Sunday, May 28, 2017

The Suitcase College Grad

I'd been on the road all day when I stopped at a little town just outside of Conway, Arkansas. You know how it is. Or if you don't, you've seen enough movies to guess. You know, when the sweet, young, twenty-something waltzes in to small town America.

No one dares to speak to her directly, but she is clearly the topic of many other discussions, from everyone between the elderly couple at their regular diner table to the high school boys who work as car mechanics up the street after school. If the town was any more picturesque, I would've expected to see Ren McCormick fighting the dance ban at the courthouse down the road.

Who is she? the whispering voices escape from those leaning in toward the other members of their party, We've never seen her before. 

That's the small town way to say, I wonder what her story is, or to put it more bluntly, What on earth is she doing here? 

To this town, I was exotic. Either decently established or carefree enough to live off her limited wad of cash. Fiercely independent, and presumably quite lonely. A vagabond, perhaps, passing through on the way to her next lot in life. Or someone who reported to a job every morning and was taking some much needed vacation time.

When in fact, quite the opposite was true...

I haven't had a residential address for the past two weeks. I've been living out of a suitcase in my hot-pink childhood bedroom, already moved out of Springfield, Missouri but not yet moved in to Nashville, Tennessee. I was making this trek to Nashville alone, my family and movers and semi truck full of furniture to come later. But these small town folk would never know, because no one bothered to ask.

Except the little girl with ringlet pigtails.

You see, kids are a little like dogs. Dogs can sense dog people. And kids can sense kid people. So when I sit alone at a diner in a southern small town, the first one to speak to me other than my waitress is a child.

"I like your shoes," she told me, pointing to my polka dot sneakers.

"Thanks," I smiled, "Yours are pretty cool, too."

She twirled around in her pink strappy sandals.

"Lexi, don't bother her!" a woman (I assumed it to be her mother) called toward us.

"She's fine," I reassured her. The woman stayed seated. She looked exhausted.

"You're here by yourself?" the little girl named Lexi asked.

"Yes, ma'am," I told her.

"No parents?"

"Not with me."



"Cool," she said. And I laughed.

"Yeah," I realized in that moment, "It is pretty cool."

I paid my bill and tipped high because I was fortunate enough to never have to work food service or retail (I chose the daycare route instead), and waved the girl goodbye. I had to laugh when I saw my little blue car, stuffed to the brim with boxes and trash bags full of clothes. A lone traveler with her necessities (or items such as denim wedges she at least deemed to be necessities) leaving no room for a single other person in her car.

Well little Lexi... I've got a pretty awesome life awaiting me in Nashville. I've got a good apartment to live in and a man who loves me. I have no job, and no more than a couple hundred dollars in my bank account, but it's a good life. I have what's important, and I'll figure out the rest.

Sometimes you have to let go and let God, little Lexi. If you learn this now, maybe you'll be a less anxious lone traveler in polka dot sneakers one day. Maybe you'll be living out of a suitcase and passing through another small town on your way to another state. Maybe you'll be ready to start a life with your high school sweetheart after five years of waiting, and maybe you'll start searching for a job doing what you love most.

I hope you do. Because you said it best, kiddo.

It's pretty darn cool.
This is part 1 of the Suitcase College Grad series.
For part 2 of the trilogy, visit Madly In Love and Broke As Hell
For part 3 of the trilogy, visit Today Is The Day!

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