It has been so instructive to live life alongside the brave, tender-hearted, vivacious, the one and only Jordan Siebenmorgen. One of the most generous, hospitable, and well connected people I know, as well as my roommate of nearly three years, she has taught me a lot about bravery and connecting with others. For her, it comes from a near decade of setting down roots in a city, saying yes to adventures, and confidently following her curiosity. She has this uncanny knack for finding out people’s stories. If she’s intrigued by someone, or interested in what they do, she’ll ask them out to coffee. “I had lunch with some doula’s today,” she told me the other day offhandedly. At my inquisitive look, she added, “I don’t know- I could see myself being a doula one day!” And that is Jordan.
As I started thinking about stepping away from teaching, the thought of trying to find a “something else” felt very daunting. I mean, I’m an elementary teacher. What does that qualify me to do? I wanted to be open to possibilities, to finding connections that would help lead to what was next for me. I made a mini resolution at the New Year to use the first few months of 2016 to take a page from the book of Jordan and reach out to people who inspire me, possibilities that intrigue me, and experts who interest me. For the last two months I have tried to reach out to someone every week, to meet with them one on one, to sit and listen, to get curious and watch closely to the other wealth of possibilities that opened up as a result.
I met with a friend who is an editor, who inspired me to think about a job as a writer. I have encountered several women who are traveling or have traveled in the past. Women who gave practical, honest, encouraging advice of what to do and how to do it well. Who shared their stories of bravery and heartbreak. I got tea with a girl from my church who was about to leave for an extended travel across the world with her husband. This was the catalyst for me to actually start dreaming of my own travels.
When we listen well to others stories, told courageously, we are changed. There is such abundance around us, in the lives we exist between and among. I have found that connection multiplies when we open ourselves up to listening and humbling ourselves to ask for what we want. I’m writing this post from a hostel in Puerto Rico. Somehow, traveling Allie is so much more brave, so much more able to submit to needing help and asking for directions or advice of where to eat dinner. But in the comfortable rhythm and environment of home, we can slide into familiar ruts of independence. I wanted to intentionally step out of that as I prepare for my upcoming adventure.
I wasn’t particularly interested in getting another degree. So rather than relying on my official credentials to take me to “the next thing,” I have created my own “communiversity” of sorts. Right now my “professors” are the people on the periphery of my life that are doing incredible things. People who are in the midst of trying to figure things out just as much as I am, but are generous enough to share where they’ve been and what they’ve processed along the way. And I recognize that their stories are not to be replicated or imitated, as I will be busy living my own unique tale, but in asking and observing, in receiving their wisdom and following up on their “you should check out….” suggestions, I am in the process of metamorphosis . Inspiration is starting to take shape. Also, a syllabus of sorts has started to form from various book suggestions, podcast recommendations, and movie commendations. I’m finding I need to orient my free time to create space for these inspirations to come and take root.
This is such a beautiful way to live. And the more I open myself up to receiving from the generosity of other people’s stories, the more I see. Serendipitous conversations delight me on a daily basis, switching my mindset from one of surprise to one of open-handed expectancy.
So who is it that you need to ask out to coffee? Which experts do you need to seek advice from? What course are you wanting to take right now? We coexist, brush shoulders, and share life with incredible storehouses of wisdom. We live a world that doesn’t require a college class in which to expand our horizons. Thank God.