August is the month we get to welcome new full-time voices to the post calvin! Please welcome Matt Cambridge, who is taking over Elaine Schabel’s spot. Matt (’12) works for Boeing in St. Louis, where he is attempting to change the world through human resources. He is married to the beautiful Kendahl and spends most of his time fiercely defending LeBron James, eating Hershey’s kisses, and riding roller coasters whenever possible. You can read more of his work at https://www.laughcrythink.com/.
I sort through old books, receipts, and a trusty ping pong paddle from what now feels like a simpler time. There’s my American flag bandana, ice cream rewards cards that never generated any real return, and, under all of that, a wallet containing a slew of cards from my time in Hungary.
I’m beginning to clean out my room for yet another move, the third in six years, the weight of it hitting me once more. I don’t like change, and I am an anxious person. Nice to meet you.
The memory of two years spent teaching English in Hungary always brightens me, so I hover over the materials for a few moments. There’s my international teacher ID card, with my generic passport-sized photo taped to the cover and with circular holographic icons that wax and wane as you tilt your head, like moon phases. The teacher ID card reminds me of the beginning of that adventure, of sealing the photo to the card, looking at its list of benefits (great, they’ll ship my body back home if anything happens!), and sending in onerous applications. It harkens visceral memories of the first few days we spent in Budapest: days that included sleepless jet lag nights, stuffy hostel smells, zigzagging Parliament walks, and captivating views of the overlapping Buda hills.
Next to the teacher card is a wrinkled Budapest twenty-four-hour metro pass, which was purchased two years later, one day before we left the country and returned to the US. I distinctly remember the sense of heightened emotion I felt on that day, accomplishment and joy, plus deep sadness to be leaving a country and people I had grown to love. The two cards, neatly nestled next to one another, bookmark a two-year journey that changed my life. I’m hating everything about this moment because, as you may remember, I do not like change.
Consider: I complained about a stomach ache to my mom before every day of second grade when I started at a new school, begging her to walk me to my classroom. She didn’t, but I think it would have been a good look socially.
I’m unclear as to why, then, I have spent much of my twenties in a constant state of change and flux, never staying somewhere more than two years since graduating from Calvin. My wife and I lived in Grand Rapids, then moved to Hungary, then back to Grand Rapids to pursue graduate school. Then, last summer, an internship with Boeing took us to St. Louis. People, places, names, and memories have constantly been added on top of one another, language, acronyms and job responsibilities never remaining salient for too long.
And now, today, as I begin the process of unpacking, we commence yet another move, this time back to St. Louis. There’s more familiarity now, having been there for a summer, but the unpacking of a room, the boxing of kitchenware and micro decision-making as I form keep and dump piles seems to add to my anxiety.
Until something beautiful happens. Under the old identification cards are journals I had filled during my time in Budapest, tattered notebooks that color the experience of being in Hungary for two years and remind me of the experience we had.
Within the pages of these journals, I find…
…A quote from a Hungarian friend, who offered an opinion about Americans:
They’re fat and they sue everybody!
…Croatian travel reflections and bad jokes:
I don’t understand Croatian at all. If a language isn’t English, Spanish, or German, I have no idea what it is. Kendahl will be like, “Matt, what language do you think that is?’”and I’ll be like, “I don’t know, Mandarin?” and she’ll be like, “It’s English, Matt. Those people are Irish.”
…and Bible verses I had been reflecting on:
Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.
I flip the pages and see more Bible reflections, stories about my great-grandparents, and lesson plans. As I peer into these journals, anxiety is replaced by gratitude as I reflect on having the time and desire to write about these things. I consider how the experience drew me nearer to my wife and to the heart of God. I am thankful for the students we got to know and the countries we passed through. I think about the thrilling mix of fear, risk, excitement, and joy, and remember that every adventure presents some combination of those. I become aware that this next step will not be devoid of that massive range—joy and sorrow, triumph and heartbreak—but nevertheless I am emboldened to take the next step with courage, knowing all we can do is commit our next steps to the Lord and welcome whatever comes with that.
Matt Cambridge (’12) is a new dad to Chloe, husband to the beautiful Kendahl, and a human resources professional at Boeing. He lives in St. Louis and enjoys eating Hershey’s kisses, riding roller coasters, and watching the latest stand-up specials on Netflix. You can read more of his work at laughcrythink.com.