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.
It takes a million milli-seconds to douse a fire set before your lifetime.
It rebuilds like an on-coming storm, overwhelming fear. Tragedy, mistakes, and hesitation over-power the timidity of fear.
Here we see again, like an old dance, once standing on our fathers toes to learn the moves,
We stand up and reach out proud & tall, Expectations breaching the clouds, beaming through like sun rays.
When it hits our faces, we smile, teeth white, in neat secure rows, defying what we’ve been told because in that moment we have a happiness we’ve never had before. This is not 9-year-old-watching-saturday-morning-cartoons happiness, this is a new kind we’ve made. Because we face this oncoming storm, waiting with the expectation of coming out on the other side.
While they’re walking, counting their pace,
We run ahead, around, and fly skywards, wind whipping around our faces.
We know we won’t crash and burn like the people before, because our hearts are more aware of their room to love, to conquer the unconquerable, to understand what others didn’t try to understand. This fuels us: this untapped potential.
So much has happened since I’ve posted LAST WEEK. I don’t even know where to begin. I’m on my phone and I have fat thumbs so I’m just going to give a brief update and expand later. Here are the basics:
1. I’ve taken a 21 hour flight from Dc to Indonesia. Well, not directly. A lot of hopping around, stiff backs, soft apologies,and then eventually not caring because sitting for HOURS has broken all of my manners (I lied I mean, come on, I’m me. I have this fear of inconveniencing people so I always try to accommodate others needs above my own. I’m definitely a people pleaser. I should most definitely take care of that….but wouldn’t that be an inconvenience for my therapist? The cycle never ends!)
2.I’ve been in Indonesia since Monday! It’s amazing, it’s beautiful, and it’s humid as hell. Of course there are setbacks but what doesn’t have it’s setbacks? I seriously can’t complain. Everyone has been so kind, courteous, open, and thoughtful. Here people GREET one another!!it is so refreshing to say “Selemat Pagi” (good morning) and have a genuine reply.
3. I’ve been in a continuous daze. I feel as if I’ve been shoved in front of a tv with my lids forced open being fed an overwhelming amount of information at one time. From the language learning, to meeting staff, learning about health, and learning about safety. It has been a lot to take in, but I’m confident that I’m retaining at least half of it.
4. My fellow volunteers are well educated, well-traveled people. I feel like I have so much to learn from them alone. It is hard to meet other people who share your passions, similar dreams, and similar intentions in our goals. It can be intimidating sometimes, because of how much I admire each and everyone of them. Sometimes I’ll talk to a fellow volunteer and they’ll speak of things they’ve already done and seen and I have so much respect for them
5.I’ll be meeting my host family at the end of the week!
Till next time,