Being 25 in 2014 is something I think a lot of people are studying, blogging about, thinking about. Of course the unspoken truth most of the time is that every single 25 year old is totally different. Whether we’re talking about sex, love and dating, or views on international issues, justice, and career my perspective will always be shaped by having been raised in a French-American Christian household, by having been tear-gassed by the IDF when I was 20, by having fallen in love with a Colombian man, by having joined the Mennonite Church, by so many idiosyncratic things about me.
I’m a full-time community organizer with the Industrial Areas Foundation now which means I’m learning the craft of the “individual meeting” as the fundamental building block of community organizing, which means learning to introduce myself succinctly with stories that illustrate who I am and why I organize. I talk a lot about my Papi, my French grandpa who will forever reside in a café plotting justice for African immigrants in my minds’ eye; I talk about encountering time and again walls (economic, social, physical) between people; I describe time and again being tear-gassed in Bi’lin; I describe starting a student divestment group in college. Sometimes I talk about visiting the gold mine in Guatemala. But I’m still having a really hard time telling a good story about Colombia.
Last year I was in love, in Medellin, I walked to the metro, or the bus, or to where I was going. I bought groceries a few blocks away, cooked nearly every day. I woke up in my wood-floor room and stepped out onto my balcony to create my work everyday. I knew where to go swimming, dancing, who to call for help, how long I would be there. I spoke Spanish, usually only Spanish all day long. I did very few helpful things, few things that I think really lasted, other than being there, being me, and caring—but the issues I thought about were how to get victims’ rights respected, how to keep youth out of street gangs, how to build a more social-justice-focused theology and culture in the church, how to work as a network better, how civil society voices should and could influence peace talks, how to create a team and culture that was non-colonial and based on true justice, how to build resistance to oppression in Latin-America, how to be in solidarity.
All that thinking changed who I am profoundly. But it’s hard to tell as a story, especially since I didn’t achieve all those lofty goals.
And now my life is so different.
I drive every day; I pay 4 dollars for coffee without blinking an eye; I just got a credit car; I’m learning about affordable housing in the US, Arlington specifically, about the internal issues and politics of one of the richest counties in the US, including the strengths, weaknesses and challenges of public schools. I’m meeting with county board members, lawyers, construction workers, defense contractors, house-cleaners, teachers, DREAMERS, and priests and trying to figure out above all who the leaders are, what will motivate them to act, what the winnable issue is. And I fit in. I’m not the minority, the sole gringa, any more. I’m so white, so average, so on a par with all my peers battling with finding housing, finding love, finding friends and community, finding a path, and having our shit together.
It makes my head spin sometimes—the professional, interpersonal, internal, spiritual, physical, and geographical shifts I’ve made in the last 8 months.
Where I felt like screaming I needed silence so badly in Medellin after the constant roar of salsa and folks in buses and streets, here I scream for the quiet loneliness of my car; where I despaired at the presence of gangs on every corner and a total lack of efficiency in grocery stores now I am bored by the pristine-cookie-cutter streets and annoyed by the overly-ambitious career-focused yuppies all around…
Spin is the right word. I feel I have been spinning, in varying degrees of despair or joy, for the past 8 months. So being 25 in 2014…I don’t know. At this point I’d just like to maybe stop spinning for a bit. Find a place to live with friends, near a running path, where I can settle my body and mind for a while.
That being said, in some tired and unstable way, I know I’m generally where I need to be for now. I’m learning important things. I’m having to deal with realities too long pushed under the rug. So that’s good. And I’m grateful for all of you providing love and support along the way.