I’ve learned that I like European AJ better. She is brave – she takes on new cities and new countries without blinking. She’s fun to be around, and keeps things lighthearted. Every challenge is a new adventure. She is certain she is desirable & loves her body. She is not racked with guilt or shame. She knows that beauty & intelligence are not mutually exclusive. She cares less what other people think of her and knows that its okay to think good things about herself. She is honest and kind. She lets go. She recognizes her accomplishments and does the things that scare her. She talks to people without assuming they aren’t interested in speaking to her. She has fun. She lets herself be a 20-something-year-old sans the whole world on her shoulders. She has her priorities in line. She likes herself. How do I bring her back to America? With her courage and self-assuredness, European AJ is a badass.
journal entry, January 14, 2018
Hi friends. I know its been a while since we last spoke. Things have been crazy, I promise we’ll talk about it some more in the future, but for today I wanted to tell you that it is the month anniversary of my coming back to America from my post-grad European Adventure.
I took off just before New Year’s with one of my incredibly intelligent, beautiful, and inspiring best friends Brenna. We spent the first two weeks staying in London and backpacking around Northern Europe (Copenhagen, Oslo, and Amsterdam) before meeting my Grandma for a couple weeks on a cruise of the Mediterranean. We travelled to nine different countries and nine cities, and in each one I learned more about myself and more about friendship than the last.
This trip came at a time when I needed it most. I literally showed up to the airport on the back end of an emotional breakdown and landed with the idea that it was my last hurrah. As sick as it may sound, after battling massive depression for the past six months, the trip was both my life-saving grace and my big finish.
I remember sitting in our hotel room the first night and telling Brenna that every time I had gotten in the car for the past three months I had thought about how easy it would be to drive myself off the road; and the way that she looked at me and validated the pain and reminded me that life is bigger than the rut my mind had been buried in.
We established a dialogue on the first day that didn’t allow for anything to be kept a secret. We could cry together and celebrate together all the more. We were honest at all times.
So slowly but surely, I was waking up. I let myself feel things without feeling bad for feeling them. I walked into new cities with the confidence to navigate them on my own. I recognized my femininity for the powerhouse that it is.
Maybe this was in the late night heart to hearts at the bottom of a bottle of wine. Maybe it was the time that the club cheered me on in the middle of the dance floor. Maybe it was snuggles huddled around small laptops to binge watch Netflix shows. Maybe it was dancing to Kesha on top of 2,000 year old walls. Maybe it was the agency I had to do what I wanted without worrying about what others would think. Maybe it was that for the first time I felt like I was fully me.
I wanted to be my own friend.
Our month abroad was my refresh button. It was my chance to learn again who I am without the lies that the world has put on me. Lies are so easy to listen to. They taste like honey going in and burn like fire in the pit of your stomach.
So, what does all of this mean?
European AJ doesn’t have to exist exclusively in Europe. Her confidence can be here in America too. I’ve tried to write this post a million times (maybe one hundred in this week alone) and failed to articulate it all, but what I keep coming back to is this: European AJ was not the result of spontaneous combustion. She has been here all along itching to run.
And what I’ve realized in the midst is that even in the pain of failure and change, I am so grateful that my God is big enough to handle it all. I am so grateful that my God loves first. I am so grateful that when there is no hope left in my bones, I am rooted in a purpose that far surpasses my understanding — He intends to grow and prosper me in every circumstance, even when it seems like the farthest thing from the realm of reality. And I am so so so grateful for the friendships that remind me that the Lord does not leave me alone.
I promise I’ll be better at this whole blogging thing. I have so many more fun stories to share from our trip, but consider this my reintroduction to the world. I’ve missed you all.
Until next time, wonder on. xoxo