My dad said once—I think I had just published my first book and was worrying out loud that I would never write again—he said, with genuine shock, “Man, Lori, you worry about everything.” And I thought, he has no idea. No idea. If he really knew, he would wonder that I could be his daughter—easygoing, laid back him. Stressed out, panicked, living-in-fear-of-death me.
I can remember a time when I wasn’t like this, when I thought B’s on my report card were excellent and when my school uniform was always a bit sloppy, but that all changed when my family left our comfortable San Antonio home—lovely, hot, hispanic San Antonio—for the tornado alley of Wichita Falls, Texas. But that’s a story for later.
On the plane on the way to England, I panicked. Maybe it was the lack of sleep. (I had only gotten two hours the night before I left and the week prior had been hit or miss, but mostly miss.) Maybe it was because I was pushing my still-tired self too hard. Maybe it was my huge expectations for the trip. (I thought maybe I could figure out whether I wanted to go to grad school in Oxford, meet the guy I would marry, and get lots of writing material to sustain my new little freelance career and ensure that this trip wasn’t wasted.) I told myself I could just have fun, keep a journal, let it all work itself out. But the other side of me was straining to forge ahead on all of these life goals, all these achievements.
So here I was with an incredibly heavy backpack (20 pounds—12 pounds of Austen books, 8 pounds of shampoo?) and suitcase (another 40 pounds) to lug around England for a month, a registration at a school in Oxford where I would know no one and where—because of their focus on evangelism and apologetics—I feared they might ask me to go to the street corner to witness to someone (bringing back painful memories of high school youth group), and a very detailed itinerary of Austen sites, which now seemed more than intimidating.
One of the initial appeals of the trip, the chance to meet so many interesting people, lost its charm. I decided that I was in no shape to meet anyone, and would rather have stayed at home with my Harry Potter book. I decided Jane would have agreed with me—Jane who rarely ventured outside her familiar circle, who didn’t like being forced into society, forced to interact with people she didn’t know or didn’t care to know. I wrote in my journal, “Perhaps they will not be terribly nice or intelligent to save me the trouble of liking them much. Bad hair day. It appears we’ve just turned south toward the UK. 2:36 left! That is, if I do not get a blood clot and die of DVT, or collapse from hunger and exhaustion.”
I got up to go to the bathrooom again to prevent said blood-clot-danger of flying, and walked by a professional-looking guy on the aisle opposite me, two rows up. He was sleeping or watching a movie, and I would watch his screen from two rows back to see what he was watching, but I barely noticed him or his glasses or his neat hair. And he didn’t notice me, alternately anxious and thrilled, in my pink t-shirt and long jeans and ugly new hiking boots. Just as well. I was having a bad hair day.