Unsteady, unwavering uncertainty tumbles out in a quick, quivering breathe. I am not so many things and one of those things is sure. If there’s one thing I am steadily certain in, it’s my uncertainty. If uncertainty is certain it is one certain consistency in my life.
I am in this prime, precious time that I do not want. Anyone can take this crossroads from me. I’m bad at making decisions and I don’t “know” myself. The possibilities are so vast and simultaneously limited that I’m overwhelmed. I feel this rising nervous heat bubbling over into panic. Nervous, uncertain panic because “what if I make the wrong choice”.
Approaching college graduation, and 22, I didn’t feel the walls closing in. I only saw one, extreme way out. At that point, I had so many things not working in my favor: my mother was gone, my grades were barely passable, I didn’t have a home to go back to and I’d put all my eggs in this one unreachable basket. I wasn’t drowning with everyone else, I’d chosen to remove myself from the ocean. There was no safety net, emotional displacement guaranteed that. Plus, it had always been my only plan.
What I decided was barely a possibility happened and now I’m serving as a Peace Corps volunteer. And in the midst of everything that comes with peace corps life I felt comfortingly calm. It was nice to have a home again and, more importantly, a bed.
Now, I’m approaching the door of my service, with winding roads across the threshold. And I have to choose one–and they all lead somewhere. For the first time, I’ll be an adult in the traditional sense. There’ll be no one to hold my hand. There’ll be no mother to help me call customer service because I’m too afraid to call. Then, there’s the possibilities of rejection and failure and the pressure to further succeed if I achieve something and not fall into complacency. And there’s questions, and fears, and possibilities. I can’t do what I did at 22, I’m no longer emotionally missing from my body. So, what do I do?
I’ve heard the saying that “You don’t know what you are until you know what you’re not”. And I hope that’s true. I want that to be mantra. I want my life to be a lifetime of trail and error; of certain uncertainty. I want to feel this hopeful nervousness when I’m 35. I want to feel this vastness of possibilities when I’m 70. I wish I’d felt it when I was 22. But, here it is in full bloom at 24. And I’m ready to not be ready. Because, though I still don’t have the things that I didn’t have at 22, I have gained more than I can count. I’m not who I used to be. I am not 22 and depressed. I’m 24 and panicked and happier than I’ve been in a long time. And I love to loathe this prime, precious time that I’m in. Here’s to always being 24.
My ibu forgot a kettle that she left on I the kitchen & it burned the entire thing.My host sister came running to the front, gripping my hand urgently like I’d somehow get lost,to show me the burnt rubber handle detached from the smoking metal body in the middle of the backyard. You would’ve thought it was a holy burning bush the way she acted.
Now, it’s all my host family can talk about for the past three weeks. It’s become such a hot topic that I’ve been calling it “Kettlegate 2014”. Now the charred handle lies in the middle of the yard like the remnants of an elephant graveyard. Even the four new kittens and their wide curious eyes can’t top Kettlegate 2014. It’s unstoppable.
“Hitam manis” (Indonesian for sweet black) is not a compliment. When you first hear it, it may feel like one, but after the 100th reminder that you are the “black” exception to a long-held standard ideal of beauty, it is a slap to the face. And the sting resonates long after the words are spoken.
It’s the same as hearing “oh you’re pretty for a dark skinned girl”. Sometimes it’s said like the words are a gift of light I’ve been searching for in a dark room of insecurity and uncertainty. Quite the opposite. It is not a confirmation of beauty; it feels like words urging me to hold tighter to the foundation of what I consider beautiful: An all encompassing, infinite beauty. An all-color, all-shape beauty. I am not “Hitam manis”. I will not claim something that negates someone else, my history and the history of others.
I am beautiful. Plain and simple.
The last I held my mothers hand, her fingers intertwined with mine. Our hands were exactly the same size. It was like holding my own hand.
I realized ,in some way, my sisters and I were stepping into a place that my mother was moving away from. Her hand was my hand and it’d never fit so perfectly before.
Since then, I’ve looked everywhere for that fit.We love those who fit the peculiar voids within us, our hollow wounds. We love to fill the spaces old loved ones left behind. This filling feeling that I feel is never permanent (though it lingers). It comes and goes in comfortable familiarity with friends or strangers, a connection brought on by raw openness and honesty, and in moments of reflection. I live for those moments, but that doesn’t mean I feel lost in the between. Seeking these moments of connection, between the spaces, is thrilling. It’s an adventure that began the first time I held my mothers hand and mine only wrapped around one of her fingers. Though, I don’t physically hold everyone’s hand that I meet, it is in that moment of authenticity and genuine happiness that I feel the warmth of the spirit of humanity’s hand, tugging mine to wander the uncharted. I will follow.
It is so easy to lie to yourself. I’ve been taking the easy way out for years. I call it “self-preservation through denial”.
After 8 years, it stopped working. Life slapped me hard and I didn’t recover fast enough. The lies I told myself for years were exposed and they couldn’t hide from my scrutiny.
Rather than facing a hard truth about myself and then deciding to re-bury it like I’ve done hundreds of times, I pushed it to the forefront. I acknowledged it as a truth. It was a brand new feeling: knowing exactly who I am at the moment and what I do not know and what I want to know.
It was a huge relief. I was tired of treading lightly in my head.
I write this to say that it is so very,very important to be honest with yourself. Feel what you feel in that moment in its entirety.
It was in these moments of honesty that I formed a new kind of preservation that was all about becoming a better version of myself. It was through this process of honesty that I changed my lifestyle. I ate more (I hardly ate food before) and when I ate food it was good, good food. Real food. I exercised often despite every excuse I made for myself. I walked, dance, kick-boxed and moved more than I had than I had in my 22 years of life. Nothing that happened in my life, I decided, would get in my way. I let go of placing blame on the people I’d blamed for my choices. This time, even with team-support from family, I did not stop when they stopped for whatever reason. I didn’t want to look in the mirror and see all of the empty promises I made myself. It was never easy, it still isn’t, but I think it gets easier. The difference between me now in 2013 and 2012 isn’t just the 60 pound weight loss:(1) I have a much stronger, more urgent need to pursue my goals, (2) I am much more grateful for everything in my life (3) I am happier because I was honest about the things that made me unhappy.
I was waiting for a magnificent change in my life. It took honesty for me to realize that I’m waiting on borrowed time.if there’s something you want, go get it. If you think you can’t get it, try to get it anyway. What’s the worst that could happen? Now that you know all of the things that could possibly happen: do it anyway. Feel the fear and go.
My biggest concern (Like, my top priority…honestly, maybe my only concern because I’m a “smart cookie”) was hair care while living abroad. Like, I know that “I am not my hair”, but my hair has really become an extension of my identity. It’s amazing, it’s like play-doh, a free form of expression, in any form. So, thank the heavens for the internet and my sisters because ,without them, I’d be running around with unhealthy, brittle hair. Here are the two things I’ve learned so far:
I absolutely LOVE coconut oil. It smells heavenly, it’s versatile and keeps my hair from dry-land.
2. Bobbi-pins are my life and I have not found them in Indonesia, yet.
So, what are we gonna take away from this, boys n’ girls? This: I really like hair (:
Which, I guess I could have just said from the beginning.
I like to write notes in my phone. Sometimes I write what I think of people, quotes I hear, and basically any random thing that comes to mind. A week before I left for my permanent site, I wrote how I felt about the amazing PCV’s, Indonesians, and people I have met on my journey so far. I read it to a few PCV friends as my gift on the Angkot (a form of public transportation in Indonesia) on our way to the Swearing-in ceremony. Here it is:
I learned how important it is to receive validation. To not just know you exist, but that you Live and live with a purpose. To hear that You’re here and you more than matter. Receiving encouragement gives you permission to break free from your self-doubts and allows you to move forward. Today I learned the power of words and how they can either build you up or tear you down.
I met genuine people today. Today I met people with stars in their eyes, and hearts wide open. I saw them, and any walls I’d put up at the moment crumbled. Have you ever met someone so authentic, and so open that you are just drawn to them? You want to be the very best of yourself and you know that they will accept you in any form of who you are. That’s who Met today.
I want to heal the damaged parts of me and move towards living authentically. Thank you for leading by example by being you. I feel brave, I feel loved. I feel genuine joy. I hear echoes of laughter. For the first time in five years, I am genuinely happy. You’ve left a far deeper impact than you know.