To Be Continued
We drove through University of Kentucky’s campus during the twilight hour. New buildings greeted me everywhere. The street signs bore the same names, but I recognized little of what lined the streets. On the edges before we officially entered the campus, yes, I noted the tower dorms, a fixture rising up against the skyline. I knew some ministry buildings, like the Wesley Foundation where John and I worked for the first six years of our married life. But many elements in the core had been torn down and contemporary structures took their places.
28 years ago, I entered U.K. as a freshman. A small-town girl moved to the sprawling metropolis of Lexington, at least that’s the way I saw it, the way it felt to me. I took the bulk of it for granted. And until I decided to major in Social Work, it blurred past me. Not only was my brain still in process as an adolescent—a fact neuroscience confirms, which brings me comfort as one who made it through and as a mom of an adolescent—I was walking wounded with few words to describe it and a host of emotionally irresponsible outward manifestations. As providential care, my social work classes served as a springboard for therapy that I would enter, officially and often unofficially, in the years that followed.
As we took those old roads last week, co-eds milling around buildings and lugging backpacks through crosswalks, my friend, a fellow alumnus and a graduate level social worker, pointed out the landmark areas now boasting new landmarks. We talked about various things, but I was a bit lost in the changes.
My friend had made this trip possible. I was in Lexington, Kentucky to co-present a workshop about self-awareness and relationship dynamics at a conference full of social workers, clinicians, service providers, lawyers, advocates, law enforcement and medical professionals. The 19th Annual Ending Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Conference accepted our proposed 90-minute workshop and invited me to join their band.
I anticipated anxiety from being in the company of such an expansive and tireless group of people, most of whom were women. But the nerves never surfaced. It seemed, for reasons I can name and reasons I can’t quite articulate yet, as if I’d returned to my people. I didn’t know I’d left them.
In the three days of conferencing last week, plenary speakers and workshop presenters stood before the large crowd and smaller break-out groups. They shared their passion, their areas of expertise. I learned about the state of the movement to bring awareness and change to end domestic violence and sexual assault, about the national problem of untested rape kits, about sexually exploited and trafficked youth, about best practices in serving human trafficking victims, about saving our boys to save our girls.
I sat in those sessions and nodded my head; I patted my leg in amen fashion like John’s grandma used to do when she agreed with and was blessed by a spoken word. My eyes were teary. My heart was at once horrified at the facts and hopeful at the determination that making any amount of difference is of momentous value to victims and survivors. My brows met in a deep furrow as my mind worked to take it all in. I felt, in ways, that not only had I returned to my people but also that I had returned to myself.
While we drove through campus, the evening before the conference began, I grabbed my phone and captured a blurry image of the library. My mind returned to that photo while I was in central Kentucky, at the conference and around town. I pulled it up on my phone several times, and I didn’t know why. Maybe because I look at those years in school as an out-of-focus season I smudge over, try not to talk about. Maybe because all the reasons you return to a place aren’t clear at first.
I don't have a conclusion, and that's both frustrating and exciting. The narrative continues to unfold. The landscape is familiar and yet unfamiliar. I'm paying attention, capturing images and words, pondering these things in my heart.