Episode 23: They Were from Goodwill, But They Were Normal People Clothes.

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Once I had moved out, I set up a 10-day free profile on Christian Café. I figured online dating couldn’t be any worse than real life. The first week after I moved out, I was doing some on-site proofing for a local agency, so each day at lunchtime I would go to the Starbucks down the street and check my messages. All kinds of people sent me messages – some stupid, some creative, some creepy. It was like a grab bag – you never knew what you were going to get. How fun!

On the eighth or ninth day of my free trial, a high-school teacher in Baltimore started to message me. His emails were clever and thoughtful and he had obviously put some time into writing them. I was already talking to a computer programmer in North Carolina at this point – he seemed fairly nice, if a bit shy, and he was a mountain climber – so I didn’t answer the teacher right away. Finally, after he had sent me two or three messages, I felt a little guilty and I wrote him back.

It turned out that this teacher was really an interesting person. He was smart, funny and cute. He was also very, very kind. It turned out that he had given up several scholarships to law school, so he could stay in town and take care of his much-younger brother after their mother died. He became a teacher instead, so he could take his brother to school every day and be there for the little boy when there was no school. He taught in a terrible district in Baltimore City where there were frequent knife fights and bomb threats. He had toughed it out there for nine years so far.

The Beast had an extraordinarily deep faith. He had known the Real God for years and years and he knew much more about Him than I did.

After a day or two I forgot all about the mountain climber and stopped answering his emails. The Beast and I talked on the phone every night until the wee hours of the morning. Two weeks after we had started talking, he got into his black Honda Civic and drove nine hours down to see me. The next weekend, he drove down again. The weekend after that, I flew up.

My parents soon found out about the Beast – one of their spies from their church had seen us together downtown at an art festival – and my parents had a huge fight with me, which culminated in nobody from the family speaking to me for a month. One day in November, after a month of radio silence, my father texted me and invited me to my sister’s birthday party. Everyone was very polite. They acted like the Beast, and the fight, had never existed. After that, my relationship with the family was polite but strained. We lived fifteen minutes apart, but we did not see each other very much.

Over the next year, the Beast and I traveled to see each other every chance we got. God continued to bless my business. I always had enough money to pay my rent and my bills, and enough left over for plane tickets or hotels when I needed them. I got a portable Wifi hotspot so I could take my business on the road. I learned all about how airports work – the first time I had to fly anywhere alone, I was very scared. But all the people were nice, and I just asked questions and figured it out. In April, I paid taxes for my business for the first time ever. I had enough money, and I had money left over.

Except for using my dad’s online tax program to calculate my taxes, I never asked my parents for help with anything. When my car broke down, I called a tow truck, had it towed to the repair place and got the battery replaced. When something needed to be fixed or done, I either did it myself or found someone who could do it for me. I drove all the way out to Union, SC to buy a piano off Craiglist. I never made a late payment on anything.

Each time I needed a project, I prayed and said “God, please send me a project. I need some money.” And sure enough, the next day or so, there one would be. I have said this before, but it was a lot like being a bird and having God feed you. I said “God, if you will send them, I will do them.” He sent the projects and I did them! That is how my business has worked from that day to this.

I went to a Lutheran church sometimes – which was very different from my previous experiences with church, and didn’t feel threatening – but a lot of the time, I just rested from church. I feel like I learned more about God from trusting Him to take care of me, and from seeing first-hand how good He was to me, than I ever learned from being in church.

I enjoyed being a grownup, living on my own! My friend Bilbo and I drank some champagne together on New Year’s Eve. I got a record player and I started collecting vintage records from thrift stores. It felt so wonderful to lie in bed at night and listen to Bert Kaempfert or Nat King Cole without being hollered at.

I also started experimenting with wearing normal clothes! I wore shorts outside for the first time ever, and started getting an actual tan. I felt so daring, walking around Greenville, SC in regular person clothes! I didn’t have a lot of extra money for clothes at this time, so most of my wardrobe came from Goodwill. But I didn’t look so much like a freak anymore. In the summer, I sometimes took my laptop to a park and worked in the sun, drinking a big cappuccino and feeling the sun on my shoulders. The feeling of the sun on your bare shoulders, while you drink a big sugary drink, is the feeling of freedom.

In the spring, the distance between me and the Beast started to feel too long. My job was portable, and his wasn’t. We started talking about me moving to Baltimore in the fall, when my lease was up.

To be continued.

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