I Didn’t Choose the Hobo Life

I get a lot of ridiculous questions, ranging from the confusing to the totally strange. For example:

Q: “Did you know I was born in California?” (from a 4th-grader I’d never met.)

Q: “Do you do birthday parties?” (from a middle school boy following a chastity talk.)
A: “If you have a chastity-themed birthday party, I will be your best friend.”

Q: “Has anyone ever told you that you sound like you’re from Alabama?”
A: “No…. Thank you?”

Q: “Are you really a hobo cause you don’t look like a hippie and you don’t have hair down to your butt.”
A: ….

Most of these questions merit an eye roll at best. There’s one, though, that I often hear and try to answer thoughtfully:  How did you know God was calling you to this?

I don't have any pictures where I look like a hobo. But what's a blog post without a picture? So....

I don’t have any pictures where I look like a hobo. But what’s a blog post without a picture? So….

I suppose I ought to establish first that I don’t know that God is calling me to this funny hobo life—not in the way that I know that he exists or that the Eucharist is truly him or that he wants me for his own. There are different kinds of knowing, of course, and some decisions require that sort of certainty. But what I’m doing is a good thing, so feeling confident that this is his will is good enough for me. If I never did anything until I knew God was calling me to, I’d accomplish very little in life. That being said….

I loved teaching. Loved it. For four and a half years, I would get excited Sunday nights because I got to go to school Monday mornings. I loved sleeping in but hated summers—I missed my kids! And while I’m naturally a very irritable person, I got angry in the classroom only twice in four and a half years.

Unfortunately, I taught for five.

My last semester should have been my easiest. For the first time in my teaching career, I was teaching only classes I’d taught before. Everything I was doing was recycled from past classes. I had no extracurriculars, no responsibilities aside from teaching…and I was miserable. I felt ill on Sunday nights because I knew I had to go in to school the next day. I was exhausted all the time even though I was getting plenty of sleep. And at least three times a week, I had to stop talking, turn around, and pray that I wouldn’t freak the heck out all over my kids.

This is my ANGRY FACE.

This is my ANGRY FACE. In a stocking. Trying to be a robber and still looking entirely like myself.

I had always known that my patience in the classroom wasn’t natural–it was a supernatural gift. And clearly that gift had been withdrawn. When my circumstances are unchanged but my peace of mind is lost, I know it’s time to ask the Lord what’s up.

But I didn’t want to jump to the conclusion that I was dealing with spiritual desolation, so I took a look at anything in the natural world that might be messing with me. Work was good, friends were good, my prayer life was good but I was all anxiety and anger and irrational drama.

So I began to ask the Lord if I should leave my school in Kansas. Praying about leaving gave me great peace while the idea of staying made me tense and miserable. I’m not saying that we ought to discern based entirely on emotions, but I’ve found that it’s important to listen to our emotions, especially when they’re not what we’d expect. I sure didn’t want to leave Atchison, so when that idea gave me such peace, I listened.

My next step, of course, was to make up an Excel spreadsheet with all the schools I might want to teach at. You know, columns for size, uniform, curriculum, apparent fidelity.1 But the thought occurred to me, “What if I’m supposed to stop teaching?”

Now, I had discerned leaving the classroom once before. I had a panic attack and almost crashed my car. More than anything, I thought at the time, I know that I’m a teacher. But this time it was different. The idea of not teaching wasn’t so bad. In fact, and contrary to all reason, I found it rather attractive.

But friends, I’ve been planning on being a teacher, in one form or another, my whole life. Since I was 15 and I found out that you could get paid to talk about Jesus, being a religion teacher was all I really dreamed of. I chose my college and my major and my grad degree all with the purpose of being a high school religion teacher. “What else can I do?” I thought. “This is all I’ve ever done, all I’ve ever wanted.”

“Well,” my friend Fr. Jeremy suggested, “You’re good at public speaking. And you’ve been wanting to do more of it.”

“Father, you can’t just quit life and be a public speaker!” I objected. And then I took it to prayer.

“Tell me why not,” the Lord seemed to say. And I thought about it. I had no debt, no dependents, no debilitating diseases. I had enough savings to cover me for a while and not a lot of bills I’d have to pay. Why not?

And this type-A, plan-the-next-30-years, put-down-roots-and-stay-till-you-die girl got excited about the strangest thing: being a hobo. This life that is so contrary to everything I’d ever wanted was suddenly appealing—more than appealing: it felt right.

Now, don’t quote me as saying “if it feels good, do it.” But when something that we wouldn’t normally consider draws us, we need to pay attention.

Thomas Aquinas had it right when he told us that grace builds on nature. But we don’t know our nature as well as the Lord does. I would never have thought that this kind of life would work for me. After all, I’m all about relational ministry and assigning homework and knowing everybody around me. But I also love meeting new people and socializing. I’m flexible and fairly easy to please and not particular about beds or food or how I take my water.2 I’m extraverted enough that the constant conversation with my hosts energizes me and committed enough to prayer that I still get plenty of “alone” time. As it turns out, this life makes a lot of sense for me. I can work with more people, be as intense as I want, and spend some occasional time writing, which I didn’t even realize I enjoyed. It seems that, once again, the Lord knows better than I.

Which is why I'm in frigid Kansas in April when I could be somewhere glorious and exotic. To be fair, this picture is from South Bend in February, but it's not because the weather wasn't this gross.

Which is why I’m in frigid Kansas in April when I could be somewhere glorious and exotic. To be fair, this picture is from South Bend in February, but it’s not because the weather this week wasn’t this gross.

So I quit my job and didn’t look for another. I wasn’t planning on living out of my car for long, but the Lord seems to have had other plans. I thought I’d find a place to live over the summer. But everything was working out, so I figured I’d travel till October. Then January. Then it began to look like this might be a long-term thing.

I can’t tell you exactly why I’m doing what I’m doing but I can tell you that I’ve seen how the Lord is touching hearts through the testimony of this scatter-brained nomad. I don’t know that people would listen to me the way they do if I weren’t such a fanatic. I do know that the minute I say I’m a hobo, people snap to attention. I know that I’m able to connect with people who wouldn’t otherwise talk with me because they want to ask all the awkward questions about my life. And I know that the Lord is showing me over and over again how he will always provide for me.

How long am I going to be living out of my car? I have no idea. I’m a planner, but God seems to prefer that I trust and follow. So for now, I’m headed out west. Beyond that, who knows?

************

Speaking of heading out west, I have literally nothing scheduled between Wednesday and mid-July. And while I’m sure I’ll find places to stay, I’m going to be really bored! So if you’re in any state west of the Mississippi and you want me to come talk to any group about pretty much anything, let me know. I don’t even want your money, just an opportunity to serve. I’m trying to get to every state out west in the next 3 months and I need some help. Because really, does anybody live in Wyoming?

If you’re east of the Mississippi, don’t feel left out—I’ll be out your way in the fall.

  1. What, this isn’t how you make all decisions? Yeah, well, I didn’t choose the nerd life either. []
  2. This varies more than I thought possible. Options include: bottled water, tepid; bottled water, chilled; tap water, tepid; tap water in a pitcher in the fridge; tap water through a filter, tepid; filtered tap water sitting on the counter; filtered tap water, in the fridge; filtered water  from the fridge door, ice from the fridge door; filtered water  from the fridge door, ice from the freezer; tap water, ice from the basement; tap water, ice from the freezer; jugs of water in the fridge. That may be it. []

About Meg

I'm a Catholic, madly in love with the Lord, His Word, His Bride the Church, and especially His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in the Eucharist. I'm committed to the Church not because I was raised this way but because the Lord has drawn my heart and convicted my reason. After 2 degrees in theology and 5 years in the classroom, I quit my 9-5 to follow Christ more literally. Since May of 2012, I've been a hobo for Christ; I live out of my car and travel the country speaking to youth and adults, giving retreats, blogging, and trying to rock the world for Jesus.
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11 Responses to I Didn’t Choose the Hobo Life

  1. Aaron Davidsson says:

    It’s nice to see that I’m not the only one who spent years planning and preparing to be a teacher and then ‘gave it up’ for something almost unexpected. If you want to make God laugh…, right?? Would love to see you speak with our church’s youth group here in Riverside County. When will you be in California, or does that depend on your to-be-planned west-of-the-Mississippi invitations?

    • Meg says:

      I distinctly remember a friend telling me “Man plans, God laughs” when I was in high school. “Not my plans,” I thought. Sigh.

      I’d love to speak to your youth group. I should be out that way in mid-May–email me and let’s figure this out 🙂

  2. Melissa says:

    Before you wanted to be a teacher, you wanted to be an actress. I told you, “Hey, fine. Be an actress. But you’d better have a back-up plan, because Daddy and I aren’t going to support you financially.” (At least, that’s what I remember. Maybe you remember differently.)

    But you’ve definitely been an actress all the way along. Performing in plays and as a singer, teacher, and speaker. You’ve changed from an adorable, precocious little girl actress to a convincing, fascinating adult actor—I hear that female actors now use the masculine term. And you’ve always been a leader. Good thing you aren’t a criminal, because I’m pretty sure you could build a vast, devoted criminal army!

    • Meg says:

      But I wanted to be an actress who bossed other people around, which is pretty much the same as being a teacher 🙂 And I think I wanted to teach on the side even when I was planning to be a movie star. Remember when I tried to teach Timmy to read as a birthday present to you? Too bad he was so stupid….

      • Melissa says:

        All of that sounds right. You were exceptionally good at bossing people around and making them like it. It’s an enviable talent. I’m really not meaning to cast asparagus on you when I talk about it.

        Yes, poor stupid Timmy. Alas! Learned to read at the ripe old age of five! That really blighted his life. You can tell by his SAT score of 2310.

  3. Toni says:

    Very interesting that you are wanting to come out this way. I do live in Wyoming, a small town, Kemmerer where the first J.C.Penny is located. I work at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church as a secretary and have mentioned you to our priest. The drawback is we are pretty much a retirement town and have just a few youngsters. Of those few youngsters we struggle getting them involved with anything outside of their religious classes. So just wanted you to know I have been prayerfully thinking about how to get you this way. So if you have any ideas please let me know and I will continue praying about it. With summer fast approaching the CCD teachers are winding down along with we are with out Director of Education right now I don’t want to step on any toes.
    God Bless!
    Toni

    • Meg says:

      Are the older folks involved? Because I love speaking to adults, too–you don’t have to waste as much time winning them over 🙂 I’ll email you.

  4. Tina S. says:

    So much good stuff in here. I particularly liked this line: “When my circumstances are unchanged but my peace of mind is lost, I know it’s time to ask the Lord what’s up.”. Yes, yes and more yes. I feel like I could have written most of this about our upcoming move back to NoVa. Lots of people close to us were/are concerned, but we have talked and prayed about it and it just feels so right to us and, like you said, gives us some peace. (except for the whole actually moving thing). Hopefully a few months from now I’ll feel the same way, and not be at my wits’ end with my parents or theirs with me. We’ve already claimed my sister’s extra bedroom in Arlington as the “safe house” where someone can go to escape 🙂

    • Meg says:

      Praise God for a peaceful heart! I’m excited for you guys to be near Rosie and the kids and for a little less stress (God willing).

  5. Lisa says:

    Hi,
    I also work in education, and this post could easily have been written by me, except I haven’t had the courage to say yes. I have also been reading on Ignatian spiritual discernment, and have peace when I think I am “there” (time to move on out of my current, secure, hard won position, with tenure and a good salary), and stress and agony when I convince myself that I need to stay, that leaving doesn’t make sense, that I have no plan, that I have a mortgage, and that I am 53. (Husband will pay the mortgage. He is a GIFT.).

    I wish you every single blessing that you need. You deserve it for this post alone.

    Lisa

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