I spent this weekend making plans for next weekend. Yes, this may seem counter productive, but next weekend will be my last in the United States of America for at least a few months. I am excited (and a little nervous) to say that I will be leaving temporarily trading in the red, white, and blue for the, well, also red, white, and blue of the… ok, so that metaphor doesn’t really work. The point is: I’m actually going.
Sure, people go places all of the time – and many of them even go to the Dominican (the number one industry is tourism, in fact). But, as a person who spent many years unable to leave her bed (and, frankly, when she did nothing but chaos and one emotional break down after another ensued, so it was probably better for all involved that she did not), leaving to stay in another country for three months in order to do research and work with transitioning sex workers is not only an amazing opportunity, but the likes of which I spent many years seriously doubting would ever happen.
I love to travel. I have always loved to travel. It is part the experience of a new culture, part the new-ness of a place, and part an insatiable curiosity that drives me to want to try new things. I have had the opportunity to travel in the past: my aunt took me to england after high school, and I spent a summer touring Europe as a concert clarinetist in an orchestra. Both of these were amazing experiences that I would gladly repeat in an instant (not considering the fact that I haven’t picked up either of my clarinets in what is going on to be years now) – but this trip is different. This trip has a meaning behind it that is so much bigger than myself. This trip marks the beginning of my forage into urban ministry and work with those on the margins of society. This trip marks my return to graduate school. This trip is the very beginning of my path – the one that I know I’m supposed to continue on. It took me a long time and a lot of detours to find this place, but standing in it makes me feel eternally grateful to God and all of the amazing people in my life that have supported me in so many different ways – and still continue to do so, beyond all of my expectations.
I started putting things together for my trip tonight, and, as I stood in my room counting toiletries, checking things off of the countless lists I have made in effort to remain sane during this last week, and folding clothes, I had to stop because my emotions began to overwhelm me. I sat next to my open suitcase and cried. I cried for the people who I am going to miss while I am gone, for the people I will meet, for those I hope to help. I cried for the amazing opportunities that I have been offered, for things working out when I didn’t believe they ever would, and for the people who have helped me. I cried for how amazing and precious life is, and how grateful I truly am to be alive. I cried because I am living.