I know, I know: it’s been a long time. But you look just as good as ever, and I’m dying to fill you in on the past few weeks of my life.
I was able to finally complete training, and was assigned to the Tibet portion of the Global Passport program. ( I love saying “I’m in charge of Tibet.” Although I’m not sure the PRC would be too happy about it.) I get to make Momos, scream “Hold the Dogs!” in Tibetan, and help construct electric fences. I know I’m still vague about the program, but it’s really nothing I can explain. We go over relief work, development work, and address the causes of hunger and poverty. You would simply have to come here and see everything to understand.
Hopefully my first group did just that. I was uber nervous, but they were fantastic- a group of college kids from the University of Wisconsin- Madison. Kids (even if most, okay all, were older than me) like them renew my faith in my generation. I know that all of us aren’t lost or ignorant, but it’s sometimes hard to remember that when looking around at my peers. (Or in the mirror.)
The biggest reason it has taken me so long to update was my visit home last weekend. Up to that point I was feeling amazing. I am surrounded by rivers, mountains, and fresh air. I’ve seen life come into this world daily. I’ve experienced the culture of the south, and have heard stories of heroes. Going home after my group, I thought I would take all of this with me. I was surprising my mother for her birthday; we had planned a surprise “Donny and Marie Osmond” theme party for her. What could possibly go wrong? My grandmother spilled the beans when I was just hours from home. Three weeks of secrecy were out the window. But, okay, mom just won’t be as surprised now. She’ll still be happy to see me, and she still has no idea about her party. After visiting my family and resting up a bit, I decided to go out with my friends. That was the mistake. The experience made me think of one of my favorite quotes by Karen Kaiser Clark: "Life is change. Growth is optional. Choose wisely." I knew that the relationship between my friends and I would eventually become strained. They’re in school, I’m not. Some of them still live with at home, I don’t. Up until a few months ago I had an entirely different philosophy on life, and we all shared that. Now that I’ve been gone- away from Rolla, away from the parties, away from the grind- I’ve realized that everything has changed. As soon as I saw their faces, I felt all of the growth I’ve made in the past few months disappear. I was back to the weak, vulnerable, anxious girl I’ve always been, and I didn’t like it one bit. My stomach started acting up, something it hasn’t done since I’ve moved to Arkansas. And at that moment all I wanted to was to return to the Ranch. Home really is a relative term. I thought I would always think of 4L farms as my home, and in a way it is- my family is there, my mother’s cooking is there, my cows are there- but it’s just not the same. The smell has changed. The furniture is rearranged. I don’t recognize the names brought up during dinner gossip. It’s just not the same. This is not to say that I didn’t enjoy some of my time there. It was great to see all of my family. It was great to see certain friends, the ones that I’ve recently acquired in this bizarre point of my life, and realize that not everything was lost. I was able to cook a meal for my brother, his fiance, and a great friend from the campaign. I was able to eat PIE at a glorious local joint. But despite all of the good, the visit still left a bad taste in my mouth.
As a result, I was a funk all last week. I mostly kept to myself, and utilized my favorite vice: reading. I didn’t sleep well, I didn’t eat well, I just wasn’t the same girl who hopped into the blue Ford Focus Thursday afternoon, headed North. So this weekend I decided to snap out of it. I spent all of yesterday in my pajamas. (I did break out jeans in the late night, to make an appearance at a dance party.) I read two books. I watched two movies. I napped a lot. It was just a very much needed day of thought, indulgence, and rest. Today I woke up and the sun was shining. I drove to Little Rock with my church companion, Neil, and we went to St. Michael’s. I talked to some good people, and then stuffed my face with delicious Indian food. Then when I got back on the ranch, I almost resolved to repeat yesterday- watch another movie, read another book. But the sixty-degree weather and ever-so-yellow sunshine changed my mind. I trekked down to the Ranch’s version of The Secret Garden: the Holly Grove. It’s this beautiful, secluded spot in the bottoms by the river. There’s an oxbow lake surrounded by Holly Trees. There are birds, bugs, and even a rotting water buffalo head. It’s just completely wonderful, completely peaceful, and it was exactly what I needed. I brought along a camera, a notebook, and a book. I ended up taking a few snapshots, but mostly I laid on top of a picnic table and soaked up the sun. I closed my eyes and listened to the birds and bugs around me. And then I did something I’ve only done a few times before: I said the Om mantra. I took in a deep breath, and with each exhale, I released a very natural, raw Om. I did this three times. And then I just was. With each exhale after that, I let myself sink into the table, the Earth. I got to the point where I felt so connected with my surroundings that I swear I could feel the movement of the Earth. And from that moment on, my funk has disappeared. My nose may be runny, my eyes may be watery, but I’m happier now than I have been all week. All of that growth I feared I had lost has been restored, and then some.
I know many will read this, namely my family, and think that this is a load of hippie bullshit. But I know that you love me enough to say “Oh, that’s nice. I’m glad you are happy.” or as most of you say when referring to my move to New York “Oh, that’s great. I know you really wanted that. It will be an interesting experience.” I can imagine that my life may seem a little bizarre, a little different to most right now. I feel like most of my family secretly thinks I should be going to RTC or ECC, living at home while pursuing a degree. But I think they also know that that I wouldn’t be happy doing that. Or scratch that- I might be happy, but I wouldn’t be the best possible version of me. I would be the version of me that is just getting by, doing what everyone else wishes her to do. I really do thank every body for being there for me the past year, and letting me go my own way. It took you letting me go for me to really make all of this happen- if you would have shown too much resistance, I would have talked myself out of this. So remember that, please, when I’m embarking on future adventures. I know the city life or rough neighborhoods may not be the life you want to live in six months, but it’s an experience I want to have. I may end up living on forty-acres or in a town of 20,000 in the future, but that’s something I need to decide on my own. Coincidentally Cat Stevens’ “Father and Son” is playing in the background right now.
This next month is going to be a busy one for me. I updated my iCal today, and woah! We have two groups, and I get to reunite with my long lost love, Ruben. Living not too far from Little Rock, I have decided to use the city to my advantage. The Clinton School of Public Service is having a bevy of lecturers this month, and I have a seat to the following:
April 8, 2009 Joseph Nye, "Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics"
Joseph Nye, a professor and former dean of Harvard's Kennedy School, is the author of "Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics," among other books. He has served as Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, Chair of the National Intelligence Council, and Deputy Under Secretary of State for Security Assistance, Science and Technology.
April 15, 2009 Will Pearson, president and cofounder, mental_floss
Will Pearson is cofounder of mental_floss, a bi-monthly magazine that presents facts and trivia in a humorous way. Pearson and his friend Mangesh Hattikudur first published the magazine while they were students at Duke University.
April 17, 2009 James Carse, "The Religious Case Against Belief," part of the Arkansas Literary Festival
Religious scholar James Carse will discuss his book, "The Religious Case Against Belief," which argues that "belief" has corrupted religion and spawned violence around the world.
April 21, 2009 Michael Dukakis, former Governor of Massachusetts
Michael Dukakis is the former governor of Massachusetts and 1988 Democratic presidential candidate who was defeated by George H.W. Bush. Since June 1991, Dukakis has been a distinguished professor of Political Science at Northeastern University and visiting professor at the School of Public Affairs at UCLA.
April 27, 2009 Dr. Phil McGraw
Dr. Phil McGraw is the host of "Dr. Phil," the second highest rated daytime talk show in America. The show has been making headlines and breaking records since its September 2002 launch, when it garnered the highest ratings of any new syndicated show since the launch of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" 17 years prior.
April 28, 2009 Jonathan Alter, Newsweek senior editor
At Newsweek, Jonathan Alter has written the widely acclaimed "Between The Lines" column since 1991, examining politics, media and society at large. He covered the past five presidential campaigns and has frequently interviewed American presidents and other world leaders.
I still have two days left in March though, for which I need to prepare myself. I’m off to hit the sack, and hopefully soak up some sweet dreams.
P.S. It's not in Courier. You are welcome, Mr. P.