By Matt Boness
Matt is a former member of the VU Faith&Community team and recently moved to Pittsburgh, PA with his wife of 7 years and their two toddler boys. His life was very unchanging for the first 23 years, having grown up in the mountainous regions of Arizona. Since that time, he has been on a roller coaster of major life transition. With two moves to significantly different cities, a wedding, a miscarriage, then two boys, half a dozen different jobs, and currently Matt spends his time working as a stay-at-home dad. None of which was anticipated or expected. He believes God has been faithful and community can be found anywhere you desire to look.
As far as I can surmise, the house I currently live in was built sometime between 1898 and 1905 according to historical Pittsburgh city maps. It’s a huge, three-story red brick behemoth, tucked in between and across the street from, lining an avenue with, and making up a neighborhood alongside many other three-story “mini-mansions” that, as far as I can tell, must have been built by very well-to-do people. In the 1980s and 1990s, many of these homes found a second life being split and subdivided into multiple apartments, which explains why I live in a three-story house but have only seen the first floor.
There is intricate stained glass of some form or fashion in most of the homes in the neighborhood. Huge cast iron radiators line the walls, heavy solid wood doors adorn their frames, and most have large covered patios to welcome all to their entrance.
What struck me the other day, as late afternoon light flooded through the huge picture windows at the front of our west facing house into our bedroom, was the fact that the same sunlight has streamed through that very same window, in the same way, at the same time for every person who has lived in this house for the last 100+ years. Yet, that light, hitting our floor and illuminating our otherwise shaded room, was a new experience for me.
What I realized in that moment was change works like that that in our lives. Something may be familiar, commonplace, old and oft experienced for some and yet, brand new for others.
The house we live in, the city we moved to, the new stay-at-home dad occupation I took on so my wife could complete her PhD was all new and sometimes terrifying for me. Yet, for those who came before, this house eventually became their home, this city they explored, then knew, and their occupations (stay-at-home parent or otherwise) might have, on the onset, been a new and scary life, but became a familiar routine, a rhythm they cultivated and grew over days, months, years.
I have found myself, at times during this last year, wandering. Trying to get through each day without completely losing track of myself. In no other year have I faced more challenging change than this last one. A move to a new city, transitioning, or rather stepping down from an occupation, and navigating all that accompanies those life modifications would be enough, but add in a pandemic, a stay-at-home order, mask mandates, cautiousness around neighbors and friends, not going to church, and on and on made this year one in which we all stared change in the eye and had to deal with a significantly different future than we had hoped – like it or not.
I took solace in the fact that others were walking through similar situations with me. Sure, things may have been new to me, but they were new to others as well. Everyone was trying to navigate a world that looked different. I began to realize that what helps the most when faced with big change in life is to seek out the community of people who have done it before. It helped to seek advice for how others managed moving into a new city, how other stay-at-home parents dealt with the significant change of pace (and stay sane), and to remember that others were struggling in similar ways when faced with the very real threat of a pandemic out of control.
Throughout the last year, despite the fact that we were to avoid close contact with each other, the thing that helped keep me managing such transition was our neighbors, who moved in to their house two weeks after we did, the dad at the playground who was managing a lay-off and a new kid, and the pastor at our church who welcomed us to his church and his city knowing we were only staying temporarily. I didn’t have to feel lost. I had knowledgeable and similarly struggling people who were under the same sunset at the same time I was each and every day. I wasn’t alone in it’s gazing warmth.
What I feel I’ve learned through this past year is: Change doesn’t have to feel frightening when we remember others share the experience. It’s only when we fail to connect that we miss out on the joy that change can bring.