trail in the park, but more often than not, each fork is just another way to reach the end of the Iron Grate Trail. It’s up to each individual to choose how he or she wants to arrive at the bottom.
As a twenty-something who is just starting her career in a new city, it seems like my life is the Iron Grate Trail. Instead of knowing I’ll be in 8th grade or a junior in college when school starts in the fall, I’ll just be an employee with almost six months of work experience. It’s at this point that my path is beginning to diverge from everyone I went to school with. We’re no longer bound by the school calendar or the number of credits we’ve completed. There’s no set script for how much time we spend in any given place and what we do there. And to me, this idea is incredibly freeing and terrifying at the same time. We all get to choose which path to take, and that decision will affect not only our current experiences, but also the future decisions we get to make.
And to keep myself from getting too freaked out about the prospect of deciding my entire life trajectory, I remind myself of all of the choices I’ve made throughout my life to help me get here. From signing up for the high school newspaper, to taking AP English Language, from choosing JMU, to arguing my way into working on JMURJ (the undergraduate research journal at JMU), from studying abroad, to living off campus, and many, many more, my experiences and decisions have helped to shape who I am and what I do. And if I believe that God is capable of using all circumstances to bring me closer to him, then I have little to fear.
I’m learning to become more comfortable with this idea of the unknown. Part of me (okay, a HUGE part of me) wishes life had a set plan to follow or specific goals to attain—and I can create them for myself to some extent—but there is something intriguing about being completely immersed in what the current season has to offer and calmly knowing that the future will present itself when it’s time.
“We have an unknown distance yet to run, an unknown river to explore. What falls there are, we know not; what rocks beset the channel, we know not; what walls ride over the river, we know not.”—John Wesley Powell