Fearful Leaping: D.C.

It makes me really frustrated and kind of depressed when I realize how scared I am of flying. Turbulence, a normal amount, on a tiny plane, and I am gripping Ben’s hand for two hours, and prompting him to talk to me the whole flight to distract me.

It really made me question everything. Everything I love in some way is connected to planes. Whether it’s the families that I am working with this year- from all over the world- who get in the same planes and make it to their new homes. Or whether it’s me getting into these planes to reach out to new people and places and expand myself.

I’m uncomfortable. But I’m almost always a little bit depressed and uncomfortable the day that I get to a new place. Especially when I haven’t really slept in two days.

Wednesday I put in an eleven hour day, bussed twelve students from the south all over the neighborhoods where our refugee families live, an impromptu tour guide for five hours. I also took the students to a few clients homes,  and had them hand deliver children’s books to the other families. We stopped by a Congolese family’s home that invited us in, washed our hands for us, brought out the drinks and food, and hosted an impromptu party for us. It almost made me cry.

I had visited the family a month ago, and was served an abundance of fufu and traditional Kenyan food. When I arrived with the students this time, the wife told me with a smile that she missed me.

That night, I had my monthly presentation to do. It’s my third big public speaking event with this job, and I wasn’t even that nervous. I realized that I had been conducting twelve people all day, speaking to a room full of people couldn’t be any different. 

I got to know the attendees before I began, and the presentation went well. Except for the part when I realized that the fan was blowing my cardigan aside, revealing my lack of underarm shaving to the room. But I don’t think they noticed, or minded. And I finished the presentation, and went home inspired.

I am becoming something different, and I couldn’t be happier about it.

So I’m thinking travel’s got to be something like that, too. Because man, my fear of public speaking used to be just as bad as a real fear of threat. It’s about doing it, doing it.

And so, here I am in the big city. And I’m going to make the most of it. And get out of my funk. And read my book on the Congo. And realize that I’m taking baby steps. And be proud of what I did this morning, instead of being upset with myself for the fear and anxiety I felt.

I am going to apply for an online writing job this weekend. I believe that community organizing and refugee resettlement is about perfect for a job for me. The only things that I want to specifically add is a focus on women, and writing. So I’m going to begin that project this year, using my writing and to highlight the voices of a population who is not easily able to advocate for themselves due to language, cultural barriers, dramatic change of lifestyle. I want to give a microphone to this population, because I want to share with others while I learn.

I’ve always felt that all the experience in the world is lost if you don’t share it with others. What’s the point, if you don’t turn it into art? I’ve been so caught up in this job for the past few months, I’ve really put off the art. I’ve been fulfilled daily by the people I meet, and the lengths that I am growing and surprising myself.

I’ve been focusing on the baby steps. I’ve been not letting myself think of things that are not in my range of focus. Awhile back, I would have no idea how to enjoy this city, knowing that I had to get back on a plane in a few days. But for some reason, that’s changed. And I had a moment of being upset and lost, but then I broke from the group, and found myself sitting in a cajun cafe surrounded by strangers. Engaging slightly. Just enough to acknowledge one another, but it seems we’re all here for the same reasons. We’ve got to have that time for ourselves.

This week I befriended one of the visiting volunteers, who is originally from New Orleans. I’m reminded of her now in this cajun themed cafe- a crocodile head on the wall in front of me. She now lives in Austin, where Carinne lives. I’m definitely going to go jam with both of them in the near future. The girl from New Orleans, Jo, and I, went to the Somali restaurant to pick up food for the rest of the group. We talked and talked, it was good to get to know her one on one. We talked about social justice, cities in the US, education, working with different populations as we waited in the restaurant for the food, Somali people all around us. As we were carrying goat meat and sambusa back to the car, she told me that she was so impressed because I seemed to mature, and so sure of myself. And it made me a little sad. 

“Jo, I am so fucking scared of everything,” I said.

Last night after work, I went out to eat with my dad at my favorite middle eastern restaurant. It was really nice, and I definitely want to start taking my parents out to eat more often. My dad and me talked about how he used to be terrified of planes too, but he got over it. 

After, I met Ben and Amanda at a free concert downtown. We only knew two of the band’s songs, and drank some green beer for St. Patrick’s day waiting for the ones we knew.

After the concert, we went back to pack for our flight- 10 pm at night.

I realize that I’m functioning best in this way. This running, running, running. It is wearing me out in its own way, but I don’t have time to think too far into anything, like I used to when I was so shy, and unable to soak up the world because I was unable to engage with it.

I have no barriers now, I spent the morning in the airport waving at the sleepy eyed travelers and attempting to find an early morning solidarity with them.

People are all around, opportunity is all around. There is no time for brooding, worrying or thinking too hard about anything. I’ve learned a new kind of thinking- a thinking by the seat of your pants. A thinking that really makes things happen in the world. A thinking that really can get people moving, mutual inspiration and constant motion with the turn of the Earth.

So we packed, took care of a few things around the apartment, made cinnamon coffee, and left for the airport around midnight.

Arriving in economy parking around 1- we caught the last bus for the night just as it was leaving for the airport. Our plan to sleep at the airport was foiled by the chair designs- which are strategically made so that you are unable to lay down on them. Pacing the terminal, I found two strange bookcases/shelves by two desks. The only possible place to sleep in that place. And we did sleep- for a good two hours or so. Our sleep interrupted only every twenty minutes by the intercom woman announcing the same mundane reports that no one else was in the airport to hear.

Almost left my laptop at security, got it a few minutes before we boarded the plane. Glad, glad, glad, as I feel that these next few days are going to be monumental to my beginning to write again. Something about being in a new city, something about feeling the fear of the unknown gets that adrenaline up. Gets that depression up a little as well- and seeking that known comfort in writing.

I feel like a new person right now- just twenty minutes ago I thought I should just move into my parents basement for the rest of my life because the world was too much.

It’s not too much.

It’s whatever I want it to hold. It’s whatever any of us want to focus on. You can’t see it all, you can’t think about it all, you can’t put the world on your back to change it all. You start where you’re at, you take good care of yourself and get in touch with your needs, and you take baby steps from there to create magic in every moment.


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