I grew up in a small town in Southwest Missouri where I focused most of my time to being outside, playing sports, and going to church. Even though I grew up on a farm and I’m from a small town, that was neither my parents nor my own mindset. I was fortunate enough to travel a lot while I was growing up. I developed a love of history and different cultures, but nothing excited me more than nature. I carried that love with me into college when I decided to major in animal biology.

I majored in animal biology for two years before I realized I needed to be doing something more creative. I decided to switch my major to public relations and I found my niche. I entered a highly creative and versatile field, which allowed me to foster my innate creativity in new and exciting ways.

However, the changes only began there. Last summer I had the incredible opportunity to spend two months in Gatlinburg, Tennessee on a summer mission with a campus organization known as Cru. It was in Gatlinburg my love for nature was revitalized, a direct result of Gatlinburg’s location at the entrance of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Any free time I had was spent in the mountains—taking in the beautiful scenery, exploring the trails, and engaging with the wildlife.

It was hard for me to come back to Missouri after that. I learned that staying in one place was not for me, but I still had two years left of college, so the wanderlust biting at my heels would have to be subdued for the moment. Since I was still playing football then, I focused my attention on it.

For several reasons, I made the decision to quit once the season finished. Quitting football caused me to realize how strongly my identity was rooted in being an athlete. I had played one or multiple sports at a time since I was six years old. Now I had no sport, a crippled desire to travel, and time—too much time. I fell into a pit of isolation and, in turn, lost all motivation.

To turn my emotions into something worthwhile, I began writing poetry. I created a blog and started posting the poems I was writing. I titled the blog “Know It’s Me”, a simple statement I used to summarize the authentic and very real nature of the poems I was writing. Poetry served as an outlet for me in a time when I desperately needed it.

I am happy to say I am in a much better place in my life now. My strategy has been two words—constant improvement. I am constantly becoming a better version of myself, conquering the mountains and valleys of my life one step at a time. Thus, I’ve become more passion-driven and I’ve gained an entirely new perspective towards life, a perspective riddled with wanderlust, whimsy, and wonder. I still write poems, but for the most part, they are much more positive. I still desire to travel, a thirst not likely to ever be quenched, but I have found a way to be content with where I am now. I’ve discovered my purpose resides in my location, and until my purpose evolves, my location will remain the same.

Jordan McFarlen

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