By Ashley Zarle
It finally happened. Not only had TheKnot.com made it into my top 8 most visited websites, but it had even surpassed the addictive internet drug known as Pinterest. It was a humorous moment where I sort of rolled my eyes and laughed at myself, but it was also a moment of surprisingly deep self-realization. It was concrete proof of just how obsessed I am with the future. I love Phil and cannot wait to marry him, but the fact remains that I have five more months here in Atlanta while Phil continues to work in Ohio, and there is no knowing what comes next or when we will be stable enough to take care of ourselves.Thinking about “the next step” is fun, but oftentimes I find myself so caught up in the world ahead of me that I am missing where I am now. In high school I always thought about where I would go to college, in college I always thought about where I would work, now I am living in Atlanta, states away from my fiance, with no clue what happens next. I feel lost, surrounded by this sea of uncertainty, and it scares me. Without the future to look forward to, what do I have to look to? What do I think about? I'm engulfed in my desire to reach the destination, but every time I reach that place, I immediately begin looking for the next landmark and start planning my path there. It doesn't help that the most commonly asked question within this community of faith-based service corps is “so what are you going to do after this?” During this Lenten season, I have been contemplating the phrase, “it's not where you're going, it's how you get there.” I've found myself reflecting on my lack of presence on this journey I'm on. When I found myself in the middle of a flash mob in Woodruff Park, surrounded by dancing women in red t-shirts standing up for the end to violence against women, I was completely in the moment—and there are few moments when I have felt more purely alive. When I was at the gym being screamed at to jump rope, do jumping jacks, fall to the ground and do pushups, and I thought my body would give out, nothing existed but that moment. Though it was painful, I was present and fully with myself—even if I hated Erika for bringing me somewhere where I was surely going to die. Yet I loved my experience because I was alive and for once, my mind wasn't racing, trying to think of a million things in half a billion places all at once.Thinking about the future can be great, but it often distracts me from being present. As I sat on the bus heading to a doctor's appointment, I was planning my route trying to figure out where to transfer buses and where my stop actually was; at the same time, I was thinking about when Phil and I could get married because I had just found out the date we wanted wasn't available (and I was quite bitter about it). A very thin, older woman stepped on the bus and was handing coins to the bus driver when she suddenly ran out. She asked everyone on the bus for a dollar to cover her fare. A young man with ear-buds in walked up and handed her $3. Her smile stretched from ear to ear as she paid her fare, pocketed the remaining $2, sat down, and looked at the woman next to her and said, “God is good, isn't He?” Though she wasn't talking to me, I looked up, made eye contact with her and couldn't help but smile. Somehow, her comment plucked me out from my little world and placed me in the present moment. In that instant, she had everything she needed and was not only content, but happy. I was jealous of her enthusiasm for life and even inspired by it. One of the biggest blessings of this program is my experience talking to elderly homeowners through my internship at HouseProud Atlanta. I get to sit and listen to these amazing individuals tell me their life stories—where they came from, how they got there, and what they hope to accomplish. It is then my responsibility to publish their stories on the blog where a quote by Isak Dinesen atop the page reads, “To be a person is to have a story to tell.” I never fail to be completely enthralled by the individuals who share their stories. I picture their lives playing out in my head and get a feel for what's important to them. I don't want to miss out on my own story. Maybe it's okay that I don't know right now where The Road will lead me, but it's time I open my eyes and, just maybe, I will be captivated by my own story.