Hinterland

Hinterland

One night in July when it was stupid hot out, our neighbor invited us to jump in her pool. “Jumping in a pool” rarely sounds like a good idea to me, even if it is still 90 degrees at 8 o’clock at night, but it sounded like one of those quintessential summer things people should do. Night swim: check.

Except instead of jumping in the pool, I stepped into the shallow end and thought about how cold the water felt. I then reevaluated and doubted the decision to be a Person Who Takes A Night Swim every slow step of the way.

And there were many, many slow steps. It probably took me a solid five minutes to get waist-deep. Somehow, after a quarter century, I made it up to my neck, but I didn’t want to go all the way under. Wet hair, do care. Wet hair means full commitment and a significant temperature drop. It felt like enough of an accomplishment to just get in at all.

But you and I both know it wasn’t. The annoyingly accurate voice of wisdom inside of me knew it wasn’t, either, and told me to stop having half an experience and just go all the way under already.

So, I did it. I took a deep breath in and I closed my eyes and I sunk down beneath the surface. And it was a thousand times more fulfilling than worrying about keeping my head above water.

About a month later, I was in Green Bay (and I know those people are my people because they probably also value things like layers and snow more than things like pools and night swims). There’s this huge new brewery/restaurant next to Lambeau called Hinterland. Jenny and I went to check it out in between training camp activities and there was nothing particularly significant about it, but as we were leaving, Jenny asked, “Does Hinterland mean something?” Assuring that my career as a Jeopardy player promises to be lucrative, I answered, “I think it means ‘frozen tundra’ or something like that.”

I had a feeling Alex and the dictionary would probably say otherwise, so I looked it up. And then I took a deep breath and a screen shot and dove beneath the proverbial water, because I was pretty sure Hinterland was going to define my life for the foreseeable future.

Hinterland: an area lying beyond what is visible or known.

Tomorrow is my last day as a full-time employee of CURE International. I’m not leaving for a better job or to climb some ladder I’ve never placed a single foot on anyway. I’m leaving to do some freelance work and bake bread and read and run and, mostly, write in this space as myself again. I’m leaving to do this unconventional in-between season I’m calling Hinterland.

I made the decision to quit my job like I made the journey under the water that night in July. It was slow and unsteady and riddled with doubt, but now that I’m on the other side of it, it feels like freedom*.

*To paint an accurate picture, it feels like freedom with an asterisk, because there are still continued moments of uncertainty. I explained it to one friend as feeling like you’re standing at the edge of a cliff, and when you look in front of you, you can’t believe how big and unbelievably beautiful the world looks from that vantage point. And when you look down, you can’t believe how big and unbelievably terrifying the plunge to imminent death looks from that vantage point. Both of those places are the same, it just depends on where your gaze falls. So I’ve been trying to look up as much as possible.

Most of you will easily recall how good the past four years of my life have been and how finding this job was the fulfillment of many long-held dreams. That’s still true! I was given more than most people ever receive from a career: co-workers who become your family, friends on the other side of the globe who entrust you with their stories, a job that was never just a job.

I loved it so much, and I’m sad* that it’s over.

*To paint an accurate picture, I’ve been crying for weeks.

**To paint a more accurate picture, I’ve been crying since January.

The shift (and the consequent tears) started around the beginning of the year. I did my best to fight it nearly every step of the way. That’s how it always happens, right? Something new starts to bubble up and no matter how much you try to get it to calm down or negotiate its departure, it won’t budge. Shauna Niequist says it best:

Everything is interim. Everything is a path or a preparation for the next thing, and we never know what the next thing is. Life is like that, of course, twisty and surprising. But life with God is like that exponentially. We can dig in, make plans, write in stone, pretend we’re not listening, but the voice of God has a way of being heard. It seeps in like smoke or vapor even when we’ve barred the door against any last-minute changes, and it moves us to different countries and different emotional territories and different ways of living. It keeps us moving and dancing and watching, and never lets us drop down into a life set on cruise control or a life ruled by remote control. Life with God is a dancing dream, full of flashes and last-minute exits and generally all the things we’ve said we’ll never do. And with the surprises comes great hope.

Here’s what I know about Hinterland:

Absolutely nothing.

Truly, all I know is that there’s this new landscape taking vague shape in front of me, and I can’t stop feeling like it’s incredibly important. Its only defining features are the fog of wondering and plenty of unanswered questions about what it means to be an American and a person who takes Jesus seriously.

I didn’t necessarily need to quit my job to explore this new place. If you’re sitting there thinking I’m irresponsible or ungrateful or eccentric or fill-in-literally-any-other-blank, I assure you I’ve already heaved those adjectives in my own direction as accusations. I don’t know if I’m doing the elusive “right thing.” I just know that I can’t change while staying the same.

So here I am, using an obscure German word to define a season, feeling like I’m teetering on the edge of something that could change everything or change nothing.

I’ll let you know which way it goes.


P.S.

If you want to know which way it goes, you can subscribe for updates on the sidebar over there to the right. My current blogging schedule is one post per millennia. I plan to up that just a bit in the weeks to come, but not enough to make you wish you never put your email address in that little box.

Want to work together? I’m taking on enough freelance work to keep the lights on and not much more than that, so if you have a project you’d be interested in discussing, let me know!



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