Tag Archives: social justice

….But You Gotta Have Friends (and Family)

imageSo I’m kind of an “independent woman,” whatever that means. Like I’ll go eat a meal by myself at a restaurant if I want to so I’m told that makes me independent. Whoop dee doo. And I like being like that. I like being able to say – hey, I’m going to hike to the top of that hill tomorrow morning, and then doing it. If someone wants to come with me, that’s awesome. If they don’t, that’s okay too.

Then I took this really long trip, and I was traveling mostly by myself for an extended period of time. Though I visited friends in all the cities that I traveled to, I spent a lot of time alone while my friends were working or while I was in between places.

Sometimes it was awesome, like when I discovered this secret park next to an Episcopalian church in downtown Charlotte on a Sunday afternoon. It was sunny outside and I just sat under a tree, ate an apple, and watched water coming from a fountain with a statue of St. Someone. Or when I was traveling on the night bus to Boston from D.C. and I was looking out the window at the signs all lit up as we were going through some random town, and I thought that I could do this forever, just never get off the bus and go through towns at night when they’re all deserted and that would be my life.

I did a ton of reflecting on the trip, which was great. How often do you get to flip back through the pages of your life and try to get some perspective on your own story and what it sounds like when you play it back? I’ve also had time to do some reflecting post-trip on the trip itself, which has also been good. In fact, I’m about done reflected out. So I realized something, and I think I’ve known it before, but I think I know it more viscerally now than I have.

Without my friends and family, my trip would have been pretty lame. Those relationships made everything worthwhile. Sure travel is awesome, but after a while it’s just you in a different city sitting at a different coffee shop and you’re wondering why you wanted to do this in the first place.

Before this trip I was seriously considering moving to New York or Chicago in a year, kind of to pursue acting and improv, but mostly because I felt like I was “done” with San Francisco and getting  bored here. Or I thought of moving to Portland or Austin or Asheville, anywhere to see something different, to be someone different. Then on my trip I saw a lot of places and recognized those kinds of thoughts for what they were: a chasing after the wind, an external solution to an internal problem, which was my fear of missing out on something “better” and my fear of commitment.

People, community and relationships are what give places depth. And community takes a while to build, and it can be difficult, and there’s a lot of fear. There’s always fear.

That said, I believe that community, relationships, and love are the best and highest pursuits in life. Without this, everything I do or want is empty, a chasing after the wind.

I am extremely grateful for my community and I feel undeserving of their support and love. My friends and family housed, clothed and fed me while I was traveling and I am lucky to have such incredible people in my life. I’m also extremely cognizant that I didn’t get here by myself, and by here I mean in San Francisco setting off to pursue dreams of improv and comedy and God knows what else.

At every piece of my journey, step for step, someone supported me. When I wanted to go out of state for college, my parents said “Right on.” When I went to Egypt, they were like, “You gotta do you.” When I got lonely or sad, my friends were like, “You’re going to make it.” When I moved to San Francisco, I stayed with my friends for almost two months without paying rent because I had no money. When I felt like I was failing because I wasn’t following my dreams, my then boyfriend had more faith in my abilities than I did. When I thought I couldn’t do it, my friends and family said that I could. I owe them more than I’ll ever be able to repay, and the thing is, they don’t expect me to.

This is the kind of love that no one deserves. I don’t know what the rest of my life holds for me, but I do know this: that I have been blessed beyond anything I could imagine, that love has fueled any kind of success I’ve had and that my claim on it is so small as to almost be negligible.

And I am also extremely conscious of the fact that so many other people have different stories than this. In place of love and support, they’ve had abuse and negligence. They’ve been told they couldn’t do it. They’ve been told they were unlovable and unworthy. They’ve been cut off from the kind of resources I’ve always had access to because of situations outside of their control.

So I look at my life and what I’ve been able to do, and I see now that I’ve been set up for success where others have been pushed towards failure. Like I said, I don’t know what my future holds but I want to live to see a different world, one where so much doesn’t depend on whose womb you come out of.

That’s what I want.

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We Can Make America Better

Sunsets can make anywhere beautiful.

I graduated from college on Sunday, May 22, 2011 and one week later I was in Boston Logan International, throwing my sheets away to make weight for baggage and wondering what I had gotten myself into.

Within twenty four hours, I was standing in the lobby of the Mayfair Hotel in Cairo, suppressing the urge to cry as I begged the concierge to let me check in without my passport, which I had left at the airport when I was filing a claim for my lost baggage. No possessions and no identity, I was ready to start the year.

Things looked up from there, however. I made friends with people in my program, found an apartment despite the fact I had never been to Cairo and didn’t speak Egyptian Arabic, and never died on the Metro (by asphyxiation) on my way to class.

That being said, Cairo was not an easy place to live for me. My (subjective) opinion of Cairo is that it’s not a great place for humans to live in general. There’s no room for them and the poverty crushes everyone. Though I had traveled before to the Middle East, to countries with dictatorships and to places with poverty (including the U.S.), I never felt it like I did in Cairo.

This was a people that had been robbed of their money, of their dignity, and in some cases of their humanity. The former regime stole billions of dollars, exploited and oppressed the people, and dis-empowered them completely through poor education programs, through intimidation, and through endless lies.

As the year went by, I slowly became more resentful of the city, of the pollution, of the seemingly endless harassment, of the constant nuisances, and at the bottom of it all I was reminded daily that I, through no power of my own, had been born in America to a nice middle class family. I was a walking symbol of power and of global injustice. The fact I carried an American passport gave access to more respect and opportunities than most Egyptians would ever get.

When people in the states ask me, “Did you love Cairo?” or something about the Muslim Brotherhood or if it was safe over there, it’s hard for me to know how to respond because these questions don’t mean anything to me.

I want to talk about a people crushed by the boots of an exploitative government and how repression reflects itself in every social facet. I want to talk about women’s rights and equality in the Middle East and in the United States of America. I want to talk about how ignorance affects political systems in America and in the Middle East (I’m not saying that people who support the Muslim Brotherhood are necessarily ignorant. That’s a different blog post). I want to talk about how violent crime is more prevalent in many American cities than in Cairo.

Usually I come back from abroad slightly more patriotic. I want to kiss the sweet American earth and hug Uncle Sam while setting off firecrackers and singing “God Bless America.” It was the same this time but different.

As I looked at the rows of American flags in the Chicago O’Hare International Airport and listened to patriotic music in the immigration line, I kept on thinking, “We can make this better.”

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