What 8,000 miles really feels like

Days abroad: 125

Friends, we are officially over a third of the way through this crazy journey! That blows my mind. This week for the first time I felt the 8,000 miles. I felt what it meant that Daddy can’t be here in a few hours and I can’t lay my head on Mother Bear’s lap and let her play with my curls. My 20 year old body suddenly felt 4; I was once again a little red haired girl standing by a beach in Kaitaia covered in sand completely lost. But that’s a story for another day.

Many of you would have heard about the terrible thing that happened on my campus on Monday; we lost a Longhorn in broad daylight, by the library, due to the infliction of a blade. The whole day was weird. It started off like any other Monday, I had a class project and then came home to have a nap because my meeting was cancelled. I woke up to find texts flooding my phone to stay safe, stay home and not wear any of my Greek letters. I praise God that I was not on campus or having to evacuate anywhere. The rumours were horrendous, reports of more stabbings came left, right, and centre – at one stage there was a man coming door to door in my building after a stabbing in our parking garage.

I stay calm in the face of adversity, it normally takes me a few hours or days to process fear or danger. This time it hit me through a video of a sweet, sweet boy singing. He was a Freshman, who loved his Momma, his beautiful girlfriend, his brother and everyone he knew, and adored his Dad. I looked into his face, listened to the song and my heart broke. I suddenly felt very vulnerable, the events of the day became real and my safety net was on the other side of the world. As anyone who knows me well can attest to, I am a crier. I am more a sobber than a crier, but I cry all the time and for no reason. Movies are a nightmare for me – waterproof mascara is a must. Makeup to Sunday night church never happens because I end up with trails down my cheeks. With my heart in a million pieces on the floor I needed to scream into my mattress, wrap my arms around my massive Teddy and eat my sister’s fondue.

The weight of the 8,000 miles was suddenly very real and very heavy. The extent of the coming seven months seemed too long. I did not feel safe, I still do not feel safe. I suddenly cannot comfortably walk to football at 5:30am, something I previously would have (naively) done without a care in the world. I am constantly scanning crowds when I walk for more than just cute boys and outfit ideas. I panic when someone walks fast or breaths hard behind me. I still have not had a good cry. Austin is home and will always be a home to me, but my heart has not found a safe landing pad. I don’t have a Daddy whose shoulder I can sob into or an Ouma who can bring me tea while I sit and contemplate life.

I still love my life here and am beyond happy to be here, the thought of leaving still terrifies me. But I want my family. I want to stop having to introduce myself to people wherever I go and having to always be polite. I want, just for one day, to be able to look disgusting, eat nothing all day and be rude to someone. Adult life where you have to always be on point is exhausting. I miss being able to be safely unpolished. Unpolished me is ugly, messy and very, very vulnerable. Although I am all for vulnerability and do wear my heart on my sleeve, I do not let many people into the very depth of my heart. The part that needs the most care and a special kind of unconditional love. The people that know and understand that part of me, without me having to explain it to them or voice my problems are so far away and I only now feel it.

Yes, you could summarise this as Petro is just homesick after 5 months abroad, but this is more than just missing New Zealand, or my family and friends. This is missing that safe, familiar place. That walk to Lifegroup, where you know which angle to cut across the rugby field to avoid the worst of the post-scrum mud patches, and where the tea is kept once you get there. It’s knowing that a Rob Roy trip and a serious chat in the park is just a text away. It’s having the beach a block away, to take an early evening walk and clear your head. It’s that feeling of walking downstairs and having a little ball of white fluff jump against your legs because she missed you the five minutes you were out of the room. I miss my family, but most of all my heart misses feeling safe.

I am going to bring this to a happy closing, because I would hate for you to think that I am having the worst time in Austin. On Tuesday, following the death of our Longhorn a bunch of Christians gathered by the Tower to worship and pray for everyone affected by the tragedy and for peace on our campus. I cried (surprise, surprise) as we sang that God is a good, good Father, my heart really questioning that truth; when we prayed for Mrs Brown who will never see her baby again; for our campus to not be divided by hope; but mostly when we prayed for the body with the knife. He is our brother too, also has burnt orange blood in his veins, and Jesus loves him just the same.

Afterwards, I was sitting on the stairs collecting myself before a study group when a group walked past and asked among themselves what the gathering was. The explanation offered was, “Oh, some frat thing.” I chuckled at their mistake, before turning back and being gobsmacked, realising that the majority of the crowd leftover were guys. It was so beautiful to see so many men gathered under Jesus’ name to pray for their campus and our Longhorn family. At the official campus memorial the next day, a similar feeling overwhelmed my heart when in the middle of a song there were suddenly a sea of horns in the air – as if to stand together in love and stand against fear. It was two of the most beautiful moments I have seen in my entire life.

There will be good that comes from this grief; answers from this doubt; laughter from this pain; and pain from this fear. I truly believe that with all my heart.

3 thoughts on “What 8,000 miles really feels like

  1. lovely.d236 says:

    Oh Pets ❤ I'm so sorry to hear that you had to be a part of this tragedy and I am so thankful that you are safe. It is a weird place to be in when you feel like you cannot fully be yourself. I am so proud of you for being so true to you, even after all these years xx

    Liked by 1 person

  2. yvonne lising says:

    Such a heartfelt and beautiful piece, Petro. So so good. I can feel your heart through your words. Thank you so much for sharing that; I am definitely blessed to have gotten to know you over the last few months. UT wouldn’t be the same without you, girly 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Linda Swart says:

    This is such a very sad day for your community. I trust that you will all gather together during this time. Just know that soon you will receive a garment of praise for the ashes of mourning. May God be with Longhorn country!
    We are sending you the one thing we know that will make you feel loved and safe: your big sister will be there in three sleeps!


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