I’m going to keep this short because it is late and I have to be at the office early tomorrow morning, but I wanted to share my thoughts. I’m a little scatter brained at the moment, so please bear with me…
Tomorrow (or later this morning by the time this gets finished) I start my second year with AmeriCorps St Louis Emergency Response Team (the ERT). It will be my last year as a Corps Member with AmeriCorps, but it isn’t getting any easier. My thoughts are elsewhere. Joplin. To a time three years ago when I didn’t know how to respond and I froze in fear of what I may encounter.
It doesn’t get any easier. The fear is still here, in the back of my mind.
I’ve met a lot of people on this journey of life. I’ve been on teams through my time aboard the Africa Mercy, with NCCC, FEMA Corps, and the ERT. My friends are scattered across the nation and around the world. I’ve seen people come and go through this life, and I have loved, been loved, and have shared my heart and soul with each one. They are my family.
I started to meet all the new members of this years ERT. We had a potluck last night and gathered to play crumpets earlier this afternoon.
NOTE: Crumpets is a game involving wooden sticks wrapped in pipe insulation and duct tape, a ball, goals, and very few rules. It is extremely physical and tons of fun. I may try to get video of it at some point this year to share with everyone. END NOTE
The thing with meeting new people is that you share a little bit of your soul with each person you meet. You grow through the experience, but for me, it can be extremely draining. Add to that we were running around whacking a ball around a field, it is exhausting. But I enjoy it. At the same time, I need time and space to reflect.
I’m currently working on two new paintings, attempting to finish writing out the rough draft of Journeys, the adventures of a Nomad, and trying to mentally prepare myself for a week packed full of activities, orientation, and packing to head up to Montana on Friday.
This beginning is something that I should be used to. But I’m not. I should be comfortable meeting this new group of teammates. But I don’t know how I am supposed to lead them. They are my peers, my friends. They are part of this family. And I can’t seem to wrap my head around all of this.
I was writing about my first night responding to Joplin this evening (while watching Criminal Minds) and I noticed two things: The first was that in that moment, when I first heard that my team was deploying in response to Joplin, I froze. I was afraid. The only thing that got me through was knowing that I needed to be there for my team. I needed to be present and focused because we needed each other. That was my strength in those eleven days, my teammates. My family.
The second thing I realized was that the fear never truly went away. I am still afraid of what I see each night when I close my eyes. It defines me. It has shaped me into who I am. And it’s not just Joplin, but my experiences in Honduras, Uganda, Togo, and through service here State side.
I was watching an episode of Criminal Minds where JJ, the community relations member of the BAU, was speaking to the unsub (The Longest Night, Season 6 Episode 1). Something her character says jumped out at me:
… it’s okay to be afraid of the dark, and it isn’t silly to think thee might be monsters in your closet. … Yes, there are monsters, and it’s okay to be afraid of them. But it isn’t okay to let them win, and it’s not okay to be one.
I am afraid. I am afraid of a lot of things. But I cannot let those fears paralyze me ever again.
We can train and prepare ourselves all we want. We can go through scenarios and can consume our lives with trying to live knowing how we will react, but the reality is that we will never truly know.
I don’t know how my life will change with these new people in my life. It’s a scary thought. But I am willing to accept the risk and begin this journey again.