Everyone loves the idea that they’re off the beaten track. They’re forging their own paths. Or, if they don’t love being a trailblazer, they probably like them.
My life changed by a little orange postcard. Reasonably well designed, the postcard had some details about a program at a bible college. It was the last dusty postcard on the brochure table at church, and I took it home and Blu-Tac-ed it to my dressing table mirror. Chance would have it that I took off for college, for that same course advertised, and I was one of my first friends to leave our town for The City.
Wow! Trailblazer, right here!
Once I told one of my classmates that I’d moved to Adelaide just to be part of the course which was like a gap year initiation into tertiary study, theology and intentional community.
‘REALLY? You moved to Adelaide just for THIS?’
‘Yup.’ I said nothing else for five minutes.
I kind of had a reputation for marching to the beat of my own drum. Filled with obscure references, a love for retro romance novels and always dressed in something a little bit different, it was hard fitting in while living in a town that didn’t like people off the beaten path. I didn’t quite fit, but church made my life different. At school I was a a bit weird, at church stuff I was just myself without having to worry too much about people saying things like, ‘why’s she wearing that,’ and ‘OMG, as if you do have a boy for a best friend’ (note to those people: totes better than you’d think). College was a little bit like church and at our end of the year awards I was given the ‘Cool Country Chick’ award because I was always talking about being from the country and getting on the bus for weekend visits home, and I was decidedly cool for a country kid (apparently these people did not go to my high school).
Just before this though, several of my friends revealed a fact — no, an OPINION — about my first day of college outfit. Here it is:
- Perfectly faded Jeanswest jeans (from when Jeanswest was cool)
- Cherry Doc Martens (I never wore anything but Docs unless it was really hot and then I had these god-awful brown skater shoes from Target I would wear without socks because #2000s)
- Bandana (probs my red one)
- A red t-shirt that said ‘God’s Little Rocker’
Apparently the girls thought my t-shirt was ridiculous. I was some kind of God geek (true. I had given up my entire life to go to bible college, not exactly wrong). Even now I’m perplexed by this opinion. It was a damn comfy shirt and it was red. How could you not love it?
It seemed that even at bible college, liking God too much could be a problem. A few weeks earlier I’d been sitting in my car which was adorned with Christian bumper stickers. ‘Good morning, this is God. I won’t be needing any of your help today. Have a nice day!’ Two girls stood at the back of the car and one read it out loud to the other.
‘Oh my God, how LAME!’
They both laughed, though a retro romance book would have them snigger. I, of course, was still sitting in my car, waiting for them to go in, and cried.
What I’ve learned is this: there’s almost always too much of a good thing for some people. Why would you go to a bible college and make fun of a Christian bumper sticker or a t-shirt? I remember that sometimes people like to think that others are mean because they are jealous. Not always. Sometimes your earnestness isn’t appreciated by people who should.
I have not always been a good Christian. In fact, I think I’m off the beaten track with that too, though not enough to make fun of someone else’s self-expression. When it comes to fashion or career choices or living somewhere I’ve always made my decisions based on one thing: do I like it? If yes, please proceed.
And that’s how you get off the beaten track, or wear clothes you like, or be part of something bigger than yourself, or move away from your entire community. You make a decisions based on what’s right for you, and not for t-shirt hating people.