Telling Their Stories: IMOGEN HAYWARD

Photo by: Imogen Hayward

I am always trying to be the best I can be, in every area of my life.

I have a hunger to grow and become a better person: to live outside of my comfort-zone and to push myself to my limits. However, this kind of thrill seeking is not jumping off cliffs or skiing down avalanche-prone mountains. It is the kind slow-burn kind that you get from living in different parts of the world.

This continuous search for growth first started when I was 16. My family moved from the leafy London borough of Wimbledon in the UK to the diverse bustle of downtown Chicago in the USA. I felt so blessed by God, I couldn’t believe he would give me such an amazing opportunity. For a month or so it felt like a vacation, everything was new and interesting: buildings were up to a hundred stories tall, there were frozen yogurt places on every street corner, people in the elevator told me to “have a great one” each day and unlike in London people on the ‘L’ trains would start up friendly conversations with me.

Suddenly, what seemed interesting and new felt strange and unfriendly. The reality that I wasn’t going back to London any time in the future, I knew barely anyone apart from my own family and it seemed that everything I thought I knew in London didn’t apply to Chicago.

Soon, my thankfulness and gratitude to God switched to anger and frustration.

I felt played by Him, giving me something that seemed so amazing at first turned out to be something that was causing me so much pain and loneliness.

After a few months I went to my school psychologist and she told me it was probably culture shock. Culture shock is something you get when you more to another country. It usually sets in once you’ve been in the new country for few months and can last for half a year or more (some may never get over it). It is essentially an incredibly intense form of homesickness’s and a mild to moderate form of depression.

For about 6 months, I felt trapped in a place I didn’t want to be. I lashed out at God by ignoring him and felt I had righteous anger to justify it. I tried to punish Him by throwing myself into school work I spent hours in the art studio at school painting, writing and sketching. Nothing felt right, I no longer wanted to eat as food tasted bland in my mouth and my family was very worried about me for many months. But then just as suddenly as it come the culture shock passed.

 Photo by: Imogen Hayward

I had begun to go to my church youth in the South side of Chicago and found new friends who I could talk about God and my frustration with Him they pointed out that I how fast I had been to lose trust in his plans and goodness. They also made the parts of US culture that felt strange and confusing more comfortable and friendly. I began to fall in love with the city of Chicago, spending my days exploring it’s nooks and crannies, seeing live music, hanging out by the beach, eating Chicago pizza with friends and finding hidden bookshops.

Something I began to realize was that although my feelings of loneliness and sadness were understandable instead of turning to God for help and casting my anxieties into Him I had blamed and raged at Him. When I struggled I turned against Him but when I thrived I praised Him. But not matter my emotional turmoil and faithlessness, God was steadfast while I was not. It was the first time I’d truly come close to understanding how flawed and human I was. It will always stand out the most to me as the time God made me realize my own imperfections and how I must place my trust in Him and not let it waver.

Moving across the world had made me grow more than any other time in my life.

I am now 23 and still chase that growth of pushing myself out of my comfort-zone by living in different places. I have spent the past 7 years living in Chicago, Maine, Montana, Colorado, Munich (Germany), London and the south coast of England with lots of traveling in Europe and the states in between that.

My spiritual journey has NOT been the smoothest. It has strengthened and weakened and then strengthened again over the past years. Some days I doubt everything, others I feel God so presently within my heart that I know he is physically sat right next to me. This relationship with the creator is never going to be easy or comfortable because of my human flaws.

God teaches me time and time again to trust in him but especially so when I live outside of my comfort-zone. The places I have lived and the people I have met there have moulded me over these past years. To think that I never knew the existence of some of my greatest friends and inspirations before I lived away from London and that I certainly would of never met them if God had not taken the course of my life down a very different route than I had imagined at 15.

All I know is without God I would be a far more closed-minded, selfish, mean and superficial version of myself. It is the Lord and places he has taken me that are making me the best person I can be.

 

- Imogen Hayward, member of the Believe Brand Co. Family.

 

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