Picking Up, Packing Up, and Shipping Out

(Note: Finally got some internet to post this!)

This is no time for fear

This is a time for faith and determination

     -Twila Paris

It’s always the same story. My mother tells me every day for two weeks or more to take out the stuff I want to go with on my trip—the stuff that needs washing, the stuff to leave behind, the stuff that needs to be put in a box, and the stuff I should give away. And I never want to start the process. It’s always the same: deciding what stays and what goes.

But as I sit here at the airport, awaiting the start of an assured adventure across the ocean, I realized that were a lot of things I had learned from this process:

1. Having a Nook isn’t selling out– Bottom line: I love my Nook. But for others, there is no love. I go to Barnes and Noble a lot because I love the environment, the coffee, and the books, and I always overhear conversations from people about how they would never buy an e-reader. Why do I love my Nook? For me, it’s about what a Nook can hold. This small device can hold thousands of books. That’s millions of characters and beloved quotes and twists and turns of plots within one device. And I can take them wherever I want. There’s so much involved in the books we read. It’s always seemed to me as though we are a lot of what we read and what we read inspires us and touches our lives. In a class I took last year on Native Americans, we talked about why the natives wanted to also learn to use written language, and to read and write. To them, it was very important because they believed that written word could change the physical universe. And I believe that too. So if selling out means I have the written world in the palms of my hands while I traverse the physical world before me, then I guess, I’m more than okay with that.

2. To be extremely mosquito repellent, one must go through a lot of work- Not only am I taking a daily pill that is HUGE as my antimalarial ( so fun traveling with 270 large pills in your purse), but I also went through the process of buying permethrin to treat all my clothes. So one morning I hung up all of the clothes I was packing to take, and I sprayed them front and back with the chemical, making myself sick in the process from the fumes. Two hours later, the clothes were dry and odorless and ready to pack. But it did not stop there. I also looked everywhere for Ultrathon product without success, so ordered three Ultrathon mosquito repellent lotions at 34.5% DEET from Amazon, because it had all the highest ratings, and I’m pretty serious this time around about prevention. I’m hoping the combination of the lotion, the treated clothes, and the anti-malarial, will have a successful outcome.

3. There is no good answer to the question, “Are you ready?”- I fully realize that this is a legitimate question to ask someone who is doing what I am doing. However, I inwardly cringe each time I am asked it because I have realized that there really is no good answer—or perhaps, answer in general—to that question. For one, I need it put into context of what someone wants to know. Am I ready for the weather change? Am I ready to be thousands of miles away from loved ones? Am I ready for my job? Those are all very different questions. Second, can one ever be ready to make a big change in their life? I’ve taken to quickly answering that I am “as ready as I can be,” but what I really mean by that answer is that I’m going to take it one day at a time, see where these decisions take me.

4. Things get left behind—on purpose and on accident- Sacrifices have to be made in the name of luggage space. Thanks to my mother, a packing genius, I was able to fit twice as much as I originally thought I would into three suitcases. Before anyone thinks I’m taking too many things, I should state that one of those suitcases is completely filled with gift and donation items courtesy of my generous parents, and another half of a suitcase is filled with school supplies. But deciding which things I don’t absolutely need is still a hard process for me. Sometimes I get very attached to items, and to not have them with me makes me feel as though things won’t be the same. But I could not possibly take everything with me, so the process had to be done. I think I learn a lot about what is important to me each time I do it. And of course, some things get left behind on accident, because they slip through the cracks…

5. My journeys are never mine alone- On my flight and layover, I reread Donald Miller’s A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, because it always reminds of why it is that I try to always pursue telling a better story with my life. I’ve now entered into a story that there is no turning back from. It must play out however it is that it will play out, while I constantly look for direction within it—the right things to say and the right things to do. I chatted for two hours on my layover with my good friend Sara Willis, and during that time we talked a lot about life and where we currently feel we are within our own. We talked about the analogy of having left the docks, not knowing how to get back (nor really wanting to), but also, not having a clear vision of the shores ahead we paddle towards. But we continue to paddle in the middle of that river or lake or ocean. And even though I’m in the boat, there are so many people involved in the story other than myself. When I leave for new places, it also affects those around me. My parents, my siblings, my good friends, and sometimes, even acquaintances. And when I leave for new places, it also affects those people whom I will encounter. On my flight, I met a very nice Ghanaian, who was returning home for the first time in five years. During those five years he had left his life of poverty in the form of a one room dirt home for six and made a good living working in Atlanta. During those five years he lost both of his parents, but could not return to Ghana. He spoke with great passion and emotion in his voice of how people in America don’t always appreciate the life we at least have the possibility of living here. And he spoke about his great yearning to help others who were how he once was because he knew how it was to truly suffer. I told him about what I was going to Ghana to do, a bit shyly after such a display of human alertness to those around him. He firmly told me, however, in a phrase I won’t be quick to forget. He said that many people think of life as just they alone, but if we could just stop to share in the heartbreaking stories of others, we would, in a way, be doing enough if that were all we could do. He said to me that just by making this 8 ½ months commitment meant I was willing to share in those stories.


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