as i write this, i’ve been back in Liberia for a week. seven short days, yet somehow my life, my world in the States seems like it was forever ago. memories turn to fragments, replaced by here and now and the need, always the need. it’s a different pace, a stronger one, a busy schedule, everything consistent and steady yet somehow unpredictable as well. and i jump into it, this life here, because i want to inhale every moment and suck the marrow from it::
the blanket of heat, heavy in my lungs, on my shoulders. bright sun hidden by hammatan’s dusty haze. dirt under fingernails, sweat on the skin. car horns blaring, music crackling over old, broken speakers. toothy smiles and weathered hands, tattered t-shirts and grimy money balled tight in the fist. plastic buckets full for flushing toilets, a lukewarm shower under the stars. the hum of the generator at night, the ocean crashing, mosquito net tucked into bedframes. sticky rice and oily soups, sweet fruit, cold water. talking on the porch, laughing on the porch, praying on the porch. handshakes with snapping fingers, hugs with a kiss on each cheek. little hands clawing at my legs, little fingers running through my hair. hannah’s head on my lap, mercy’s head on my shoulder, jumah’s head buried in the space beneath my chin, resting on my collar bone.
this. it’s been my life for four years, a stark contrast to the direction i thought i was headed. at first, it was hard, and i fought and struggled against it, simultaneously loving and hating everything about it at the same time. and then i grew into it, grew with it, really, and it has become comfortable, somehow, even in the midst of so much discomfort. it’s familiar, dependable; basically, i know what to expect.
from a survival standpoint, this is good. it helps me to keep going, to move with the ebb and flow of life in Liberia. it helps me compartmentalize–my thoughts, my emotions, my experiences. without it, i would surely collapse under the weight of sorrow and guilt, of poverty, of illness, of hunger, of death, of kids who deserve a better chance, of systems that keep people oppressed and simply…stuck.
still, i feel a conviction, hollow in my stomach, gnawing on my insides. and it all comes down to one little word:: brave.
now, i wouldn’t exactly call myself by that name because frankly, bravery terrifies me. i’m a play-by-the-rules kind of girl. i like plans and roadmaps and explanations for everything. and up until recently, i was fine with all of that.
but now, i feel something shifting. i’ve had this sort of awakening, if you will, and it feels like i’ve been shaken from a long, deep slumber and brought out into the light. and i’ve discovered that i like it, this light i’ve been exposed to, but in order for me to have more of it, i must be brave. see, when i’m content with living an easy story, it makes it hard for me to live a better one. without taking chances and taking risks and embracing the adventure, i will never learn what it feels like to live fully, to live bravely.
but that means, of course, that all the rules might go out the window. it means change and transition, and it’s entirely possible that things might get a little messy. it means that there will be moments when i have no idea what i’m doing, times when i will be unsure. it means things are going to look differently, and i have two choices. i can run away from the mystery, hide myself in what’s easy–or i can be brave and let go, and see where the winds of change take me.
for now, i dig my heels in, determined to bloom where i’ve been planted. i take it all in, every moment, every experience, breathing deep to savor these days i’ve been given here. for it’s only been a week, and i’ve already noticed the difference in how i think and speak and feel.
i am learning to be brave, even in what has become uncomfortably comfortable.