My decade began and ended with a miracle.
Around the start of the decade I was living in Honduras, terribly burned out and sad from years of too much loneliness and a few too many griefs. I decided to ask God for the impossible, and asked Him to move us back home in the spring, and not only back to North Carolina, but back to our old house we had left there. This was ridiculous for a variety of reasons. For one, we had no plans to leave Honduras and making those plans in that short of a time seemed impossible. Second, there were people living in our house in NC already; what were they supposed to do, vanish?
Nevertheless, God said to his angel, “Here, hold my harp,” and proceeded to turn the wheels of progress. (Forgive the irreverence, I just love that mental picture.) In March of 2010 the few of us that still remained in Honduras flew back to NC and made the drive home from the airport to our very own house that we had left five years previously. Most of my siblings were in the US by this time, and they spent the month prior to our arrival scrubbing the house from top to bottom, repainting, repairing damages, and getting everything set up for our arrival. They even had a houseplant shower from our church family, so we walked in the door and were greeted with the most lovely, clean, airy space filled with greenery in all the corners. “You must see the pantry!” my sisters clamored, and so we opened the pantry door to find the little space absolutely packed to the max with cousins we hadn’t seen in ages. You’d be surprised at how many Troyer cousins can fit in one pantry! It was the best homecoming ever, and an answer to my very specific prayer God had no obligation to fulfill.
I was eighteen years old. That means the last decade has been my growing up years- the years where I figured out how to be a normal American sort-of-Mennonitish adult, or at least to pretend I fit in. Being a TCK never leaves you, even when you manage to blend in externally. As an enneagram 4, I can’t say I mind exactly, but that’s another topic for another day. 🙂 But let me tell you a few of the highlights of the decade before I get to the other miracles.
There was the time I up and went to Mexico for a summer to teach English to a bunch of Russian Mennonite students. I was entirely clueless about teaching since I’d been homeschooled, and basically didn’t even know what a classroom was supposed to look like. I knew exactly zero of the other teachers with whom I was to spend nearly every waking hour for the next six or seven weeks. I departed shaking in my shoes, and returned with some of the best memories of my life and several enduring friendships. It was the first time I really spread my own wings, and boy, was it ever fun. Also, I still haven’t topped the tacos I ate on that trip, sadly enough.
Then there was the other time I once again agreed to the crazy, and said I’d go teach school for a year in Illinois in a community where I knew one whole person this time. Never mind teaching was one of the jobs I most definitely did not want to do. No really, if I had had the “Reverse Bucket List” I have now, teaching would definitely have been on it. I still don’t know why I agreed to it, except maybe that there was trouble in NC from which I needed an escape. So I packed up my life and my little red Jetta and I spent the year in Illinois farm country, living an adventure amidst the cows and corn fields. I taught adorable and ornery 1st and 2nd graders, I built a whole arsenal of inside jokes with my co-teachers/roommates, I fell in love with the wide sky and with a dark haired boy, and I never once drove into a ditch in the snow, even though I fully expected to. I also won a contest for the grossest looking food at a party with a little pumpkin puking guacamole. That seems worth mentioning.
My family grew by leaps and bounds this decade. I had one nephew when it started and now I have eight nephews and six nieces, and boy, what fun that has been! I love being a tia, from taking care of the itsy bitsy babies at night so the new mother can sleep, to trying to answer the most awkward questions they can throw at me, to receiving a plethora of carefully drawn and colored giraffe pictures to decorate my NYC walls since I am the official giraffe lady of the family.
I spent several years living in downtown Mocksville in a little flat on top of a music shop with my coworker. The flat had crooked walls and a bathroom door that stuck and drains that didn’t do their job right, and charm in every corner. My roommate and I worked together and lived together and ministered together and danced together and had our fair share of disagreements, but it was one of the best eras in my life to date. We watched the Christmas lights in the square out of our windows, we picnicked on the roof, we laughed ourselves silly at the annual bed races, we danced in the alley and we took countless evening walks after burgers at O’Callahan’s. It wasn’t all easy, and sometimes I felt a little suffocated as I tried to navigate my far-too-busy social calendar, but even in the middle of it I knew that those would be golden days, and I was right.
Although I’ve been traveling since before I was born (really, I was called “Cactus Pete” before my birth because chances were I would be born in the Mexican desert on our way back to Kentucky from Honduras), this decade I got to find out the fun of independent travel for the kicks of it. I went to Paris and London and Banff National Park. I explored Charleston, SC and Savannah, GA and Philly and Chicago and DC and made as many trips to New York City as I could. I drove across the United States twice and ended up with a hundred more places I want to see. Unfortunately, it seems that the more you scratch the travel itch, the itchier it gets. But best of all was Paris. I still have only to look at a few pictures to get a bit wobbly about the knees in memory of how much I loved it.
The twenty-tens were a decade of improving my artistic skills as well. I spent hours on stage in front of my church, playing keyboard and singing and feeling excessively uncomfortable. It took years before my hands stopped shaking almost every single time, but it was terribly good for me, as uncomfortable things usually are. Although I’m still no expert, my keyboard skills improved a great deal, and I don’t have as much fear of the crowd in front of me as I once did. And of course I started writing a blog; today is actually my 7 year anniversary with WordPress! I sure didn’t think my little writing experiment would last this long, but here we are and with no end in sight. There’s also Striped Pineapple Studio which I started just for fun, and which you all have helped keep running, so thanks for that. And last but really my favorite, there were the dance classes I took which were one of the most enjoyable things I have done in my entire life. I was pretty sure I couldn’t dance, being both extra-white and extra-Mennonite, neither of which is conducive to moving well, but it turns out that with a looooot of practice and months of looking like a fool, I actually could!
There was a fair measure of heartache in the past ten years too- you can’t expect to live that long without it, I suppose. There was death and betrayal, over and over, and I got my heart thoroughly smashed throughout it, but looking back I wouldn’t trade the way I’ve grown through most of those experiences. (Not to sound like the most cliche person in the world, but it’s true!) I learned to pay attention to my gut instincts about people, I learned to not take my romantic life too seriously, I found so much freedom from fear, and I learned a lot about forgiveness.
Quite a number of years in this past decade I spent dreaming about New York City, about what it would be like to live there, and about how someday in the far distant future I wanted to make it happen. I read articles galore, I cruised around the streets on Google maps finding cool places, I decorated my house with NYC paraphernalia, I wrote little essays about New York, and I came up here every chance I got. Actually moving looked huge to me though because the housing market and the job market are very intense here, and I knew almost nobody in the city, and although my history doesn’t support this claim very well, I’m actually kind of shy about meeting strangers. You would think that would stop me from three times jumping off a cliff into the unknown all by myself, but apparently I’m a sucker for punishment or something. And that brings me to the closing miracle. I used to tell God that if He took care of either a job or a place to live in the city, I could probably find the other one, but finding both from so many miles away just looked too hard.
At the start of 2019 I was scrolling through job listings in the city, as I tended to do, and on a whim I applied for a position at a medical office, never expecting anything to come from it. But God had other plans and in just a few short weeks, I was suddenly in possession of a better position than I had applied for, located in Queens, and was making plans to pack up my whole life and head to the unknown by myself. I booked an AirBnB for the first few weeks and before my time there was up, God had also supplied a very affordable place for me to live, because He’s good like that. Although the career move didn’t end up working out (another story for another day), it brought me here when I could never have had the courage to move otherwise. Man, I’m grateful.
The beginning of the year was pretty rough as I tried to learn the workings of a new industry and tried to stay warm at night tucked under my fur coat in my frigid room and tried to find a community to belong to. It’s tough starting from scratch, but at least I didn’t come here thinking that my move would be an easy thing. Fortunately for me, God had one more miracle up His capacious sleeve, and in September I auditioned for the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir, never thinking I could actually make it in. I am under no illusions as to the quality of my voice, and I’ve heard enough of the choir to know that I was way out of my league. But somehow, someway Carol told me that she was going to recommend me, because the community would be good for me. And was she ever right! I’ve found the warmest group of people there, and it’s such an incredible joy getting to sing in their midst every Sunday. It’s the happiest place in the city for me, and that’s even including the Belgian french fry place I could rave about. 😀
And so I ended the decade on stage with the choir, singing our hearts out to the packed audience, watching a surprise proposal on stage(!!) surrounded by the people I’ve come to love, and enjoying every minute of it. I think my eighteen-year-old self would be absolutely agog if she could have known what all would transpire and where I would be at the end. I have this ever so slight fear that surely I’ve peaked and life can only go downhill from here, but mostly, I can’t wait to see what the next ten years holds.
Now it’s your turn- drop a comment and tell me one or five of your favorite moments from the decade. Or tell me what was the biggest lesson you learned, or the best food you ate. I want to hear.