A 4,000-mile journey to Yellowstone in the spring of 2019 changed my life. Have you ever just wanted to push pause on your life, throw some things in a backpack, and go on an adventure?
That’s what I did last summer. I skipped my last final exam to pursue the calling of a still small voice to work as a barista in Yellowstone National Park. I was bored of the rolling hills of Chattanooga, Tennessee, and wanted to climb mountains that were taller than my hopes and dreams. Powered by hearts full of passion and a two-door Honda Civic full of gear, my friend and I were ready to explore America’s natural wonders. Now, 365 days later, I am living in my parents’ house and finishing my sophomore year of college online amidst a pandemic.
Prayer and Passion
Spirituality plays a big role in my life. From a young age I listened for the voice of God uniquely speaking to my heart. I recall sitting at my bedroom window as a junior in high school looking out to the stillness of the cedars, and praying God would put new desires in my heart for my life. In that same moment, I heard an acoustic guitar playing the western tune that would ignite my love for travel. As the recorded lyrics from Ben Schneider began to tell the tale of a traveler asking, “To the ends of the earth would you follow me” to his beloved, I felt it was God’s voice speaking to my heart through song. I picked up my pen and drew a mountain range with the lyrics underneath. My story as a traveling artist began in that moment.
When I came back from my western trip I did not know what was in store for me in the coming months. My adventure did not stop when my classes started. I had just turned 20, gotten fresh ink, and was in love with the people and the world around me. I couldn’t sleep at night because I thought that my reality was better than anything I could have dreamt. The world kept giving me one good opportunity after another, but the best of them was getting the opportunity to paint murals for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga College of Business.
Every art project and adventure in 2019 empowered and humbled me at the same time. I saw the fruits of labor blossom while I watched some die. I made even bigger plans for 2020. I got a summer job in Denver as a yoga and art instructor. After that I was going to study abroad in Scotland. Everything was under my control--or so I thought.
When I heard the US was under a national emergency due to the outbreak of COVID-19 I was sitting in the back of a different Honda Civic out in the desert of Big Bend National Park. A few days later my classes transitioned online as the university sent students home to shelter in place. My mural project was cancelled. I am type three on the enneagram, meaning that I am an overachiever, so I did everything in my power to keep my life from coming to an inevitable halt. However, my strength and stubbornness were not enough to keep the coronavirus from infecting my dreams.
I discovered that COVID-19 was not really the thing wreaking havoc in my life. Oddly enough, the virus allowed me space to heal. Back in March, before the world stopped, I was packing up the car getting ready to embark on yet another 3,000 mile road trip out west when God’s still small voice spoke to me yet again. This time instead of calling me out on another adventure it urged me to go home and mend what was broken. Truth be told, I had been hiding behind smiles, murals, and travels. I was not coping well with the hurt that had built up throughout the years. I found myself forming bad habits, setting poor boundaries, and bottling up my feelings. This pandemic flipped my world upside down, stole my plans to study abroad, and left me in a place where I could heal. During this time of quarantine I not only healed the broken relationships with my family, but addressed the ghosts that keep me up at night.
Before the pandemic, I was always in a hurry. I did not let the grass grow under my feet. When I stopped running, I was surprised to discover wildflowers growing between my toes. Out of all the wild things that I saw in my travels, what amazed me the most were the wildflowers. These crazy, beautiful things grew on the peaks of the Tetons, up by the glaciers, and under the desert sun. The sight of these wildflowers always grabbed my attention, and reminded me to stop racing through the trail and enjoy the view. Amidst this pandemic, that’s where I feel I am at right now, taking the time to stop and consider the wildflowers.
What do wildflowers represent in your life? In the pause that the pandemic has caused, do you hear God’s still small voice calling you to live a passionate life?
Madison Myers is a student at The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, majoring in marketing. She has traveled to a majority of America's National Parks and is eager to see them all.