From the 916

I’ve snuck back to my tent– typing on my laptop before dinner. Sitting on my world blanket– zipped up the door to shut the world outside out, and thinking.

The students from the charter school came today– they will be camping with us the next three days. Should be fun. People interactions, at least.

They’ve had a rough past, most of them. I talked to three or four and every one of them talked about getting in fights and almost having to kill someone.
Then, something that shocked me was one of them was so excited to come work with us, because he wanted his girlfriend to learn about the program I’m in. He says that “alot of you have dark pasts, but you’re here now, working hard.” And I must have made some sort of face, because he was like, “I don’t mean you necessarily. Just the program in general. It’s a chance to restart.”

And I thought about it, and I realized that he was right. That’s how I saw it when I joined the program, at least. And now it’s been so long I’ve been living this life– I’m execting everyone to care about the same things as me, have the same work ethic etc. When it’s true– there are people from all over in this program. Most of them with stories of why they ended up here. Just like all the kids from the charter school.

The charter school here is for kids 14-20 who didn’t fit into the regular school system for some reason– having kids, discipline, etc.

They are teaching me a lot already. All that textbook social justice and social work shit that you read about, then you actually see it in real life.

Still reeks of skunk at our campsite, one week later.

They commented on it. They chose one of the other ones, any of the other ones, that didn’t smell like skunk.

Smart kids.

We just had a heart to heart with the charter school kids. There were about 11 of them. They have all come from really rough backgrounds– but are in the process of taking control of their lives and taking back their freedom.

Jail, abandonment, abuse, self harm, identity, violence, depression, babies. But coming through it all and saying they want to live.

We wish we were doing projects like this all year. But like one of the guys said today, everything happens for a reason. Every person, every experience makes you, you. And this is making us us right now. And planting trees and living in a tent is easy shit compared to what I heard tonight.

I just want to cry. And give everyone a hug.

Talking to TJ about race and class. He’s probably 18 or 19, super charismatic and knowledge chasing and influential. He’s going to do something big someday. He’s already a big presence now.

I asked him if he thought power always corrupted, and he said that he thinks most of the people that chase power are corrupted. But if you have the ability to influence and the right intentions, you have a responsibility to lead.

And I asked him if he lead a group of people toward anything, what would it be? And he said giving. He said it would make us all happier if we became less self interested. And it would help us share resources and make the world a home for all of us.

From the 916. Sacramento. George is arguing him that Sacramento is not really a city. It is. In case you’re wondering. There is a lot we are learning about it from these locals that you can’t learn from a few short months here.

TJ asked me what my dream job is, what I want to do. I told him I want to continue writing, and to live as many different lives as possible, meeting as many different people as possible and traveling to a constantly changing terrain.

He said I looked like a travel writer. I looked like I would be in the Amazon snapping pictures, meeting people and taking notes. And I looked at myself in the mirror later. And even though I have this uptight uniform on. And don’t feel like myself in it. I still have something that comes through. That people can see who I am, who I want to be.

Jen was asking me when I cut my hair short. And why. What everyone waits to ask me when they first meet me. It’s like a burning question.

And then King was asking me how old I was. They guessed I was 16. Which is what people usually guess. But I’m going to look great when I’m older.

“Guys. Annie is a wasteful person.”

“Tony was like this River creature. Crawling up the river banks toward me with a half full gallon of milk he found in the river. It was sealed, and dated 4/15 so he was keeping it.

“I smell bad. Kind of gross.”

“I also found her a brush.”

My worst nightmare. Can you imagine me on a hike with kids throwing branches and crow bars into the river, while Tony creeps toward me with questionable items he’s found in the river.

We took our kids down to the river because there was a struggle going on. In charge of Ri and Jen and one was having upsetting conversations on the phone, the other one just wanted out of work. They are dating, and kept running off together. Had to keep track of them, because that is my job for the day. Much better than actually doing the work, we got to take a break from trailbuilding for morale boosting. Wish it was that way everytime we had low morale.

It’s nice to have the focus off of us, though. And on others during the workday. I think a lot of the work we do is so isolated that it’s easy to get lost in your own head, in your own problems.

“It was funny how you were making me stick my feet out the tent last night.”

Dre was wearing rubber boots without socks yesterday, and then he came in Jess and I’s tent for a late night reflection on the day. And he was laying between our sleeping bags, and I made him stick his feet out the front door while we all laid there.

Today’s been pretty good. I’m laughing. I’m taking things less seriously. I even ate two chips ahoy cookies. I just need to let go sometimes.

Just let go and live.

Figuring it out.

Filling up water balloons with the two kids later.


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