Three years ago, you left home, the place you loved and never wanted to leave, and set out on this adventure. Jeff, you stepped out with courage, with aspirations that may have drawn funny looks from some. Emily, you stepped out in faith that Jeff could actually make a go of acting. You both took a big step.
It was a scary step. You weren’t thrilled about leaving California. You weren’t 100% confident in yourself that you could see the program through to completion. But you felt called to this place for a purpose. And you both went.
How does a young married couple get by on one income while paying for grad-school tuition? How does a young husband give of his heart fully on the stage and to his studies, and still preserve his truest love for his wife? How does a young wife weather theater-widowhood, and yet hold onto love and commitment for her living breathing theater-husband?
Overwhelming to some, apparently this was not challenge enough for you, so you invited another pioneer into your mix. You weren’t sure you could do that either, juggle marriage, work, grad-school, AND a newborn baby. But you did it.
You took time to make birthdays and anniversaries special. You gave your all to your work. You took advantage of opportunities to get away for breaks. You allowed your community in to support and bolster you. You cared for your community in return. You sacrificed for one another. You sacrificed for Eiley. You loved.
You did it all. You accomplished your goal despite unforeseen challenges. You lived and loved well with the time that you had there, as I’m sure many Virginian-friends can attest. And now you’ve flown home to California.
I imagine you’re a bit changed by the journey. You now have an extra degree under your belt, an extra person in your arms, and maybe at least the tiniest bit less of your heart, left behind in Virginia.
And now you face a new challenge of settling back in to a place that is familiar. But you have changed. You may be more changed, Jeff, than when you left Idaho to go to school in California. You may be more changed, Emily, then when you went abroad to Spain. You are more, both in quantity and quality, than when you left.
There will be accommodations to procure, routines to establish, new networks to ease into. My fear is that the newness of the old will keep you from taking a moment to realize all you’ve accomplished. It must be both exciting and scary to be home. But when you get back to In-N-Out, because I knew it would have only take a matter of minutes for you to find you way there, I hope you’ll raise your Diet Coke, forgive it for not being a Diet Pepsi, and give a toast to yourselves, because you’ve done it. You’ve gone there and come back again. You should be so proud.
Jeffrey, congratulations on your graduation.
Emily, congratulations on your good work at Regent, your beautiful superhuman mothering of your daughter, and your selfless support of your husband through this season.
Eiley, congratulations on surviving your first round of grad school.
Fazakerley’s, congratulations on your return home.