This is the longest I have gone since starting my blog without posting anything, and there’s a simple reason: I have had nothing to say.
I thought that if I moved to an exciting place and started an exciting job, I would in no time have an exciting story. In reality, almost the opposite happened: I was so busy with my new move and my new work that I didn’t have the time to stop, to think deeply, to feel intensely. That was an issue, because the writing I do can only come out of moments of jarring realizations or perspective-giving comparisons. It turns out that moving “forward” doesn’t automatically make a person wiser… so what was I supposed to do now?
There’s a Ted Talk about how, to most effectively be alive, we should try often to be scared. The logic goes something like this: biologically, life is what happens when your heart is pumping, your blood is flowing, your brain is awake and your eyes are opened. Therefore, we need to put ourselves in situations that make us feel all of these things in order to do our best at being alive. It just so happens that these things come from moments that challenge and surprise and scare us.
This week, for the first time in a long time, my life was full of those moments. I allowed myself to hope that our country was sprinting toward positive change, and I allowed myself to cry and to hurt when we slammed straight into a wall. I allowed myself to grieve with people I didn’t know, to process with young people dedicating their lives to service. I reconnected with old friends and family and we allowed ourselves to share hopes and fears and dreams. This week has been light on work, heavy on hope and heart and fear and pain and love and love and love. That’s why this week I finally have something to say.
I have this thing where I believe that things are good. I believe that nobody would have created a world that didn’t have the capacity to be beautiful. I believe that there’s always a way to be better, to be stronger. I believe that love will win and fear will lose. These beliefs are the core of my being, my spiritual oxygen. And this week, when our country chose fear over love, that idealistic core was rocked. More than disappointment, more than fear, I felt devastating confusion; I didn’t know how to believe the things that make me want to be alive and also believe what’s happening in the world that I see with my wide-open eyes.
As this happened, I was in a different city with a whole bunch of people who hadn’t expected such a blow. We were gathered for a conference and the entire group was so distraught that the day’s programming was canceled. Part of me wanted to disappear from sight and dissolve into my own confusion, but instead I accepted an invitation to travel with new acquaintances to high schools to hear about the day’s experiences there. In speaking with educators and idealists, I found my own voice. I found solace. I was surrounded by thoughtfulness, empathy, and hope. But most of all, I was welcomed by people I had never met simply because we all cared.
I don’t typically find it easy to forge connections but on that day it was effortless. I found that honesty and a true desire to understand another person’s experience are really all we need to open up with one another. I practiced those same principles when I reunited later with old friends: our ground rule was honesty, and we learned about pieces of each other that none of us had been able to share- or hear- before. I even achieved one of my 101 Goals: buy a meal for a homeless person and eat it with them. In a Philadelphia Dairy Queen, I connected with a 59-year-old woman over health and love and travel and surprise birthdays but mostly over the fact that we were simply two people trying to add a little bit of good to this world.
That’s why now I have something to say, and that’s why my heart is full. This week my world took blow after blow, but redirecting these hits into honesty and connection has made my heart pound, my brain awaken, my eyes open more than any job or any city ever could.
I may not have answers about all of the things I’d like to learn from life. I don’t even have answers for everything life threw at me this week. But one thing I know is that we cannot be equipped to take life’s punches without a sense of what kind of life we’re each fighting to lead in the first place. At least for me, it turns out that that life is not about where I am or what I do for a living. Life is about being scared and being pushed and turning challenge into change, turning fear into love. That’s where I find my life, and that’s where I find my story.