Three and a half years ago, my life changed forever for the better.
Two of my oldest and best friends, Adam and Irina, had a baby girl.
They were the first in my immediate circle to take the leap into parenthood, and the news of their impending parenthood sent positive shock-waves through our group of friends.
When the people you're closest to start making major life decisions - marriage, children, home ownership - you start to take a harder look at your own life.
In the moment Sofia was born, I was driving from Omaha to O’Neill, NE, to meet with the rest of the Nebraska Project team. We were deep into production on many of the NebraskaProject.com videos and were scheduled to begin filming the music video for “Little Nebraska Town,” with O’Neill native Rachel Price that evening.
At that point I had spent seven years running around the world. I had done work I enjoyed, met interesting people, seen amazing places. But I didn’t have a path; no direct goals I was working toward. I had no idea what I was doing in the next week, much less for the rest of my life.
I had dinner with Adam and Irina the night before I left for that trip. We sat and talked about how this would be the last time it would ever be the three of us ever again. It was July 22 and Irina's due date was July 26. I wouldn't be home until July 29.
It felt strange, like we were all on the cusp of something big. They seemed ready. I, however, was not.
As I drove along Highway 275 toward Norfolk, NE, on July 23, 2014, my phone buzzed with a message from Adam,
“It’s happening,” was all he wrote.
I squealed with joy alone in the car.
A few minutes later my phone buzzed again with pictures of baby Sofia, and the world’s newest family of three.
I had to pull over. The enormity of the moment was overwhelming, even from 1,500 miles away, and operating a motor vehicle was simply too much.
Adam and Irina had just embarked on one of the most intense and important journeys in life - parenthood. In the blink of an eye they became responsible for raising and shaping a human being. A human. Not a dog or cat or goldfish. A human.
For some reason that reality never sank in for me while Irina was pregnant. But the moment I saw the pictures of real-life baby Sofia, it became incredibly clear.
Life changed in an instant. Before Sofia, I had been perfectly content flying around by the seat of my pants, directionless and happy. Life was good.
Then Sofia arrived, and everything became suddenly unclear. What was I doing with my life? What did I ultimately want?
I had no idea.
I met Sofia for the first time a week later.
I spent as much time with her as I could between trips. I’d bring dinner to Adam and Irina, hold Sofia as they folded laundry and took showers, and soak up her infant goodness (anyone who’s ever held an infant knows what I mean by “infant goodness,” it’s a thing).
After a couple weeks they began to plan her Christening and asked me to be her Godmother, or Madrina in Español. It’s the best job anyone has ever asked me to do.
Being a Madrina is not a role I take lightly. I’m very close with my own Godmother, Aunt Kay, who is also my mother’s best friend. She taught me, whether she meant to or not, what a strong, resilient woman looks like.
Watching Sofia grow up has been a singular joy in my life. I've watched her turn from infant to baby to toddler to girl. She is smart and kind and awesomely stubborn. She reminds me very much of her mother - my best friend and college roommate - especially when she refuses to bend in her certainty (like in the photo below).
Becoming a Godmother gave me greater purpose. I always want to be a person Sofia can be proud of.
Since Sofia was born, I have tried hard to make deliberate decisions about my future, and to be a better sister, friend, daughter and community member.
If there is one thing watching Sofia has taught me it's that change is constant. I still don't know exactly what I want to do with the rest of my life (and honestly who does?), but I do have a better idea of what I want.
I want a home and someone to share it with.
I want a community to give back to.
I want to cook dinners and visit friends.
In short, I want a life I can enjoy.
I’ve made pretty good progress. On Monday I’m moving into my first home, a home I’ve been renovating in historical Jacksonville. Words can't express how excited I am to use my brand new kitchen.
On Tuesday I’m meeting my Little Sister through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Florida. Her name is Mariah and she loves to bake and go to the park.
I have holiday plans with friends and family.
And I have a new member of my community to get to know.
James Francis was born on November 28, 2017. Sofia now has a baby brother.
The little girl that unwittingly changed my life, now has a big change in hers.
I hope I can help her navigate becoming a big sister, and run her around to give her parents a few moments of quiet in the first days as a family of four.
I don’t know what the future holds for any of us, but - right now - life is good.