Last summer, Aleisha and I were in Arizona sitting around a dinner table when someone threw out a job offer and said we should move out. At the time, I was doing an internship for my degree while Aleisha was leading a group of interns at Aim Right Ministries. After those six weeks in Phoenix , we flew back home to South Carolina; Aleisha went back to her new job, and I started my senior year of college. Still the dinner table conversation and the offer stayed in the back of our minds.
During my senior year, I got to take the best classes of my degree programs. Communication and theology courses at the 300 and 400 level – to me that’s exciting, some folks not so much, I get that. I really loved those courses and the papers I got to write, and I started thinking about a master’s degree – but I wasn’t sure I wanted to do it in communication. Over the summer I’d listened to a lot of podcasts and lectures from (and about) psychologists, and I was toying with the idea of a master’s degree in counseling psychology. By the time graduation came, I decided therapy was the career path I wanted to start pursuing. And unlike many positions, that ain’t one you can just learn on the job – you have to do a masters degree. As Aleisha and I talked about our options, Phoenix started making more and more sense.
The job offer from our dinner conversation was at Grand Canyon University as an admissions counselor – included was the benefit of free tuition to the university as an employee. Aleisha was also offered a job as the youth pastor of Aim Right Ministries where she’d served as an intern for several summers. After a few phone calls to make sure the job offers were serious and not just off-the-cuff remarks to make conversation, we decided to move from the green hills of east to the desert of the west. Our timeline for moving changed more times than I can remember. The end of June, the end of May…and we ended up moving the end of April, right after my graduation party.
And here we are!
It was not easy in many respects. Finding an apartment in your own town in crazy hard right now, much less the other side of the country. Getting all your belongings across Texas and every other state standing between is hard as well. Somehow we did both in a very short amount of time. But several times I’ve remarked to Aleisha how nearly impossible it would’ve been if we didn’t have a support system around us. We had friends in Phoenix who scoped out a place for us to rent – our families to help us figure out transferring legal documents, selling vehicles, and loading all our earthly possessions in a one way U-Haul – and we had grandparents who so graciously drove our things all the way across the country so we didn’t have to worry about taking a car we didn’t trust or renting a truck that would be way too big. And there were so many friends who slid us a gift card or some cash or a blessing for leaving.
Currently, we’re living on the upper level of the beautiful old church building where Aim Right is located. Our lease didn’t start for more than a month after I had to start my job training, so we wake up every morning in an old Sunday school classroom and walk through the sanctuary to go the bathroom. Aleisha is transitioning into directing the youth programming at Aim Right. I’m working for Grand Canyon University on the third floor of building 18. I plan to take about a year to enjoy being graduated and get settled before starting the masters in mental health counseling program.
We’re loving life in the city. The other night we walked with Mike into downtown to get some drinks. And on Saturday morning, we went for a hike up a local mountain. If you search for a restaurant, the question isn’t whether there’s one around but which one is closest. If you can live without seeing much grass, Phoenix pretty much has everything. Except of course for emptiness and wide open spaces. Having everything does come at the cost of not having empty places – sounds obvious when you say it, but part of the charm of the rural southeast is the fact that there isn’t everything. The campus where I work has two Chic-fil-a locations within a square mile. I remember seeing Los Angeles for the first time, then sitting down on a couch and writing these words about that city – they seem true of this one too.
It’s something like Cinderella / Something like a machine,
Something like my hometown / Just got more of everything,
At the time of moving we didn’t trust either of our cars to make it across the country. So we flew out and bought this 2009 Toyota Venza. It’s been great so far, and you could probably sleep in the trunk space. I take it to work four days a week. The apartment we’re getting is within biking distance of Aim Right, so that’s how Aleisha will be getting to work for the time being.
Sunday starts the first week of Aim Right’s summer VBS. We’ve been coming out to help with it for the past three summers, and I love it so much. We also get to help with “mobile pantry,” one Thursday morning a month a local food bank brings a semi-truck with pallets of food which we set up on tables in the parking lot and distribute for free to anyone who comes by (usually between 30 and 60 families). We also got to be a part of the last serve event Unite PHX put on. (see the video I made below).
My favorite T.V. show of all time is The Newsroom. And there’s a scene where Charlie asks this kid musician, Bo, “What’s a kid from New Rochelle doing singing about Memphis?” And he says, “Memphis is a stand-in for wherever you are right now. That it really means that’s how I got here.”
I always think it’s fun to think back through the thread of events that lead up to the present, to see if you can pull the strand all the way to its end. Of course, it’s never really possible since no thing exists outside of relation to the things around it. I’m sitting on a couch in a church in Phoenix right now because we got a job offer last summer – but we were only there because when she was 20 Aleisha decided to move to Aim Right to volunteer for a year – and I really decided to take my new job because of the tuition benefit for the masters program – I only knew I wanted to be a therapist after getting a communication degree – it was in Oregon as an intern that I decided to go to college at all. Each moment is in some way brought into existence as the one before it passes away. One thing dies so another can live – we have been becoming who we are all along. Or as a philosopher said, “The self is only that which it is in the process of becoming.”
We’re always in process, and it has been such a gift for Aleisha and I to figure out what will come next for us in the presence of such good folks. Our families have helped us – our friends have supported us – other friends have taken us in – and the Lord has led us. And I suppose you might say, that is how we got to Memphis.