When I felt God calling me to go, I never imagined He meant to Buffalo. I’m from western Pennsylvania and going north was never in my plan. Plus, how unglamorous does Buffalo sound? It doesn’t seem like the place you want to tell people you’re moving to, but saying ‘New York’ makes everyone think you’re talking about the city.
The story of how I made my way to Buffalo is actually a tale spanning more than three years, during which my entire family relocated without me. It wasn’t for a lack of trying; I planned to move in early 2014 but God had other plans for me. I spent two additional years in Pittsburgh while my family began their lives.
Eventually it became clear it was my turn. Granted, I asked God to send me to Florida, but maybe He knew my poor, translucent vampire skin couldn’t handle the sun. A series of events at work and a job opportunity finally opened the gates for me to move to New York.
On Saturday, March 12, 2016, I packed my life in a box truck and said farewell to the Steel City. The poetic timing meant I spent exactly half of my 25th year in Pittsburgh and half in Buffalo. It’s strange because it feels like I lived two completely different lives in the span of a year.
I felt like I was leaving Pittsburgh at my best, ready to take on a new life. My quarter life celebration had pushed me as a person and I felt like I had life figured out. Lol, right? I had never really liked Buffalo before when I visited, but I thought now at my peak, it would be great.
Guess what? I hated Buffalo.
I traveled so much for work and was trying to fit my old life into the new and it wasn’t working. I felt disconnected from the church/people and I definitely wasn’t pursuing God. I wanted the rolling hills and confusing roads. I missed my life so terribly I thought I had made a mistake.
Suddenly, everything changed.
I wish I knew the moment or the feeling or the conversation, but I don’t. In my brain, it’s like black and white. One day I regretted everything and the next day I was so overwhelmingly in love with my life I didn’t know you could feel like this. And it’s all because of the people. Any location is nice, but it’s who you spend your life with that makes it home.
I think this is why Pittsburgh was so much easier to leave than I anticipated. NOT BECAUSE the people aren’t great because they are and I have great friends there including my best gal Sam, but because I wasn’t great. I spent a long time ignoring the whole ‘love your neighbor’ thing in Christianity. Yes, I took a firm stance on not hating people and being involved at the church and in Bible study, but so much of that remained superficial because I didn’t want to experience humans.
Looking back, I don’t know when I started keeping people away. At some point, I built these weird walls and puzzles and traps around my heart and expected people to do the work to get in without me investing any time in them. Obviously, I was constantly disappointed that no one pursued me like I thought they should which is crazy and weird and I’m sorry I felt that way.
As a result, I kept myself more closed off from real, intimate relationships. I started believing lies that I was too much and people didn’t like me so I approached every situation like they wouldn’t want to be my friend anyway. Seriously. I stopped expecting anyone to like me and settled for the relationships I had developed, even though they were weak and very one-sided.
Maybe it started when I went to school and didn’t make 1,000 new friends who would be my besties forever. College is when I began to consider myself more of an introvert which to me is now laughable. Yes, I enjoy my quiet time at night to decompress, but I feed off people (like a fellowship zombie) and just kind of forgot that. I gained my Sam which meant she was all I needed and I became more separated from people.
In this new city without Sam, I had to make a choice. I either never make friends because it requires work and time and just settle for nice greetings at church, or I go balls to the wall and put myself out there. Spoiler alert: I chose (with God’s confidence) option two.
The first time I actually engaged with humans outside of church almost didn’t happen. I arrived back in Buffalo after traveling earlier than expected and knew I could skip like originally intended and stay at home where I was safe. I sat outside reading, going back and forth about what I was going to do and then suddenly the Power of Christ compelled me because without making the choice, I was in my car.
Again, I don’t know what happened, but as anxiety grew within me, I just had this feeling it was going to be different because I was. Instead of acting like I was quieter or more demure than I am, I decided to be myself. I didn’t do it assuming people wouldn’t like me either, which was also strange. I did because I knew this is who God created me to be, and that person is great.
It’s amazing how God can work when you let Him. Too often I’m Moses saying I’m not right for this while God is reminding me I am who He created me to be. I am someone who is meant for relationships. I love sharing and listening and learning and spending crazy amounts of time with people.
In Present Over Perfect, I think Shauna Niequist said it best:
“The natural world is so breathtakingly beautiful. People are so weird and awesome and loving and life-giving. Why, then, did I try so hard for so long to get away without feeling or living deeply?”
All the yes.
For years, I avoided the deep because it was safe in the shallow end of life. With this mindset, I could only grow so much. I was emotionally stunted because as open as I was, I didn’t invite people into my life. In a way, I was like a celebrity on social media. You can laugh at what I say, but you can never be my friend for real. (because I’m that funny, obviously)
Now that I’ve experienced real community and fellowship, I don’t know how my soul lived without it for so long. Every time I’m with someone in Buffalo, my heart is so full, whether it’s just watching TV or playing volleyball or getting dinner. Even as a joyful person, I never knew it could be this strong.
It’s only been six months, but I can’t imagine life before pizza logs and incredible friends who say ‘stop it’ in response to everything. I’m in love with every piece of my life, even when it’s messy or doesn’t make sense. It’s all amazing and I’m so thankful everyday I’m here, living this life with the people I get to call my friends (and family, of course – they’re here too).
Moving to Buffalo changed my life in ways I never imagined because I was too afraid to be that person. Here I don’t hide who I am to make friends. I am weird and loud and excited and ridiculous and probably annoying but people still seem to like me. It’s authentic and not a way to hide from people, but a way to say hey, here I am, let’s be friends.
Thank you to everyone who allows me to be a part of their life. You make me better and remind me how great God is every time I think of you.
And of course thank you Buffalo for being a cool place to live and also for pizza logs.