After months of planning, piles of stuff hauled to the thrift store (two pickup trucks full, to be exact), selling my trusty Toyota Corolla, dropping off my cat at my parents’ house (bless them), and days and weeks of goodbyes, my round-the-world journey officially launched last Tuesday.
It seems like a big thing, right? A thing people think of doing but rarely do. That big, “What if?”
It was a “what if?,” but was fed until it became a “yes,” became a “why wait?,” became a, “now.”
As a friend said once when I was discussing doubts about this undertaking, “What would you regret on your deathbed one day? Not taking some job here or there or not taking this risk?”
Photo Courtesy of O.K. Keyes
This was a thing I knew I would regret not doing. I couldn’t say no. Not after I’d dreamed of it. Not after I’d envisioned the possibilities. And so my talented cinematographer friend Keyes and I boarded that flight on Tuesday that would take us to New Orleans that would start me down this path, wherever it might take me. We have already flown to New Orleans, taken the train to Chicago, taken another train to Flagstaff, AZ, and are soon headed to the Grand Canyon. We’ve been in 10 states so far (not including SC), ridden in trains, planes, cars, and a boat, and seen everything from the wide plains of eastern Colorado to the snow-capped peaks in Arizona. We’ve eaten po-boys at Parkway Tavern in New Orleans and drank tea in the Tribune Building in Chicago. We watched the sunrise over the fields of Illinois and caught a sunset over the mesas of New Mexico.
And as I continue to step out in trust and faith, seeing new sights and visiting old homes, as I wander this big, wide world, what strikes me most is the love I’ve found along the way.
The world is big, but it is also small. Inside the Columbia Metropolitan Airport, ready to walk through security to board our first plane, I was approached by a friend, colleague, and fellow feminist who just the day before had messaged me about meeting before I left. I couldn’t meet, but there we were, hugging and wishing each other well in the terminal. She said, “I was just thinking about you, and then there you were.” In New Orleans, I got a message from an old friend from high school (who I hadn’t seen since high school). We hadn’t known each other well, but in adulthood had both come out and found a love of travel. Keyes and I met my friend and her wife for drinks after dinner and they invited us to go with them to the Maple Leaf (near my old stomping grounds) to listen to Rebirth Brass Band (one of my favorite Nola bands).
Left: Our gracious New Orleans hosts, Anita and Bruce Dinwiddie, the former of whom was my pastor at St. Mark’s United Methodist Church while I lived in New Orleans in 2008-2009; Right: An old friend from high school and her wife just happened to be in New Orleans while we were there, and we had a blast catching up together and getting into all sorts of fun. (Both photos courtesy of O.K. Keyes)
And the world grows smaller: Long conversations with my former pastor in New Orleans and her husband Bruce. Talking about the United Methodist Church General Conference and wondering if the UMC will someday fully recognize the gifts that its LGBTQ parishioners can bring. On a six-hour layover in Chicago, meeting with my first college roommate and an old friend from grad school, talking about belonging, and gender justice, and faith. A quick visit with a friend from SC who now lives in Tucson and drove all the way to Flagstaff to share a pint and help take care of Keyes when they got altitude sickness today.
Fun in Flagstaff with Frannie Neal, who drove all the way up from Tucson to welcome us to Arizona. Frannie said the photo on the left (courtesy of her) made us look like we were getting on the Hogwart’s Express.
There is love everywhere, and I bring with me the love of those who have been part of my home in these places I have lived–the friends and loved ones I said goodbye to in SC, NC, IL, and beyond. I feel them in my heart as I go, and I wish that I could share with them each moment, each joy, each beautiful view from the train car.
So I will do the best I can to share with you along the way. I have a camera (and Keyes has so much equipment). And a notebook. And a desire for you to be with me here. I’m going to catch up some more on my writing (as Keyes is sick, today has been a much-needed reset day in Flagstaff for us both), but in the meantime, I invite you to follow along on Twitter (@youarequeerhere) and Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/youarequeerhere/), where I’ll be trying to upload updates and photos as I go.
And also, we’re making a documentary of our journey, which will explore questions of gender, spirituality, home, love, belonging, leaving, and returning. Keyes and I are both filming as we go, and Keyes bought this amazing audio equipment and is keeping us microphoned most of the time to catch the conversations we have as we continue to learn from those around us. Keyes wanted to give you a sneak preview of some of the footage from the first leg of our journey, so check out “you are (queer) here: New Orleans” below to get a glimpse of what you have to look forward to with this amazing project.
And finally, if you like what you see and love what you’ve been reading here so far, please consider donating to our GoFundMe campaign at gofundme.com/youarequeerhere to keep this journey going and make this documentary film project possible!
Thanks to all those who have already made this adventure possible, through your donations and, more importantly, through your love, kindness, prayers, good vibes, and encouragement. I’m grateful for all this support I’ve been given, and I look forward to being able to share with you as I go.
But for now, here’s a glimpse at the journey so far (music courtesy of Buku Broux, bukubroux.com/, who we heard in Jackson Square in New Orleans):
you are (queer) here // NEW ORLEANS from O.K. Keyes on Vimeo.
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