People have always called me a pioneer for being a convert, and I've always questioned whether or not I deserve to be compared with people who made so many more sacrifices, and lost so much more than I ever did. But now that I've made my cross country journey, I can appreciate their analogy a little more.
My flight to Atlanta was both short and mildly uneventful. The most interesting part of the flight was sitting next to a mother-to-be that I had pleasant conversations with. It was her first time on a plane, and she was worried about many things--knowing where to go when she landed, wearing the seat belt in her condition, seeing her family again after so long--and I tried to reassure her in any way that I could. I talked to her about her daughter-to-be (Jillian Marie), and we fawned over her beautiful little life in a way that only women can. When there was a break in the conversation, I prayed for little Jillian and her mother. And as I looked around me, I felt the need to include other nameless strangers in my prayers. The military men and women that all seemed to be wearing the same inordinate expression; a mixture between muted interest in their surroundings, and a stoic worry masked only by a disciplined face. I prayed for their strength and well-being because I've met enough members of the military to know that they all need prayers.
I prayed for people I didn't even know, despite my non-affinity for Ms. America prayers (you know the type-- Dear God, please feed the hungry, let everyone have peace and happiness, etc.) because it felt right, and it meant something to me that day. I guess there really is a time and place for everything.
We landed in Atlanta, and with my 50 pounds of books and an overstuffed laptop case, I waddled awkwardly down the narrow aisle and stepped into the Atlanta airport for the first time in 2 years. And wouldn't you know it, some things never, ever change.
Swarms of people wandering around confused and unaware of where they're going, cutting people short as they wander into Burger King and other such stores on the other side of the corridor--completely unaware of the fact that they literally almost made me drop everything I'm carrying and fall flat on my face. You wouldn't believe how many times this happened. (Note to readership: Look where you're going when you're walking, and don't cut in front of someone if they're already walking faster than you are. Especially if they're carrying something that is close to half their body weight. Chances are, they care more about where they're going than you do for your need to stop and search, ponder, and pray about whether you want Subway or Chick-fil-A!)
And of course, leave it to Atlanta to not only to put the Salt Lake flight in a terminal on the other side of nowhere, but to then CHANGE the terminal to the OTHER other side of nowhere.
Then delay said flight.
Then, after finally boarding said passengers ONTO said flight, return them all to the airport because SOMEONE forgot to shut one of the doors on the plane.
I kid you not people. It was a LONG. ARSE. DAY.
But once we were in the air headed to Salt Lake City, it was just a matter of time before I would be in the place I've dreamed about my whole life--the place I would leave Maryland for. The place I would finally call "home."
I took pictures out the window with my cell phone, watched the second Tomb Raider movie on my laptop, played Free cell, noted changes in the geography below me, anything I could to pass the time. Eventually I got tired enough to start nodding off, so I drank something caffeinated (Coke people, relax!) and spent the rest of the flight ignoring the in-flight movie and staring out the window. I mean, nothing I brought with me to do even began to compare with the God's-eye-view of my country I had through my little window. I didn't want to miss a thing.
And then, for the first time, I saw desert. Green patches finally gave way to sparse shades of brown. Brilliant reds Crayola has yet to name and mass produce painted the earth below as the terrain became more jagged and barren.
Are these mountains? Are they so big that I can't see them? How will I know when we get to them?
Then we got to them.
Colossal peaks jutting into the sky, daring me for a second to ever forget them as long as I live, let alone describe them. I cannot do them justice... not yet anyway.
And as our flight started drawing to a close, the mountains seemed to get bigger and all the more inspiring. And as soon as I saw the Y on the side of that mountain, I knew where I was.
I began to count the chapels and temples that I could already see from my place below the clouds. I saw parts of the BYU campus that I already recognized (X marks the spot, or rather, the ASB). I noticed the way everything seemed to be cradled in the hands of the Salt Lake Valley, protected on every visible side by mountains, and I already felt safer than I ever have before.
I saw the Salt Lake Temple, and laughed at myself because it never occurred to me that it wasn't actually blue.
And finally, we touched down in this, my new world.
Finally made it, I sighed with relief.
They requested that those with connecting flights exit the craft first, which made no difference to me. As much as I love my books and don't regret a thing about bringing them out with me, I wasn't at all excited about picking them up again. Not when I could already feel the blisters forming on my shoulders.
But I had an entire city, my new home to explore. That was all that mattered to me.
So I made my way to the baggage claim and begged for my suitcase to be there... and nearly collapsed from exhaustion when I didn't see it anywhere. But thankfully, THANKFULLY, a brief trip to the baggage office proved that they had it on a shelf back there for WHATEVER reason.
(I'd make a joke about God calling ahead just to Job me one more time, but I don't want to invoke the punishment of another Delta flight.)
So with my 80 pounds of luggage, I wheeled myself slowly out to the passenger pick-up place and practically threw myself at the bench. It was really warm that day, so I was already sweating.
And yet... it didn't feel like I was. I lifted my hand to wipe my brow, but there really wasn't anything there. I took my hand and waved it in the air in front of me.
Nothing. No moisture. At all.
Heat without humidity. My first revelation in a land full of things just like it that I just don't understand yet.
But as The Patient One's mom pulled up in her white Yukon, I knew the worst was behind me. I picked up my bags and tossed them in the trunk like they weighed nothing at all because that's how it felt.
I did it... the words I lived for... the ones I love to say to myself even now, days later... and will never get tired of saying.
I did it... I did it... I DID IT!!!
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