Trust Walk

Trust Walk

Rianna Johnson-Levy

My high school years were speckled with trust walks. In my ­Unitarian Universalist youth group at the First UU Congre­gation of Ann Arbor, each year, the incoming freshmen were given blindfolds and a partner. They were led out into the dark, with only hands on their shoulders to guide them. When it was my turn to be blindfolded, I found, while stumbling over gravel in the parking lot and trudging up the hills behind my church, that despite all the efforts to fool me, the whole time I knew exactly where I was. This was ground I knew. Before even pressing down my foot I knew exactly how much the earth would give beneath me. I knew I was safe. I trusted the ­people around me, but it was easy. I knew I ­could have gotten along without them.

After high school I moved away for college and was looking for the belonging that I had found at home. I joined a poetry group, and our first meeting included an initiation ceremony that reminded me of my youth group trust walks. The evening started with a scavenger hunt around town and culminated in a trust walk. Blindfolded by the more senior members, I ­could not orient myself in the dark. For the first time in my life, I was truly lost. In this new town, I barely knew where I was with my eyes open. When I allowed a new acquaintance to guide me, I truly gave them control.

Growing up, I was fortunate to be able to find ground I loved and ­people I connected to at church. When I moved, the trauma of leaving such a beautiful home led me to be incredibly insecure my first few weeks away. Once, when I introduced myself, the person I was meeting told me, “You say ‘Ann Arbor’ like it’s the center of the universe.” To me, it was. It was how I related myself to the world. It was where my friends lived. I believed I ­could not love the ­people in my new home in the same way. They hadn’t watched me ­stumble through adolescence; they would never ­really know me. I felt that I was living away from where my life truly was.

I only started to adjust when the fall colors began to paint the trees around me. I found a sense of familiarity in the season. Time had not stopped even though ­little else in life felt continuous.

When I took a second to fall in love with fall, I started taking time to fall in love with the ­people around me. I began to discover the ways in which my new friends were similar to my other friends, and to appreciate the ways in which they were different. I learned to be comfortable with not always recognizing the similarities.

People keep telling me that in order to make the most of this time, I must live like I am dying. I find this idea constricting because so much of the idea of dying for me involves being my final, complete self—the person I want to grow into. This self, who lives her values perfectly and only creates beauty, is quite far away from who I am now. Instead of trying to achieve that im­pos­sible state, I am letting go for now. By allowing myself to trust the future and the change that comes with it, I get to stop and question. I do not need to rush.

Today I’m with new ­people, learning new norms, and new definitions of everything I thought I understood. I’m learning to take steps forward, without knowing whether the ground will hold me. I do not look down to search for familiarity, but instead look forward to the seasons ahead, to the inevitable change and growth.