Kimberly Coyle lives in Switzerland with her husband and favorite little people. She copes with life’s biggest questions by drinking lots of tea, writing, and God’s grace. You can find her writing at kimberlyanncoyle.com or tweeting @KimberlyACoyle.
Every working afternoon, like clockwork, I entered the parking garage and began the relentless circle up and then back down through the cement levels. I gave myself an extra thirty minutes before the start of my shift to find a parking spot. When I got tired of circling, I pulled up to a hospital exit and waited, stalking my prey, and following any unsuspecting visitor to their car in a slow-wheeled motion. It usually took the full thirty minutes to find an empty stall in this busy inner-city hospital garage, and often, when not cursing my cruel luck, I spent the time praying.
My stomach churned as relentlessly as those up/down ramps. My prayers started out simple enough: Please God help me find a spot, please God give me peace, please God let my stomach settle. After twenty minutes, they ended in a jumbled mess of fear and anxiety: Please God don’t let there be an emergency birth, a mistake, a baby’s death. Please. God. Please.
When I entered college and declared myself a nursing major, it came after one full year of debating what I wanted to do with my life. Nursing became my default position when I realized I possessed a modicum of empathy and a talent for nothing else. I wanted to read books and talk about stories for a living, but I couldn’t figure out how to take my passion for words and turn it into a paycheck.
I never dreamt of nursing. I never dreamt I would circle lots, and vomit prayers, and beg that none of the patients in my care would meet Jesus that night. It felt closer to a nightmare, the kind you never wake up from because the mortgage needs paying and the baby likes to eat. The only perk of my job was the opportunity to peek into others lives, while reading a condensed version of their life story in the medical chart.
I never dreamed of writing either. As a child, I lived through my books. I discovered a universe in the library stacks, and inwardly I created a universe of my own from an amalgam of truth and fiction. I invented wholly imaginary conversations from a single look, and I re-imagined my life with every conceivable alternate ending. I watched people and took mental notes—their stories filling up the deep recesses of my mind with words and images I never thought to scribble down. I had eyes to see, but no ears to hear.
Some dreams bury themselves so deep we only hear the echoes of what could be, rather than the fierceness of their cry. To hear them, we must first possess the courage to attend to the sound. After my brief and somewhat disastrous career in nursing, I can tell you this—attend to the echoes. Place your ear to the ground and listen to the things that make your heart beat fast as a jungle drum. Clear a spot and dig deep. Take a shovel to the fears and the pride and the lies and the false expectations that muffle the sound. When you hit dirt, look around at what lies buried there. Look at the stories, the experiences, and the secrets you hold dear. For in them, lies a universe.