Since I quit my job as a graphic designer, I wouldn't say I have created a new life—the one I've been working on all these years has just switched onto a different set of tracks. And now I find myself in the presence of people I wouldn't have met headed in the other direction.
I get to be with women who have risked everything and trekked from the remote regions of Guatemala to find something better in America. We read and spell, and they let me hold their babies and eat their food on occasion, and we laugh a lot.
And I get to spend time with people eager to tell their stories to all of Small Town.
I met a Vietnam veteran who planted minefields outside of Saigon and now counsels Iraq war veterans because he knows what it's like to be taught as a child to kill and then be dropped back into society as if you hadn't just turned yourself inside out. It's all for politics, he says.
I met a man who got drunk at a party 25 years ago and finished the evening with a bullet lodged in his brain, one that he'll carry with him from now on and that leaves him with occasional seizures. More than anything, he just wants to provide for his family and can only lament the stupid actions of his youth.
I shook hands with a breast cancer survivor who spent the weekend celebrating her survival with her closest family and friends, including her mother and her daughter who stood on either side of her, clearly overjoyed that she was alive.
I sat with an eight-year-old girl born with a defective leg who is about to have surgery to fix it. She was afraid she'll have trouble learning to walk again after the surgery, but she was more excited to tell me about the stories she had written and illustrated—she told me the most delightful story of two pizza makers , one from Chicago and the other from New York, who competed to make the best pizza and finally decided to open a restaurant that featured their pizzas side by side.
I have started each of these paragraphs with "I" because people like these have been whirling around me for years without my knowing it. And now I get to be a witness to it all and hear their stories.
Here's to switching tracks and to finding yourself in places that suit you.