When we turned the radio on and heard Garth Brooks’ “Unanswered Prayers,” Will and I both looked at each other with tears in our eyes. The lyrics rang so true and summed up a conversation we had been having all day:
“Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers
Remember when you’re talkin’ to the man upstairs
That just because he doesn’t answer doesn’t mean he don’t care
Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers”
A year ago, the path we thought we were on would have led us directly to Houston, following Will’s job with the company he had been with for almost 10 years. While Houston was definitely not our top choice, it boiled down to be the only choice, and because we wanted to live the “American Dream” and do right by our little family, we would have moved to Texas to keep the paycheck, the benefits, and the “secure” future.
We would have traded in so much for the sake of a job. We would have lived somewhere we did not want to live, a place that would have kept Will away from me and Bird more than ever before, a place where I had lived and more than happily moved away from 10 years ago, a place where I truly did not want to raise our family.
Houston is a great city. It is full of literally everything you could want. It has grown so much since I lived there and there are so many opportunities for culture and entertainment and all the things. And it is not for me (the shoe might have fit better when I moved there 12 years ago, but it sure does not fit now). And even when a life in Houston was at the top of our prayers, I knew it was not for Will, either (and he knew it too, but he could not pass up the opportunity because he has a family to care for, a career ladder to climb, and the societal pressures that come with being the “man,” the “father,” the “breadwinner”).
But when the bottom dropped out, and the security we were counting fell away entirely, we were left with a clean slate to forge our own, unconventional path.
We were staying at a campground just north of Houston, and we needed to make the day trip for more reasons than either of us could have verbalized. A part of me needed to see what had come of the place that gave me a start in my career and helped me forge my way into adulthood. I wanted to show Will around my old haunts for a change (since he grew up in Pittsburgh, we have had a lot of opportunities to see and do things that tell me more about who he is). And we both needed validation that we were not meant to move to Houston.
We made our way to downtown on the tail end of what would have been the morning commute, though based on the ghost town we drove into, COVID has shut a lot of things down (as we expected and have seen in every city we have visited). Even on a super foggy and off-and-on rainy day, we found a parking lot and bundled up to take the girls for a walk. We made our way to Discovery Green where we knew we would be able to let Bird run wild and free, and since this adventure also included puddles, she was over the moon and 100% there for it. We were virtually the only ones out and about (we saw a few people walking and a few construction workers, but it was quiet), which combined with the weather, really created a mood.
After running around the greenspace, we walked a few blocks in town, then headed toward my old neighborhood. To say things have changed in 10 years is an understatement. It seems every empty lot has been built up, and even some places that had buildings now have new ones. My roommate and I thought we hit the jackpot with a Whole Foods within walking distance, but now there is also a Target and Trader Joe’s. There are new apartment buildings, housing plans, Shake Shacks. It was like driving through an alternate reality. Streets and places I once knew but with a twist.
As we made our way through various parts of the city, we drove by homes that I know I yearned to live in 10 years ago. And now I cannot even fathom it. I have changed. My priorities have changed. And our life on the road for the past 6 months has a lot to do with those changes. First of all, I cannot imagine cleaning a huge house (or paying someone else to do it for me), but most of all, I cannot imagine our life without us living it together. Family has become such a center of who we are. The corporate world, the house, the cars, the things simply do not matter the way they used to.
We were not in Houston long, but the trip changed us both. We are constantly reminded that God has a plan for us, and this trip was a stark reminder of that. Even when we think we know what we want, God may have something a little crazy, a little out of the box, but 100% what we need in store for us. So, because our prayer to follow Will’s job to Houston went unanswered, we are not living the picturesque American Dream. We are instead creating our own dream exploring America as a family.