June 16, 2011

I Just Gave Up a Trip to Rome

Photo by Wayne Bremser

I just gave up a free pilgrimage to Rome.

Maybe I should say it again, so it sinks in. I just gave up a free pilgrimage to Rome. They say there's no such thing as a free lunch (and indeed, on this trip I'd have to pay for my lunches), but this really was a free trip to Rome. A friend had bought her spot, and she found herself unable to go, and offered it to me. All I'd need to do is pay for my lunches and other incidentals on the trip, and clear my schedule for 10 days, and leave in two weeks. I'd also have to get a ticket, but, the lucky thing about working for the Church is that your boss flies to Rome on a fairly regular basis, and has more frequent flier miles than he can handle. He encouraged me to go, and even started to plan for work adjustments. Another friend who was going was thrilled at the prospect of having a companion. I studied the itinerary, then was distracted all day thinking about my budget, my calendar.

Millions of questions, objections, and justifications popped into my head: Could I do with only $200 spending money? Last time I went to Rome I had less...but I also didn't buy anything and ate only those little rolls with two slices of prosciutto. (But they were good rolls. And only 50 cents.) And what about the fact that 4 days after I come back I will be headed to California for a wedding? And I'd miss blueberry season? How would the summer projects that we have such little time to accomplish here in the office fare if I were to go? What about the two huge mailings that are supposed to happen those two weeks?

But I haven't been to Rome (or Europe) in 11 years! And I remember when I did go--for World Youth Day in 2000--that I thought to myself as I explored: one day I will come back and come to know all of this, intimately. I assumed it would be during college, and now, so long after, it still hasn't happened. How grand would it be to go, restore my mind, enjoy that bright, golden sun, see new things, pray.

I know you'll think I am an idiot, but it was realizing I'd miss blueberry season that I decided not to go. Not that I particularly love blueberries (though, goodness, I do), but they represent something that I want beyond the glamour of a European vacation.  For years I've wandered rather aimlessly.  That's not strictly speaking true: I've had good jobs and done good work, and paid my bills on time, and sought out new friends, places, and opportunities. But I had no real idea where I was going.  Then last summer, I finally took the plunge, and started Jams by Mags.  We had a wonderful first year, but this, the second is a real trial: I need to produce more, do it better and more efficiently, all while still learning so many things, and crafting the brand into something that can endure. And, though it was less about the money and more about the time, $200 certainly buys a lot of fruit.

The real point is: we have to work hard for our dreams, and give up a lot of truly good things to pursue them.  I want Jams by Mags to succeed, and if I'm not willing to give up a trip to Rome for its future, then how will I be able to make the real sacrifices required of running a business. That I am giving up something so very good makes the sacrifice all the more heart-wrenching, but right. If this is my calling, if this is what I need to do, then I must pursue it.

Most people I have told this too have looked at me like I was crazy-sauce. And maybe I am. But Rome is the Eternal City, and will be there next year and the year after. And, if I'm lucky, maybe Jams by Mags will be there then too, or will send me there. Now's the time to work hard to make it so. Prosper the work of our hands, O Lord.


  1. Oh wow! You're a good one Mags.


  2. Anonymous12:27 PM


    wow. I am so proud of you! It is truly admirable to give up something that you want so badly for something you have created to be your dream, your future.

    I am truly inspired by you! And I'm totally going to buy some of your jams. =) If you have business cards, feel free to send some to me and I'll spread the word! =)

  3. Mags,

    It must be such a relief to know that you want something and are truly WORKING towards it!

    Blueberries are an absolutely brilliant reason for not going to Rome.

  4. Beautiful! There's something profound about the seasonality of place. You've invested yourself into where you are, and not to be here for blueberry season would be no trivial loss.

    One of my favorite songs has a line, about looking forward to being reunited with someone dearly missed: "Strawberries in Spring won't happen till we get there." There is an inexorable link between being with someone in place and being with someone in season, and a way in which absence causes one to miss the seasons.

    I don't find your decision strange at all. You've chosen presence over absence.

  5. Maggie,

    I don't think that's a crazy thing to do! Not at all. Although I have to say it kind of pains me to hear you say that it would have been free... I am running way low on cash after paying for my World Youth Day pilgrimage!

    Love you -

  6. Maggie,
    You are a gem. You nailed it. I feel like I've been "hit over the head by a 2x4" in the best sense, and thank you so much for providing the 2x4. This is truly an inspiration: letting practical good sense and dedication carve a channel for your dreams. Thank you for being someone with enough love and passion that you can give up a free trip to Rome to realize your vision. That is far from boring or small, my friend; the fact that you see that really packs a punch. See how such a sacrifice gives fuel to the fire! Well we have only met you ONCE but I hope I will be seeing you! Sorry to wax on, but I am really inspired! -Miranda

  7. uh, *I have only met you once.

  8. Anonymous3:01 PM

    you're a better (wo)man than i am! God be with you, and reward your faithfulness.

  9. Good for you Maggie!! I am inspired!! :-)