Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Gateways (The Final 30 DPC Post in America!)

  Today is my last 30 Day Photo Challenge post in America. Like I said yesterday, this has been such a wonderful creative exercise for photography’s sake but also in terms of me mentally and internally preparing for Africa this summer. Should you care to have a look, I compiled all the photographs onto one page under the pages on this blog sidebar (look to your right, or just click here). As it draws to an end, I wanted to capture the essence of the entire project in one image. After my religion class this morning (John’s back!) and some continued conversations with friends I have decided on the following prompt:

Day 30: A Photograph of My Reality Right Now.

  Prior to coming to Mount Holyoke I was made a promise to myself, a promise to treasure every second of being in this beautiful, beautiful place. And I believe I have fulfilled this promise thus far, and I fully intend to continue to uphold it in the coming three years. But it’s just that- I only have three years left! Where did these treasured moments flee to?

  But these moments, precious as they are and have been to me, do not lose their significance as the year comes to a close. Because I am blessed enough to know and realize that I am going on to another enormous adventure this summer in Uganda.

  As I’ve expressed in this blog before, I am not nervous about going to Uganda. Well, not really. There are the nerves about medications and sickness and getting on my planes on time, but no twisted stomach knots. I am absolutely terrified, however, of who I am going to be coming back to the states on August 15th. How will I change? What will I retain? Will I even want to return?

  A few weeks ago I had a lovely dinner with one of my dearest friends, Saran, with whom I shared my anxieties. When I expressed my nervous restlessness pertaining to my return to the states post-Uganda, she looked me very intensely in the eyes and said “Lizzie, you must live in the world you have been given. This is your reality right now. Live into your reality right now.”

  Thus, the prompt for today, because besides being blown away by the incredible wisdom expressed by my incredible friend, there was something of an inner stillness she was expressing. There is something so important and necessary and indeed right about living in the present tense. It’s embodied in so many phrases and so many ways and means, but the validity and value of living in the now cannot be underscored. Yes, big picture plans are crucial. Trust me, I’m the one who always has a big picture plan (whether I hold myself to it or not, however, is rather questionable). But if I sit here worrying about who I will be four months down the road, then my time here is wasted and my promise spent. Dually, if I come back from Uganda and refuse to see the gift I have in being here than I will have lost part of what is given to me in Africa. Saran herself told me, “There is nothing that I can give you that Africa cannot.”

  My reality right now are impending exams and papers. My reality right now is my friends and roommates who need me and whom I love and need. My reality right now is a room full of showers and trash cans and grocery stores full of food.

 When I sat in on the Child Voice International panel, one of the Mount Holyoke students who had spent her summer in Uganda talked about being peacefully restless. In this, she was exploring her anger and frustration at being back in the USA and struggles with reconciling her two worlds. But out of need to get her college education and to carry on, she eventually came to the realization that being “peacefully restless” would allow her to live into her calling post-Uganda while living in the present tense. I was drawn to her phrase, and to the idea of being restless and not taking what we are given in daily meals and government policies for granted. There is a resilience in deciding to not be complacent, in determining that we must question and prod and deem things to be unjust or unfair. But if we are endlessly at odds with all around us, no prodding or yelling or begging for change will make anything happen.

  Today I had my religion class again. Our professor was in South Africa for two weeks for a conference on nonviolence, which was incredible for him (and vicariously, us) but also a bit of a downer because I really love that class and a week and a half without it felt a little empty. Nevertheless, he regaled us today with stories from his wonderful journey. In South Africa, he met the one and only Ela Gandhi, granddaughter to my hero and revolutionary, Mahatma Gandhi.

  As he was telling us how they bonded over Indian food in Durban (and I was coming nearer and nearer to fainting out of sheer awe), he told us of her call to each young person coming into the wider world. He, and Ela with him, were telling us that we stand at a crossroads between two universes in our own world. “There is a world out there,” he said, “where the theoretical models we have discussed and been exploring need to be applied. And I cannot wait to see what you do.”

  So with all of these enormous ideas colliding in my head as I prepare to undergo the lovely two week panic that is exams and paper-writing on campus, I have settled on my image.

  This is a street sign found on campus, next to the memorial to our founder, Mary Lyon. The street name, Gateway Road, is perhaps metaphoric in its original intent but also serves a more practical purpose: this is the street that follows behind the gate to the college.

  I am at the crossroads in my life. I stand at a gateway, in an arch that protects me in my ivory tower from the cares and concerns of paying bills and insurance but also is nourishing my mind with knowledge, food of the soul. I am preparing to embark on a journey that is going to be extremely wonderful and difficult and breathtaking and, in all likelihood, fly by all too quickly. But the thing about gateways is this: they allow us to choose our own paths. Here’s hoping I choose well.

Thanks for everything, friends. You matter in this world. 

current jam: "judas" lady gaga (so good. the verdict has been passed.) 
best thing in my life right now: religion class, duh!
days until departure: 35

1 comment:

  1. cool beans, lizzie. This was a great blog post, and I love the picture. I hope you have a great time in Uganda-what will you be doing exactly?
    My RC will be in Uganda this summer as well, working with burn victims at a hospital (I'm not exactly sure where) to help create a support system for them. She's also from Chapel Hill! Coincidences...