At the age of 24, I had never been really alone. I had always lived with someone—family, friends or at least a roommate, but in the fall of 2007, I had just moved to Nashville, TN, to begin my first semester of graduate school at Vanderbilt Divinity. This academic pursuit also added an additional layer to my new found aloneness, as I had recently made my exit from the church I had grown up in to seek out a faith group that was more socially and theologically progressive, as well as more inclusive of others.
I arrived on my own, downtown in the largest city I had ever lived in and with all of my worldly possessions crammed into the back of my little hatchback car. In an effort to save money, I had also volunteered to be a Resident Assistant in one of the underclassmen dorms, which meant I would be surrounded by hundreds of young individuals away from their families for the first time. As an ambivert, this was both exciting and exhausting, but more often than not I found myself retreating into my one-hundred square foot dormitory to escape the constant rush of teenage bodies in the cramped hallways.
To add one more layer of complexity to my aloneness, I had also, just a few weeks prior to my move, ended the most significant relationship of my young life. Each night, I’d lie awake in my tiny room, counting the spaces in cinderblock walls that surrounded me. Hundreds of miles away from my family and friends, separated from my community of faith, and contemplating my newly broken relationship, I wondered if I would always feel so alone—so lost.
Oddly enough I don’t remember an exact date or time when I stopped feeling this way or even an event or moment that seemed to drastically change my life. If you would have asked me back then, I don’t know that I could have visualized the way my life has turned out now—ten years later. Reflecting back, I was in the midst of so much transition and change at that time that I wasn’t even sure where I was going, I just knew I couldn’t stay where I was at any longer.
Change happens slow and more often than not, it occurs much differently then you might imagine if you tried to plan it out yourself. Today, I’m back in graduate school working on my second masters degree. I still live in school housing, but I’ve upgraded from one-hundred square feet to a little over four hundred. I no longer fall asleep alone at night staring at the ceiling, because I share this little space with my beautiful wife of five years and our two pups, Ezra and Roxie. Lastly, I also managed to find a faith community which, by all means, isn’t perfect, but possesses enough corporate self-awareness to know its shortcomings and responds by seeking to address and amend them.
In just a few short months I’ll be finished with this degree and beginning a new journey as an ordained priest in the Episcopal Church—something I never dreamt I’d be ten years ago when I was feeling so lost and alone. Who knows what twists and turns this next ten years will hold? All I know is that just because you might feel alone and lost doesn’t mean you’re on the wrong path.
Josh Woods is a MDiv student in his final year at the Seminary of the Southwest. He is also a Chaplain Candidate for the United States Air Force Reserve, preparing for active duty chaplaincy after his ordination. He lives in Austin, TX with his wife Laura and their two dogs, Roxie and Ezra.