Week after week for months now I’ve had the intention of sitting down at my computer – in the evening with a calming mug of tea, or a weekend morning with a cup o’ coffee – and just writing, just at long last getting a bit of a blog post going. But it’s been difficult to put into words all of the waves that have moved me since coming to DC. It’s been half a year, but it feels like so much longer. It’s been half a year, but it feels like just yesterday I was in Rochester getting ready to start a new chapter in my life. I think back through the weeks and months and can’t even begin to remember all of the little ups and downs; the victories and upsets; the holistic feeling that I am in the exact right place at the exact right time, and the restlessness of feeling like nothing is quite right in the world.
They say that one changes immensely during service in the Peace Corps (or during any extended experience abroad), but the biggest changes are realized upon return, as one navigates a world they once knew and tries to fit themselves back into it. I certainly felt it when I returned, when I went back to Rochester and realized there was no room for me in the mold of myself that I had left back in 2015. But I’ve felt it in a different way here in DC. I do feel more of a freedom to be the person I became during Peace Corps, but it’s still so difficult to be okay with everything around me and how I fit into it all. Those moments when it seems that I’m in the exact right place at the exact right time exist but are short-lived as I question what my place should really be in this great mess of a world.
One thing that has been a comfort is city life. I know it’s basically a contradiction to my personality, as one who loves the natural world and needs the peace of green places and wide-open spaces, but I love living in the city. I’ve realized that I need to be able to step through my door every day into the grounding reality that there are so many people in this world and each and every one of them has their own story – their own dark places, their own triumphs, their own unique relationships, and their own way of continuing day after day to navigate through life. I feel a sense of comradery with the masses, with the strangers I walk past. We come from so many different places, but we are all simply taking each day as it comes: waking when we wake, sleeping when we sleep, and in our own ways embracing the cycle – and both the unexpected and the inevitability that comes with it.
“My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.” – Desmond Tutu
“We must see in every person a universe with its own secrets, with its own treasures, with its own sources of anguish, and with some measure of triumph.” – Elie Wiesel
Seeing the combination of this diversity and this unity, and being a part of it, gives me solace. Especially while processing the death of a friend recently, seeing the resiliency of humanity, and knowing that everyone else faces the darkness too, helps immensely. We may cry, feel rage and hate, dive deep with hopelessness, but we can choose to see the light in each day, even if it’s just in the littlest things.
Sometimes, though, I’ve realized that it’s the light in the littlest things that can also get me – seeing pure and simple kindness or love or beauty: an elderly couple, dressed to the nine (or their version of it), slowly walking down the street hand in hand, makin’ their way… the look in a mother’s eyes as she kisses the top of her baby’s head… the way a pair of mourning doves sit side by side on a branch, cooing to each other, or maybe just to themselves… the taxi driver who pulls to the side of the road to help a homeless man collect his belongings that blew away in a gust of wind…
That happy moments can make me sad, this contradiction, is something I’ve questioned for a long while. But I recently found a quote that helps me to understand:
“It’s so curious: one can resist tears and ‘behave’ very well in the hardest hours of grief. But then someone makes you a friendly sign behind a window, or one notices that a flower that was in bud only yesterday has suddenly blossomed… and everything collapses.” – Colette
I think what gets me is recognizing the inevitably of pain, or the history of it, because it’s a part of everyone’s life: their futures, their pasts. I see these beautiful moments knowing there has been pain or there will be pain or there is pain, and I can-but-also-can’t-quite fathom how we keep on going, how we still see the beauty and still day after day embrace the cycle in which we exist… We just do it, keep moving, keep pedaling our bicycles. Because it is a balance. That’s just life. We sit in darkness with our candles, and those candles are our life, and sometimes in the blink of an eye and with a quick gust of wind, a flame is extinguished. But our sight adjusts, and we don’t forget, and even when another and another is extinguished, we still have other flames to guide us. And even when we look away from those flames, the stars are there, and they remind us…
Stars can’t shine without darkness.
And now some photos from life since I moved to DC.
Spring, cherry blossoms near my work building
RPCV TZ friendis
Exploration along the C&O Canal
Fun at the Kennedy Center and Nats Stadium with work pals
On the job – field trip to get me some farm life and tart cherries
Visits to Roc, my kitties still remember me
Shenandoah with my rock fanatic friends – we found a salamander too
Bridal shower for Jess
And the big beautiful day
Frisbee tournaments with a lovely bunch
Conquering mountains and waterfalls with my roomies
More PCTZ love
The little lady back in May
And more recently, end of August – almost 1 YO here