It has been a LONG time since I’ve last posted. In fact it was before we left for Arizona. In that time, I have been struggling with my responsibility and my role as an advocate and what that looks like for my life. I finally finished my journal today and I wanted to share it in hopes that my experience might help someone else struggling with their role and their passion. If anything, I want people to know that it is ok to struggle, as long as you don’t give up. Never give up.
“Never be afraid to fall apart because it is an opportunity to rebuild yourself the way you wish you had been all along.” –Rae Smith
It is 2 months later and I have just finished writing about the last day of our trip. While on the trip I could never make myself slow down and discipline myself to put my experience in this journal. I was so much happier talking it out with the group.
It’s weird because I am a writer. It was one of my first distinct passions in life. But it was daunting to reflect on his experience when everything felt so big and complex at times. How could I get everything down? The detail, the meaning, how I felt, what I perceived, my journey to understudying, the look on their faces. Even now that I have finally made myself tackle it all, I know I have left out so much. I hated the feeling of tackling everything alone on paper, so instead I talked it out.
I wouldn’t do it differently. Those conversations gave me so much and I wouldn’t want to miss them now, but it upsets me how long I have put off my own work and reflection. Now that all this time has passed, I see the true value of this journal.
First, I should have known this as a writer, but putting it in pen makes it permanent. Thoughts and memories are beautiful but they are fleeting and easily erased. Pen to paper makes it real. It makes you go back and remember more. It makes everything feel more concrete and within reach. It solidifies experiences and feelings. Until I had finished writing it all down, it almost seemed as though it had never happened. It was easier to run from my responsibility as an advocate and from growing more and keeping what I learned in me and my actions. Writing it all down made me confront all of that again. It made me OWN my experience.
Second, While better late than never, I know I lost a lot of time and opportunity by not taking ownership of my experience and the responsibility as someone who KNOWS, sooner. When I was running from writing and reflecting, I was running from everything else too. I stopped posting in this blog, reading articles, and truly engaging in class. I started to shut down and give up. I was ashamed and I was pushing everything else away. And I had so many other things on my plate that it was easy to hid and make excuses.
I regret not pushing myself harder. I know I have missed out on so much. I wish I had realized that this journal was like anything else in advocacy: you take it one step at a time. If i had even written a little bit each day, I could have kept myself better engaged and not let it build up to to 2 months later where I was embarrassed and scared to tackle it all. Each day would, each sentence would have kept me going. That would have made a difference.
It was also like advocacy in the sense that my journal didn’t seem like a big deal. What did it matter what I wrote, how much I wrote, or if I wrote? I didn’t see what difference it made, but like advocacy as a whole, every little action matters and affects something else. Every conversation and every story you tell matters and travels in some way. For me, my journal was my responsibility in my advocacy that I was running away from and that was keeping me from truly engaging. And the less I engaged the less I was engaging and educating others. The less I was supporting my group and pushing them to keep going too. The more I was committing the biggest crime of all–letting the trip and those experiences mean nothing. It upsets me to think I had let it get this far, that that was almost a possibility.
So this is my apology to Aaron, my class, the friends we made, and their loved ones…and myself: I am sorry for getting overwhelmed and running. I am sorry for not taking responsibility sooner.
Though my journey this semester has been imperfect, I just hope what I learned through getting here can offer enough to make up for it.
Although I can be honest with myself and you, and say this might not be my life’s true passion, I recognize my responsibility to this advocacy for the rest of my life. Because here’s the thing: I know. and I know too much to ever turn my back now. No matter where my life takes me, I will live up to my responsibility to never forget, to share, to keep my eyes open, and to speak up where I am. It is the very least I can do to own my experience and do my part.