Two years ago I stood at the Sacramento Airport with a one way ticket in my hand. One way ticket that put me in Bismarck, North Dakota.
My parents gave me tearful hugs and I tried to hold back my tears as I said goodbye to calling California home. California was all I had ever known.. And this one way ticket in my hand was the boldest, bravest step I had ever taken in my life.
Two years ago today, I put these words to paper, right here on this blog: “This is the start of a new chapter in my life. This is the very first page. The first sentence. I am closing the chapter on my time in CA and putting the pen to a new chapter.”
Was I scared when I stepped onto that plane? Absolutely. Did I have any idea what was in store for me in North Dakota? Not any idea. What did that new chapter hold? More than I could have ever imagined.
Moving and making my home in North Dakota has certainly been the path that was meant for me. I put all my cards on love. I went all in. But it was the best decision of my life. I can’t help but smile at what I wrote on social media two years ago today. “Today I am feeling so blessed and so lucky to have found my match in Mark. I am head over heels, hearts in my eyes, butterflies in my stomach in love with that man.” And as Mark and I approach one year of being married, I am proud to say I still feel that way. I hope it lasts for another forty.
Outside of finding love though, my two years here has certainly held many firsts for me. Living over 90 miles from any big town, experiencing below zero temperatures, driving in the snow just to name a few. But making North Dakota has brought me so much more than a list of “firsts” and finding love.
Here are a few things I have learned about life since moving to North Dakota…
The Importance of Being Brave
I am not sure if I will ever have a similar experience as moving away from all I’d ever known to make my home somewhere else at any time in my life. And today, as I am where I am now, I think to myself.. “What if I hadn’t been brave? What if I would have let this opportunity go by?”
I would have missed out on the opportunity of a lifetime. Even though you may be shaking inside, climb that mountain, swing at that curve ball. It’s not going to be easy. You may swing and miss, you may stumble and fall. I spent many evenings crying in the shower, unsure if I’d ever feel like I fit in in this town. I spent many days home alone by myself feeling anxiety and afraid to even leave the house while my husband was out farming.
But I didn’t give up. I got back up and I stepped back up to that plate. And the blessings I found on the other side and the home runs I hit in this life have been many. Two years later, some days it feels as if I am so busy it’s hard to find time to worry about being alone. And I can chat with the locals like I was born and raised here. I no longer walk into the room and know nobody, there is always someone!
The Beauty That is a Community
We live in a small town and if you’ve ever lived in a small town, you know what that is like. In a small town it’s easy to develop a negative attitude. People talk, people are nosy, businesses struggle. Small towns aren’t perfect and each one has its’ fair share of problems. But when you look beyond those imperfections and choose to see the beauty in what’s around you, you will find that there is something about a small town that sucks you in, it inhabits you, and eventually you become a part of its’ history.
When I am out and about, often times someone will come up to me to tell me they read my blog or they loved what I posted on Facebook. It is during times like these that my heart overflows and often after the exchange my eyes well up with tears. This community I have immersed myself in has accepted me as one of their own even though I wasn’t born and raised here. They encourage me and they support me. I can’t find words enough to describe that beauty.
A friend of mine shared this beautiful piece on small towns. And in the piece, there is one quote that sums up my thoughts perfectly. “It is this sort of connectedness to place and people and the past that that makes small towns different. It is not an easy set of slogans that can be trumpeted by a political party or captured in a sound bite. It is the shape of the small town itself which has embedded itself in its people. That shape takes the form of a web that connects that person to a multitude of places and people and past experience. That web becomes the stuff of that person; it is his identity.”
Ashley… North Dakota… You have become my identity. And I can’t thank you enough for that.
The Joy of Making Friends
Since I tend to be introverted, making friends for me is tough. I do not like the feeling of putting myself out there or exposing myself to people. It’s awkward and it makes you feel vulnerable. It opens you up to judgment, nobody likes that. When I was in school, I was that girl who has never really fit in. Sure I was friends with girls in the popular crowd, I was friends with the Loner crowd. I was friends with people across the board, but I never really fit in with any of them.
Moving to North Dakota has for once in my life, brought me a group of friends where I finally feel like I fit. And I am so thankful for them, especially during harvest and planting. They understand what it is like to be married to a farmer, but most of all, they understand me. They love me for me. My group of misfits as I like to think about us… some of us hate cooking, some of us love it. Some of us are better housekeepers than the others. Some of us are moms and others of us aren’t.
Making friends is a joy when you find people who you can be yourself with. Ones who love you through the bullshit, through the drama, through the bitchy moments and through the times where you just want to cry. We love, we live, and most of all we never judge when one another’s house is a disaster or we haven’t spoken in two weeks.
Here’s To Another Year…
I could list them one after the other. The blessings, the struggles, the lessons.. Making North Dakota my home has been a learning experience, it’s been a journey. And I know as each year passes, I will look upon the previous one with a smile. Remembering the hardships of that year and thinking “that was nothing.”
So here’s to the future. Whatever it holds. It’s been a heck of a ride my friends and it’s just the beginning. Two years are just a spec in the light of a lifetime. Thank you to all of you who have encouraged me, who have loved me, who have been inspirations to me, and who have helped make my transition and my time here even more beautiful. It means the world to me and it wouldn’t have been possible without any of you.
It takes a village to raise a child, heck, it takes a village to help a California girl find her home in North Dakota. So thanks Village, I love you all.