Rumors and Here-say

So there’s a lot of rumor going around on whether I am sticking around America, or if I’ll return back to NZ after my trip home. Whether it’s friends hoping, or extended family inquisitively questioning, I decided it was time to bring everyone up to speed and on the same page. Finally.

I am moving back to the United States late January 2016.

There.

Any additional questions about where I will be living, where I will be working, if I’ve met someone, am I sick in the head, what’s wrong with NZ?, does my flat now have a spare room?……will not be answered. Partially because some of the questions are ridiculous, but mainly, because I don’t have answers for anything right now. Except my room. My flatmates will need another tenant. Message me if you’re keen. 🙂

Alright.

Cool.

Yeah.

See you in the New Year!

Fulfilled, With More to Come: Thoughts of a 26year old

In a few days, I turn twenty-six years old. Without jumping head first into the endless clichés about what I thought I would be doing at this age, what I’d be earning, or what number child I’d be raising, allow me to let you into my head.

As a very healthy (minus a busted ankle), average height, average weight, educated, Gen Y, you could say that things are going pretty well. Up to this point I have made it through life without breaking a bone (no fault to trying), received a trophy in tee-ball at the age of five, got baptized at 7, class president in the 5th grade, class clown in the 5th grade, won a relay race in the 7th grade, 7th grade: closest I came to getting straight A’s (next time would be in my graduate year, almost 9 years later) made it through junior high school (and that’s actually a great achievement if you know how horrible it is to be alive in a public school from ages 11-13), organized a “See You At The Pole” day junior year, led a Special Needs Physical Education class with my best friend, Corbin Elliott, led a Leadership Course senior year for sophomores (the course that convinced me that I wanted to work with teenagers when I was older), graduated high school with an above average GPA, was awarded the “Matt Corgian Life Award,” senior year, built an addition onto a church in Renosa, Mexico with my friends, went to a highly decorated philosophical college in Grand Rapids Michigan called Calvin College, discovered I wanted to have a career in Social Work, worked at Apple, Inc for two years, became a youth pastor for a year, became Head-Counselor at Dickson Valley Summer Camps, transferred to Aurora University, realized that I wanted to become an International Social Worker, considered the idea of moving to NZ, learned that youths with ‘suicidal ideation’ were going to be the population I would serve, received a Bachelors in Social Work, made the decision to move to NZ, I achieved “Excellence in Academics” during my graduate year, was awarded a Masters in Social Work, acquired my work visa overseas, moved to a country half-way across the world, traveled the breathtaking New Zealand landscape, watched/talked/ate with NZ’s politicians in governmental buildings, and graduated from a very prestigious internship in Auckland called the Maxim Internship.

As I sit here in the dwindling light, in this increasingly uncomfortable wicker chair, thinking about all the things that I have done in my life up to this point, I know in full understanding that my life is only a quarter of the way complete. There is much more to be written, many more knees to be scraped, stories to be told, loves to be had, and breaths to be taken away. I know that.

And let me reassure you that for every good thing mentioned above, there was an antithesis. A few for example: no broken bones? MANY torn ligaments, sprains, and hairline fractures. Trophy in tee-ball? Every other team I would played for after that would never win first place…ever. Made it through junior high? If “making it through” with emotional/physical scaring due to incessant bullying for 6 years, all thanks to my red hair, counts as “making it through,” then I made it through. See You At The Pole day? Add ‘Christian’ to the list of things I was randomly punched in the hall for at school. Wanting to become an international social worker and moving overseas? Well this one takes the cake, because if you asked scrawny, 13-year-old Eric, walking home after getting verbally thrown down in the dirt, for something he couldn’t change about himself, that one day he would leave the most comforting, loving, understanding, and wholesome people in his life…people that cried for him, prayed for him, and were there for him…and move to a country where he knows only a handful of people and nothing else….to work with youths who aren’t given the time of day…..I would tell you that you were wrong. I would tell you that my family have been, and always will be, my rock…and that I would never leave them.

The fact of the matter is, I’m here. Over 8000 miles, (or 13,000 kilometers) separating us, doing what I feel called to do. Loving those I feel called to love. Investing in those young, crazy kids, and seeing myself in them every…single…week. And you know what? It may seem like I regret being here, or that I’ve made the wrong choice, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. A lot has happened since the days that I was a child.  I have seen tragedy. Loss. Hurt. Death. Seeing the vulnerable picked on, seeing the desperate crawl, and seeing the hopeless take life into their own hands and crush it. This is apart of growing up. This is apart of living life. A part of that is also learning countless lessons, making some incredible lifelong friends, seeing some incredible places, and knowing compassion of which I had never before known.

In the end, I hope to chalk a few more things up on my list of life achievements one day…things I can be proud of. A fulfilling job that I didn’t sell out for, a wife who loves me, a family with a kid of our own. A kid that will most likely experience similar trials I went through, but a child that I will one day love like crazy and pour everything I have into. Until then, I’m twenty-six, and instead of thinking back on the things I didn’t do, the things that I regret doing, or the things I don’t have…time is always better spent on the journey looking forward. So with that in mind, lets see what happens next.

Here’s what was next: The Beginning of the Ending –https://ericlukepeterson.wordpress.com/2016/09/16/the-beginning-of-the-ending/

Are you…?

Alright people, [deep breath]. I really appreciate your interest in my life and I can’t really thank you all enough for those who helped me get where I need to be in my journey to New Zealand. STILL, I think this post is very necessary considering how out of the loop everyone seems to be. I am sorry for that. I had no idea.

Are you in New Zealand?

No, I am not…yet. I know this can seem pretty confusing considering I had a party to raise money to get me into the country, and then I dropped off the face of the earth months later.

So, you’re not going to live in New Zealand?

Not yet. The reason for this is because I moved to Grand Rapids to find a job, pay off loans and live with my best friends. That plan went south after about 4 months. I wasn’t making enough money and my loan payments started to come in fast.

So, you’re not going to New Zealand?

No. I AM going. The plan was always to eventually go, but I need the paperwork to go through FIRST. I need a visa to move into New Zealand and work there as a resident. I have been working on the paperwork since the beginning of graduate school, so it’s been over a year now, and still counting. It’s a long process, and I think I am very close to getting the visa. The plan to move is sometime in January.

I am only getting a job here to pay off loans until the paperwork goes through, which is going very well. In this down economy, I chose to go with the fast option and try to get a job in a job field I only recently came out of. Needless to say, they loved me and gave me a job. I will be delivering pizza for Sarpinos Pizza off N. Aurora St. in Naperville. The pay is very good, and the hours are likewise good.

Are you using the money you raised? What happened to that?

Well, I raised that money because the flights over to New Zealand are really quite expensive and the visa paperwork is equally expensive. The money has been set aside and will not be used until I need to use it to pay for the paperwork expenses and document verification. Again, I can’t thank you all enough for the generosity you displayed in helping me get to where I needed to go. Thank You.

Are you living back home?

Yes. I moved back in with my parents in Montgomery, IL to get a part time position that pays more and doesn’t hace the added variable of ‘rent.’ I love my family, and No, this is not a painful mistake that I made. It was the right one.

_______________________________________________________________________

I hope that I have answered your questions, and yes…these were real questions that I would get very frequently in conversation. Sometimes I was lucky and received ALL of them at the same time, or most of them at least.

Yours Always,

The Chapter Begins, and it is Beautiful

Well after spending a significant amount of time in Michigan, I can confidently say that I am loving it here. I am glad that I am once again living with men I am comfortable calling my brothers. These past few days have been quite incredible. I am transitioning once again into living on my own…so to speak (living outside of my parents house). I am finding jobs to keep me busy while the long term work finalizes. We are also finding another apartment to live in and that is going very well.

It is a very specific, familiar feeling being back in Grand Rapids….like a warm blanket fending off a cold chill. Every street passed and smell taken in is a wave of nostalgia that had remained hidden to keep the pain at bay. Being away from my friends when I moved in 2008 was a painful experience. In order to take away some of the pain and enjoy my move back to Illinois, I had to separate nostalgia from friendship. It wasn’t Calvin College I missed, or even GR necessarily. The thing I missed most was my family that I had made in Michigan.

But now that I am back in GR, living here once again, I can’t help but fall in love with this city all over again. There is so much life, love, and happiness here that can’t be explained. I am not really too sure what it is that makes this place so different from where I grew up, but it is clear and it is true.

I will work very hard in the time that I am here, and I will also relish in every moment that I can before I eventually leave here for my journey to New Zealand. I am excited, even as I write this post, knowing that one day my dream…will become a reality. I have stepped into a brave new world here in Michigan, full of opportunity, joy, peace, and friendship. I cannot see anything bad or painful at the moment, and that is what I need right now. I experienced enough pain last semester…

If you are my friend, and you know me well, then I thank God for you and how you have influenced me. No matter where you are now, or what we have both been through, I will always pray for you and give thanks for the moment when we met, and you blessed my life.

A Life Lived in One Place

Imagine, if you can, living in one place for the next 24 years. Seems a little bit stretched out and distant, right? Now, I have not been able to remember living…well, anywhere until I was around five or seven. Still, I have lived in this state my entire life. I know its streets, its hotspots, the shortcuts, the favorite eats. I know Illinois. Illinois is comfortable. Illinois is well known, to me. Very soon, I will be leaving this land that I have called home, that I have enjoyed being apart of, and moving to a new world. It might as well be a new world.

I have had time to do a fair bit of thinking while I find an occupation and secure passage to New Zealand. I have thought a great deal about all of my friends who daily build me up and support me in my selfish desire to become happy. They happily oblige and humor me. I don’t know if I will ever be without friends in this life. I have met so many beautiful people in my travels and experiences. Many of these people I have known since I was little, Luke Blauw, Eric Brown, Tara Biscan, Mike Elliott, Nate Leslie, Debbie Leslie, Rose Scheid, the list goes on. Many friendships I have developed while away, David Goodwin, Jenn Bosma, Jeremiah Mannschreck, Nate DeJong, Dan Prins, Jeff Stern, Jeremiah Mallin, Matt Faber, Cody Cooper, Tyler Plockmeyer, etc. Many I have only recently become friends with, Matthew Bailey, Justin Van Wyk, Kyle Lefere, Alex Hayes, Eric Du, Alex Bourge, Katie Yockey, Lisa Marshall, etc. Also those I have met in the field of Social Work.

 
I have obviously left out most of my friends, please don’t be  offended. It was not intentional.

It is safe to say that with the list of friends that I am already making in NZ: Jeremy Vargo, Zach Jacobsen, Samantha Merkle, Lawrence Tuck, Leand Macadaan, Hugh Drinkwater, Elena Cleary, and of course, Corbin Elliott, in whom I’ve known since I was 15, that I wont have any trouble making a family overseas. Still, it’s not that easy…it never really is.

If moving away from everything you know is as easy as saying, “Home is where the Heart is,” making a new family, and calling home every once and a while, then anyone would be able to do it. There is additional culture shock that, even in a westernized country, will have people inside of a month buying a plane ticket home. The distance away from home can be daunting to overseas movers also. Everything about the country you live in will be a constant reminder that you are NOT home. You will begin to hate everything and just want to cuddle up on your favorite couch, or go eat at your favorite little hotspot.

Don’t. Don’t buy that plane ticket. Tough out those first months. You will kick yourself hard when you are sitting back home and letting the reality sink in that you let a perfectly good adventure slip right through your finger tips. This is self therapy moment people. I am not only speaking to you, but myself. I am the man who has lived in One Place his whole entire life. Now is my time. This is my journey set before me. I step with anticipation.