2018.07.19 I’m on my way to England. England! The England of Arthur, Merlin, Chaucer and Shakespeare. And Austen, Dickens, Eliot, Orwell, Tolkien, and C.S. Lewis. And the woman I first admired when I read her biography in third grade, Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. And corgis.
My beloved corgi, Charlie.
I’m going to England to study creative writing at Exeter College, Oxford University. Oxford! But a word of disclosure is in order. I won’t be wearing a robe to class. The smart people at Oxford know their brand is stellar. And stellar sells. So, without compromising their impeccable standards for degree-seeking students they extend a warm welcome each summer to lovers of learning from all over the world — those who can meet their somewhat relaxed standards for lesser beings and are willing to pay a handsome fee to take classes at the mother of all Ivy League schools. Having said that, and humility aside, we are told that these standards are actually quite high and although summer school students cannot earn Oxford credit, many participants are earning credit at their home institutions. The rest of us will earn a Certificate of Completion, get priceless commentary on our work, and enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime- experience. I, for one, will also bring home a Oxford sweatshirt. I’m thinking it would be totally uncool to wear it here but I will wear it with great pride, even if it’s just around the house, when I get home.
Another disclosure is in order. This trip came out of an unwanted and deeply painful rerouting of my life journey. For the first time in 32 years, I am not wearing my wedding ring. The last ten months have felt like a walk through the valley of the shadow of death. But this terrible time has not been without blessings. I have felt the peace of Christ as never before. My family and friends have gifted me with prayer, compassion, and love in a way that brings me to my knees with humility and thanks. My children have shown courage, faith, honesty, and fairness in a way that makes me so proud. And I should give Jay some measure of thanks for his efforts to try to ease this difficult transition.
So what’s next? For the first thirty-two years of my life, I was single, driven and ambitious. I enjoyed academic and professional success, along with a good bit of recognition, but always hungered for more. The second thirty-two years brought marriage and my precious daughters – and the strong conviction that my calling in life was to be an all-in wife and mother, friend and volunteer. I grew in my faith, learned to love generously and give sacrificially, and almost always placed the needs of others ahead of my own.
In the next chapter, I hope to apply the lessons learned from my mistakes in the first two, and to build on so much that was right and good. I have come to the realization that peace and happiness have far less to do with circumstances than on the lens through which we see the world. I believe they can be found in the words of Micah 6:8. Do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with your God.
I pray that the best is yet to come. Chapter Three. Let the journey begin!
Exeter College, The University of Oxford