Walking the Walk

In high school, I wasn’t allowed to have a car. My parents were on a tight budget with no room for extras, so adding another vehicle to the mix wasn’t a possibility. I didn’t get my license until 16 and a half, and while I was on my parents’ insurance as a driver, I could drive their cars, only with explicit permission. I wasn’t allowed to work during the school year, so I couldn’t have paid for the car myself.

Basically, I only drove myself to church on Sundays (family did not attend my church) and occasionally to see friends.

But I didn’t care.

As a non-drinking, non-partying, non-smoking, non-sneaking out Christian virgin in a strict and chaotic household, the avenues to assert my independence as a teenager were few, but I made use of them: my fingernails were painted stupid bright colors (like construction crew orange) and I walked everywhere. My hometown had no taxis or bus system: if you didn’t have a car, you needed a bike or a good pair of shoes.

It was about a mile from my doorstep to my high school and I walked, rain or shine or blizzard. It took me a whole 15 minutes to get ready in the morning – which included a shower – so in the winter my hair would often freeze. I remember once for a play, I carried two paint full paint cans the entire mile for a set painting session after school, a decision I regretted a city block into the walk, but didn’t have time to turn back. The first day of my senior year was a downpour – I walked – and I was soaked from the knees down the entire day. That sucked. My mom would have gladly driven me, but I wanted to do something on my own, I hated being kept under their thumb. I have always had an independent streak something fierce.

Walking has always been a part of my life, more so than a vehicle, and I think it’s part of the reason my heart is always pulled towards Europe and its pedestrian friendly walkable cities. In America, especially in my neck of Suburbia, everything was built around the car. I used to walk to a grocery store at my old job during lunch – it was 800 yards away – and I routinely had other co-workers ask if I needed a ride! This would happen only in America.

If I were to take this new gig – a management position of all things – it is only 1.5 miles from my house. And if I cut through the neighborhoods, I can walk there in about 25 minutes on foot. I’ve already tested this hypothesis. “You wouldn’t actually walk to work, would you?” my skeptical husband said when I told him of my plan. I would walk on most days when the weather cooperates. I wouldn’t be as extreme as I was in high school – after all, I would be in leadership and sloshing around with wet shoes and socks doesn’t exude professionalism, so on cold or wet days I would drive.

I must admit, the thought of walking to work is certainly a perk. A whole hour of quiet solitude or podcasts or phone calls to friends and family. Us introverts dream about these things!

I’m still debating if I should take this job. Since working in a hardware store in high school, I’ve always managed to talk myself out of going for the promotion. I do great work as a grunt. I have leadership skills and training, I’ve only chosen to keep them on the shelf all these years because I believe there’s always someone better for the gig than myself. I’ve often defaulted to people with a degree lower than my own or even less experience because I figure they know better than me. My fear of being wrong and hurting a patient keeps me up at night.

I can’t figure out if it’s a confidence thing or if it’s really just who I am. My IQ levels out as average, yet I have 15+ years of experience in this field in multiple settings, both in large and micro enterprises.

I know the management team I would be under and they love me. I’m 99% sure if I go for this gig, I’ll get it.

Maybe this is the way to go? Even if it’s just for the mentorship. But am I ready? I’m nearly 40 but still feel 24.

In the meantime, more prayer. I’m going to reach out to a contact after this week to get more information. And I have a book about management for this particular field.

Walking the walk? I might.

Christmas, 2005

Christmas 2005 hit me like a ton of bricks. I would have to work overnight Christmas Eve to Christmas Day and I would be alone. There was no boyfriend and no prospects. All my friends had their own families. My own family was three hours away.

I tried to cheer myself up by saying this is how it’s going to be if I stick with this career path. People need healthcare on Christmas too. I’d gotten quite used to the lifestyle of being single and alone, so why would Christmas be any different?

Instead of wallowing in this reality, I ran in the other direction. I bought a tree at WalMart with all the fixings: garland, ornaments (the more unique, the better), and an angel to go on top. I slowly turned my one bedroom apartment into a winter wonderland.

It really helped ease the anxiety of being alone.

The icing on the cake came from my friend Deborah: her and her husband were spending their first Christmas as a married couple in Chicago with his family. On Christmas Eve afternoon, just as I was getting out of bed for my third shift job, she called to say she was bringing me dinner. “It’s nothing fancy, but we want to celebrate Christmas with you.” My heart nearly exploded with joy.

This couple drove 30 minutes in the opposite direction of their destination to make sure I had a merry Christmas. Fifteen years later, thinking about it still warms my heart.

Deborah and her husband showed up with a Hot ‘N Ready pizza and some dessert creation from Little Caesars and a two liter of Mountain Dew. For us recent college grads, this was living the high life. We sat on the floor of my living room, eating pizza, laughing, and talking. An hour later they left, a big drive ahead of them and I had to get ready for work.

And yet, this simple act of merely showing up, changed the whole trajectory of my Christmas.

I encourage you to reach out to singles, widowed – anyone who might be facing a Christmas alone or through pain. A simple act that says, “I see you” – even if it looks like a humble Little Caesars Pizza – can make all the difference in the world.

Merry Christmas, y’all. May y’all reflect the light that came into this world on that fateful Christmas Day two thousand years ago.

The Road to Wilmington, North Carolina (Part 3): To the Sea!

Long story short, they offered me a position and I accepted.

My new employer was even picking up the tab for a moving company to move my life nearly 900 miles south. When the movers took out my couch, they sheepish asked if the things found under it were mine: a strapless bra, about €0.70, and a remote I had lost months earlier. That summed up my last few years of Illinois: support, foreign travel, and control.

I left Coles County the first week in February of 2006 for Louisville and spent the night on the floor of a good friend’s college dorm room. I was on the road as soon as it was light out, driving as far as I could. I paid about twelve dollars in tolls once I hit West Virginia: I made a mental note to have more cash on me for the return trip.

It was in that moment it hit me: there was no return trip. The gravity of uprooting my life suddenly hit with full force, as the adventure gave way to reality.

About eight hours in, I started to get very tired and ended up spending the night in Winston-Salem, NC. I stayed in a hotel right off the interstate, not my best choice, as I believe drug deals were going down in the hallway outside my room. I arrived in Wilmington the next day, around lunch time. I had a one bedroom apartment lined up but hadn’t actually seen it in real life. I hope it looked as good as the pictures did.

Outside of the ugly chocolate brown carpet, it was absolutely perfect.

I had finally arrived.

All I had with me was what could fit in my car – the moving van would arrive a week later – so unpacking was a quick endeavor. I had a full two weeks before I had to report to the hospital for my training shifts, which felt like an eternity, but I had plenty of time to relax and adventure through my new home in the Cape Fear region.

The next morning just after sunrise, I was out by Johnny Mercer’s pier in Wrightsville Beach, a hop, skip, and a jump from my new apartment. I brought a Bible and a journal; having my quiet time by the ocean sounded like a perfect beginning to this new era of me.

And so, my friendship with the Atlantic began.

The Road to Wilmington, North Carolina (Part 2): Futures Revealed

I rolled up to New Hanover Regional Medical Center in my rented 2006 SUV and was in awe of what I was seeing. I’d never seen a hospital that had a facade of a five star hotel. Before I got out of the car, I laid my head on the steering wheel and prayed: “Lord, if this is where you want me to be, make it obvious. I would love to have a husband here, perhaps he is here, perhaps not. In any case, I want to be in Your Will. Come what may. Amen.”

My future boss met me at the door and we sat in her office for the interview. She explained the job, in addition to tidbits like the windows were rated to a Category 4 hurricane and Category 5 was an automatic evacuation protocol. It was clear I wasn’t in Illinois anymore. And then, as in all interviews in my field, we went on a tour.

As she introduced me to all the departments, I noted that everyone was smiling. Everyone seemed to smile here in the south. And then she introduced me another new employee who was training, but would eventually be on my shift. I couldn’t remember what his name was, probably because I was distracted by his gorgeous blue eyes; he was really cute. Little did I know, I had just met my husband.

With the interview over, my mom and I decided to explore for the remainder of the afternoon. We walked downtown along the Riverwalk. We drove to Wrightsville Beach – the third time I had seen the ocean in my lifetime – despite the clouds and spitting rain. We got the place wired by driving to Kure Beach (We had pronounced it “Cure” which was wrong, it’s “Cure-ee”) and walked out on the pier. My mom snapped a picture of me. The butterfly effect again: I didn’t know my favorite surfing spot was just over my right shoulder.

We also stopped to tour some apartments as well – none were winners.

We returned to the hotel to freshen up, and decided we wanted to go to good seafood restaurant. We were leaving for the frozen tundra of home first thing in the morning, thought we might as well live it up our last night in Wilmington.

And that’s when the culture shock set in.

We stopped at the front desk and asked the lady about a seafood restaurant recommendation. “I know just the place,” she said, but she couldn’t remember the name or where it was exactly. She yelled to the back and another woman showed up. “Oh, that’s Hironymous, up on Market Street.” Another employee showed up and between the three of them, found a printed map and drew directions in detail. Up north, this kind of customer service was unheard of. “Wow, they are really friendly here,” said my mom who had never experienced the south either. I had yet to learn this was typical southern hospitality.

The food was delicious, we dined like kings that night.


When we touched down in Indiana, it was 8F at noon. My car, having sat three days in this arctic parking lot, open to the wind, decided it didn’t want to start on the first or third try. Finally, once I convinced the engine to turn over, and we sat awhile to warm up.

“I’m taking that job,” I said as my teeth were chattering.

The Road to Wilmington, North Carolina (Part 1): The Beginning of a New Life

“Welcome to Wilmington, North Carolina, current time is 4:35. We appreciate you flying with us and if Wilmington is your final destination, welcome home.”

The words made me smile. If all went well, Wilmington was going to be my new home.

Fifteen years ago, scratching out a living in a corn desert of Central Illinois, I decided I needed a change. I was single, no kids, and hungry for adventure. What on earth was I doing in this desolate region? A summer trip to Paris inspired me to leave Illinois for literally greener pastures, somewhere with less snow and zero subzero temperatures. My feeling was if I was going to spend the rest of my life alone (as I suck at long term relationships), I wanted to do it in a beautiful place and live life well. I had nightmares about turning 30 in my current location, doing exactly the same things I was doing now at 24.

I saw an ad for a hospital system in Wilmington, North Carolina and narrowed my search there. Wilmington also had city qualities like a local Target, a quaint downtown, and most importantly, an ocean. I applied, got a phone interview (which seemed to go well), and then a call for a face-to-face interview. They were going to fly me to Wilmington, put me up in a hotel, and give me a rental car. I figured if nothing else, this was an adventure.

I asked my mom to come down and I booked her on a parallel flight and hotel room. If I was going to move here, I needed a more experienced set of eyes, since stars were quickly clouding my vision.

It was the middle of December, where temperatures were in the single digits in Illinois, but this tropical paradise boasted 55F. I even brought flip-flops with me, but I quickly regretted that. I couldn’t get over the greenery. My mom was stunned that pansies were still blooming, as everything had turned brown two months ago at home. Winter here was a gentle one that tugged at my soul.

We got lost, as Martin Luther King Drive is really confusing and these were the days before GPS. Tired and hungry, I now cringe at the fact that we stopped at Chili’s on College Road for dinner that night. Wilmington has such amazing eating establishments, this should have been against the law. We made it to the hotel – The Hampton Inn on 17th Street – and settled into our respective hotel rooms for an early night: I had two interviews the next day: one with HR, one with my future boss.

As I was parsing through the Bible that night in bed, James 1:6 stood out to me:

But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.

James 1:6, NIV

I wasn’t 100% sure what it meant, but the words “who doubts is like a wave of the sea” kept rolling around in my head.

I remember staring out my hotel room window, gazing north on 17th Street and thought, “Yeah, I could do this. I could live here.”

My doubts were quickly fading.