“They say that I am crazy because I refuse to be crazy the way everyone else is crazy.”
I feel like I can’t blog fast enough before my wheels are turning again with another story I want to share. This space has become somewhere that I feel like I am sharing some of my intimate thoughts and experiences but without making a face to face conversation akward. I feel like I can really say how I feel, and like osmosis people can read it and get a little perspective on what I’m going through.
So, I have been spending a LOT of time at the YMCA across from my house. I am swimming, teaching, working out, and doing lots of catching up with families and members that I have so dearly missed. Many of the conversations have been going swimmingly well (see what I did there?) and some have been somewhat challenging.
The reason I say challenging is because some people just can’t wrap their head around why I would leave the country; why I would work for free; why I would enjoy working with such a challenging population; why I would choose to live in a poor country with a lesser standard of living. Great questions. My first reaction happened in my body as I felt my chest growing red, as if they were putting down my experience, or as if I needed their validation. But really, their questions are quite reasonable. Why would I do all those things, and then come back just to feel crazy, babysitting and teaching lessons to pay my bills.
So, this week, we had a meeting for the upcoming forum at Saint Marks about our group Transformational Travel. We are holding such a forum to answer exactly those questions above for the folks who can’t see the importance and value that we do, traveling across borders but not to vacation or evangelize. Instead, we have found and believe that traveling can be more productive and beneficial when the focus is more on introspection. Questions we ask ourselves on these trips…”When I see poverty, what is my part in the situation?” “What changes have I made/have resulted in me?” “Am I being transformed?” “Is the hope of our relatively rich church in sync with the world’s poor majority?” “What difference does it make when my blindness is stripped away and I see how most of the world lives?” “What is my understanding on social and environmental justice now?” These questions are asked before, during and after. Our hope is that we are transformed by seeing the world through a different lense. But not for selfish reasons, like we want a new adventure, or we want to push our limits. It falls into the social justice piece that we’ve identified in our hearts and named important in our lives. This kind of transformation has changed and touched our lives in dramatic ways, and I don’t know if it’s making the world a better place…but it makes our worlds better and hopefully for those lives that we can touch. So that’s something, right?
To be frank, we ought to ask ourselves these questions without leaving the country, without leaving our own city limits. But, do we? It seems so often the case that our lives here in middle class USA so easily become a routine, a way of doing things, that not only do we forget to look around or think about others in this great world, but we are scared to look up. We are scared that seeing the way others live will make us feel guilty. And that guilt can be self deprecating, or the guilt might make us, Lord forbid, take a look at ourselves and the choices we make every day. The way we live really does affect the way others live. And this doesn’t necessarily go both ways… We are living in such abundance (even though we don’t feel like it) and freedom. Not everyone feels the pull to travel or live simply or justly, but please- don’t take this life for granted, and do not take our opportunities here for granted. As a friend said upon returning to the US and seeing poverty said, “It could be a LOT worse.”
Now with that said…I’m feeling blessed at the amount of opportunities I’ve grasped and the amount ahead of me. I’m at a point in my life, and have been, where I
get to chose my next steps. I get to lead my own path and follow my own passions. This is such a relief and a burden at the very same time. There are moments when I wish I was the girl who got married young, had kids and is living that family life. There are times I wish I just took a job for the sake of having a steady income, a resume fluffer, and a normal 9-5 schedule. But let’s be honest. That’s not for me, at least not right now. And it’s not the right path for many young adults now. I think there are herds of us swimming around trying to figure out where to go next. And I might be wrong, but this feels like a generational thing. We are paving way, making mistakes, and learning how we can answer these three questions:
1. What am I good at?
2. What do I enjoy?
3. What does the world need?
I think if we all slowed down, and climbed out of the boxes we are hiding in so comfortably, we’d discover that there are answers and we can be happy being who we are. Not who society tells us, or our parents, or even our peers. It’s scary to do what feels right sometimes.
And for me, going to Bolivia was pretty dang scary at moments. It wasn’t easy. And now I’m back feeling crazy out of place and am a lot more broke than had I decided to stay here. But, answering those three key questions lead me to Bolivia and back. I am good at standing up for girls, because I so strongly believe in them. I enjoy traveling, experiencing new cultures, and serving populations that have small voices. And the world needs that. The world needs people to take action for what they believe in. And I’m talking more action than re-posting something on Facebook.
Explaining all this to a mother who has her hands full with kids getting out of the pool, or a water-aerobics -regular getting her post workout coffee is impossible. And that’s why I sometimes feel crazy, because while I’m thinking owning a car and commuting forever to work is crazy, there are plenty on the other side calling a girl who quit her job to volunteer crazy. And that’s ok with me.
“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”
― Terry Pratchett
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”
― Marcel Proust
“I am not the same having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.”
― Mary Anne Radmacher