HKA

I forgot how horrible being outside of your comfort zone is. It sounds fun and adventurous and important when you’re not actually doing it. The mosquitos, moisture, and heat are things I can handle (thanks Bahamas/TCI). Hand washing clothes? No problem. Food? Easy. I eat everything. Tabo? …this definitely takes some adjusting to. Tagalog? Just stamp dumbass on my forehead. I’ve never had more respect for the difficulties that come with language and culture barriers. At this point, I cannot even begin to envision myself able to do my CRM (coastal resource management) job remotely well, or at all. Adjusting and integrating will take all of my attention for at least the first year. Yes, I’ve heard other Volunteers say this is true, but I’m really starting to understand why it takes so long. And get this- I probably won’t even be speaking Tagalog. These first few days have been incredibly challenging and often lonely, but it only gets easier from here, right? (Right???)

I don’t know what’s more difficult: being so uncomfortable in this unfamiliar environment that I can’t think of anything else, or finally feeling a small sense of comfort and only thinking of you. I must keep myself distracted because the latter is too easy to lose entire nights of sleep over. I have to do what I can to put you out of my mind in the early morning because if not, she shouts “go to him! Go to him!” so loudly that I am distracted the rest of the day by your absence (or, I guess, mine).

off day

Our first day off was today. I’ve set a routine of going to bed early and waking up around 6:30 to eat breakfast, do yoga, and shower. Routines set my body and mind up for success for retaining the copious amounts of information thrown at us daily. Today, people seem unsure of what to do with all of the downtime. I know it’s important, but I’d rather not have it. Emotions are starting to settle. The initial reaction of excitement to be in a new place with new people is now accompanied by a general feeling of unease. This is going to be incredibly difficult. I’m still excited to learn new information each day and to go to my first host family in 3 days. I’m meditating on taking things slowly and not speculating too much about what my site will be like. I have to get through training first.

Downtime is where you live: just before sleep, and all of today. Why do I keep leaving the people I love? Will I ever stop asking this question? Or doing it? It gets harder and harder every time. I am more reluctant to leave and more excited to return.

Having rediscovered a beautiful balance between staying present and staying hopeful, I am ridiculously excited to throw myself into training and spend every ounce of my energy on integrating into the community, with you always existing on the edge of my thoughts. If not, all I will do is think of you.

For a long time now I’ve felt unsure of myself and my decisions. Maybe it’s from unresolved trauma or just general confusion of being in my 20s, but it feels good to be sure of something. It feels good to be sure of you. Hopefully, I can gain more of that unapologetic confidence that I had an abundance of some years ago- this is my personal goal.

slowing down

Things are better these days, I don’t feel like I’m losing my mind. 30+ hours of no sleep. 6 hours of sleep. Another 30 of anxious wide awake transit (how did I not bat an eye on our 12 hour flight??). Then 8 hours sleeping like a dead person. Now, the sun is shining bright on this beautiful afternoon in the Philippines and my mind and body think it’s 4am. The food is good, everyone is nice. The people that sign up for, go to, and work for the peace corps are an amazing crew of intelligent, kind, and intuitive humans from what I’ve seen so far. I feel incredibly grateful to be here and to be welcomed so warmly by people I’ve never met. I am excited to meet more of the local community. I’m excited to get into language training and meet my first host family. I’m excited to learn more about coastal resource management here. I’m trying to stay present (and awake).

The rush of emotion is finally slowing down. I honestly am not sure how I dealt with how strong my feelings were just before leaving and in transit. I guess I didn’t do a great job because I barely ate or slept for days. I felt like I was in the middle of a dire crossroads, one that had the power to potentially damage the most important relationship of my life (not dramatic at all) and I’m still trying to catch my breath. By not changing my trajectory, I made a decision. I think this was the right thing to do; I will be a more confident and resilient person upon my return. I will be kinder and more giving or at least, I will work my hardest to be more of these things. I will be less skittish about not “living” before getting a real job and apartment. I’m tired of moving out of the country. This is all painfully difficult to understand how to handle and I hope no one else ever has go through it, although it would be a sad life to never feel so passionately about another human. Now, I will continue to be grateful for how busy and exhausted I am. There’s no time to be sad or anxious. But I was right about the mornings and the nights being times where I can’t get you out of my head. I think it will be this way for a very long time. The level of internal devotion I feel towards you is freaking me out. I might be delusional . . . but the thought of you comforts me so much and I don’t have the energy to care if it’s crazy.

I’m leaving but don’t leave me

I’m glad I’m analyzing my fears instead of shoving them away. I’ve had to do a lot of it in the past year. There is one specific fear that disguises itself as fear of loneliness and only surfaces when I am at my most stressed, my most exhausted, my most “not me”: fear of abandonment.

I could bring this back to my anxiety from 7th grade when I found out my mom had breast cancer the night before being sent to 2 weeks of sleep away camp with no contact with my family.

I could rationalize it and say it’s just a fear of change: change that everything will be so different when I get back that my life will be unrecognizable, change of my loved ones lives so drastically that they won’t need me in them anymore. This is why I always need to feel needed and helpful to my loved ones. They can’t leave if they need you right? They have to keep you around if they depend on you.

At the end of the day, this is pure fear of abandonment. I’m recognizing it, but it didn’t seem to stop the anxiety attack, which was made worse by days of no sleep and accidental stress-fasting. Then the biggest SoCal earthquake in 25 years right after? I know I feel a deep connection to the earth but come on.

I used to deal with this fear by closing myself off. By saying “it doesn’t matter if everyone moves on and no one cares about you because you have yourself and you don’t need others”, and this worked for awhile. But I don’t want to be so protective that I learn not to care. I want to care, and care deeply. It’s terrifying to care this much about people, to care this much about my relationship with one man that I considered scrapping the whole thing and not going to the peace corps. I mean, fear of abandonment is the reason I always leave right? If I leave first they don’t get the chance to do it to me! Is this just another decision made out of fear? Are these undue anxieties?

I’ve never questioned myself this much. And then to hear the words “if you have any reservations, do not get on that bus” during our first training . . . that made me feel sick to my stomach.

But PC did probably the best and most important thing they could have done: they had us outline our reasoning for commitment. I thought back to when I really committed last October, when I wanted this more than anything, in the height of a depressive winter, during the peak of confusion and fear about my life to come.

I trust this Charlotte. Even thought she didn’t know what the hell was going on, she always chooses to better herself, her career, and do everything she can to help others when she feels directionless.

I will continuously bring myself back to my purpose of doing this: I want to serve in a community where I am needed and helpful, I want to push myself to learn new skills of resilience, I want job training and career opportunities, I want to form deep personal connections with my fellow volunteers and host communities, I want to learn and change and challenge myself.

I will come back to these reasons when I am sitting in bed at night and feared grips me that I am too late, that by doing this I am effectively destroying any chance I have to be with someone I know I want to be with. That there will be no room for me in his life when I get back. I will sit with this sickening fear and try to trust myself that whatever happens will be alright. I will fit in to his life however much he wants me to when I return, or however little. I will trust that this is not the end, no matter how many times my brain tries to convince me it is.

maybe moment

There are no pictures from this moment.

There were no people watching, there is no concept of how it looked from afar, although I can imagine:

They would have seen you put your hand on my face, would have seen me close my eyes to feel more of your touch. They would have seen my smile.

They would have seen you pull me close, and then our laughter as we bumped heads.

They would have seen our lengthy sighs because all of the emotion needed more room, and deep breaths offered space.

They would have seen me cry because

1. I cry frequently and without hesitation

and

2. How does anyone keep all of that happiness inside?

I’m glad no one saw this moment. Even more glad that I remembered it and can write it down.

That’s the beauty of writing. Maybe this moment never happened or maybe parts of it did at different times with different people. Maybe it happened exactly like this. Do I care? Does anyone?

I love the person I am more and more each day.

I love this moment, real or fake, old or yet to come.

I am also not afraid to say, I love the thought of you in it.

“But why should I care?”

We cannot collectively socially evolve without generational wisdom. With each person born we start anew and face such similar emotional struggles as each person before. Unless we begin to honor the wisdom of those who have come before us, we will never know true progress.

Those who have been stripped of their generational wisdom have been wronged in the deepest of forms by their erasers, their oppressors. The young generations of the oppressors have a social and moral responsibility to honor and make space for those who their ancestors erased.

We are bound to those who came before us. Denying the atrocities of your ancestors is denying how you have come into being. It is not your responsibility to flog yourself for their actions; it is your responsibility to make space for the generational progress that would and should have been.

growing down

My mother tells me I was always brave.

That I would run from her safely held hand to climb trees and walls and things we passed on the street.

At first she was afraid, until she noticed my surefooted ease.

She tells me that I did not laugh or cry without good reason

And that I never spoke unless I had something important to say.

She says I did a lot of looking around and watching, learning.

That I was detail oriented about my interests.

All-consumed by passions.

I was sure of myself every step of the way.

Maybe I have some things to learn from Little Me.

What happened in this life that I am suddenly sure of nothing?

Where did I drop my courage?

What happened to the intensity with which I listened and observed?

Where is the thoughtfulness behind my words?

And why do they call it growing up when I had all the tools I needed the moment I came into this world?