There are people in our society, myself included, who live according to vision. You may be one of us.
When I was 20 I was a bit of a rambling man, floating from job to job, college to college, city to city looking for my vision and seeking clarity. I had decided a few years earlier that I wanted to teach young people for all my life, but had no idea how that actually happened. After trying to go to college and working a handful of youth-focused jobs, as well as roofing houses and waiting tables, I decided that I needed to find my vision.
That year I packed my crappy little car with everything I owned and took off for New Orleans. Before leaving I consulted the ring of mentors and friends in my life, mostly listening to the adults I looked up to. I heard all kinds of advice. My pastor told me that shallowly rooted trees that blow over easily on the beach and that I needed to have deep roots before trying to face storms. Other people told me that New Orleans was the most violent city in the country. All the same, I was determined to simply move there and “make it” – find a job, get a place to live and just live my life.
My car broke down halfway there, and after taking the Greyhound the rest of the way and spending all my money on hotels I arrived broke in the Big Easy with just the bags on my back. I roamed the city looking for work for 3 weeks, calling home to my mom and my pastor and my friends and looking for anything familiar. Coming from Omaha and Montana and Alberta before that, I had no context for the palm trees and rats and opulent Southern houses and exquisite craziness that N.O. is at Mardi Gras. After those 21 days I counted more than 100 churches and nonprofits that I’d dropped my resume off with; I slept outside for 17 nights; I got jumped twice and had one of my bags stolen; and I had absolutely no money or food. Eventually I convinced my older brother to buy me a bus ticket back to Omaha.
Arriving back in the city I was not the same as I had been just weeks before. Experiencing the intense loneliness and self-fullness of homelessness and discovering the world at that point had few material comforts to offer me in those moments, I had to become more self-reliant and less imposing on the world around me. But I couldn’t hide my flame – I had to burn brightly. I stormed my career ambition after that, regaining my footing by working in a warehouse for a while, and then starting a part-time job working with kids in my neighborhood. When I could afford it, I left the warehouse and swapped loading trucks and driving forklifts for helping kids with their homework and supervising basketball games for teens.
Since then I have come to understand myself as an intensely determined person who wants nothing less than to share his vision with the world. That time I spent scrounging for purpose was important to me though, and I will not disparage anyone their own vision quest. You have to find your vision, too. Each of us has to. One of the reasons I built the Freechild and SoundOut websites was to help seekers, people looking for their visions, to find inspiration and hope in the world around them. Let me know if I can support you.