I always considered myself someone who was comfortable with change. So in 2005 after high school, I packed up and moved away from my family and the Great Northwest to start what I thought would be a (relatively) quick four-year stint in Ohio. I would get my undergraduate degree, make a few friends, find a girl (I hoped), and then hurry on back to the Northwest to settle down and maybe even make enough someday to buy season tickets to Blazers games. Quite a dream, I know.
I still vividly remember being picked up from the Columbus airport for the first time by assistant Cedarville cross country coach Steve Powers. I was struck by the humidity. The flatness. That everything appeared to be so unexceptional. So common and unremarkable. No Mt. Rainier or Mt. Hood loomed in the distance. No logging trucks barreled down the highways, carrying their fibrous loads to pulp mills along the river. Nobody was searching for bigfoot.
That was in August of 2005. Now it is May of 2014, nine years have come and gone, and I’m still in Ohio. I live here with my beautiful wife (yes, I found a girl), and I don’t find this place so unremarkable any more.
The dark reds, oranges and purples of an Ohio sunset are breathtaking (to the extent that I, a color blind man, can see them). There is a certain amount of joy living in an area with 5 million restaurants on every corner. The local news is better (read: more entertaining) here than in the northwest (Jack Atherton, please stand up). It’s hard to beat sitting on the banks of the Ohio River in Cincinnati, drink in hand, watching the barges drift by. Observing the fireflies flit back and forth over the new rows of corn in early May is a sight to behold.
But that’s just the surface-level stuff.
Rach and I have made friends here that will last a lifetime. They have become family when our families are far away. We rejoice with them in their triumphs and weep with them through the tough times (well, I’m not much a weeper, but Rach does)–and they do the same for us. These are not just friendships that are here today and gone tomorrow. I have people in my life that challenge me, convict me, and push me to be a better man. Those kinds of friends are hard to find, but I have them here in Ohio.
I went through school in Ohio, both undergrad and law school. I grew in knowledge and wisdom. I learned how to get a girl to like me (to REALLY like me, not just to hang out with me). And then I learned that real love is different than just liking someone. I learned how to work hard for what I wanted. I learned how to be a true friend and how to really give to people and sacrifice for them (and I’m still learning). Here in Ohio, I grew from being an 18-year-old boy to a 26-year-old man.
Now I’m done with law school, and I’m trying to find a job. Rach and I have no idea where we’ll be in the coming months and years. It is possible that we’ll remain in Dayton. It’s certainly possible that we’ll keep the same friends, go to the same church on Sundays, and go to the same restaurants on Friday nights (to the extent that we can afford it). But it’s more likely that we’ll move on. Maybe it will be somewhere in Ohio where we can maintain our friendships. Maybe Cincinnati, or Columbus, or Cleveland. But it could also be further away, where we would be forced to build our lives from the ground up again.
These thoughts sometimes make me nervous. We’ve built a life in Ohio, and there is comfort in that. We’ve found some level of stability here, and it is scary thinking that might change in a matter of months. But if the last nine years have taught me anything, it’s that, with change comes opportunity and new joys. 2005 Matt would have been blown away by the wife that 2014 Matt has. 2005 Matt would have been so intrigued to meet and interact with the friends that 2014 Matt now considers family. 2005 Matt would have died to have the experiences that 2014 Matt has on a daily basis. 2005 Matt, in his wildest dreams, could not have imagined the path that was ahead.
The future is blurry now, but one certainty in life is that tomorrow will never be today. Change is going to come, and embracing that change is freedom. When Steve Powers picked me up on that humid August day in 2005, it would have been impossible for me to imagine what my life would be like in 2014. And I’m grateful for that.
I have no idea where we will be in 2023, nine years from now. However, I choose to live my life boldly, courageously, and without regret until I get there.