Well, the world did not end.
We are still here. We are still. I am. Still. Today I am still, which for me means reflection. For those of you who know me you know I’m always traveling somewhere and moving around. In this aspect, I am anything, but still. But, I am a very contemplative person, some even say “Nay, you think too much.” And, maybe I do.
My default answer is I am a writer and as such I am an observer of life. And while the world didn’t end today, the end makes me think of death which leads to questions of: am I doing what I am meant to do with my life? Am I making any sort of impact?
These types of questions mostly plague me as I am about to embark on another twist, though I should call it a return, in my life’s path. This fall I’ll be returning to my MFA program. And so my time here in Boulder (though a short 17 months) is about to reach it’s end and part of me questions is this right? I must say that I have one of the best jobs a person could hope to have. I have one of the best, supportive bosses one could ask for. I get to take classes. I get to travel and work in the field of education, I get to work with college-bound youth, more specifically I get to work with Native youth from all across the country. I get to do work that matters to me. For 10 months out of the year I get to plan for 6 weeks during the summer where we bring kids to Boulder to take college prep courses. It’s my favorite time of year because for 6 amazing weeks I am surrounded by youth who are surrounded by each other and by people who support and believe that they can be anything they want to in life. It may sound sentimental but it is indeed a magical time. Suffice to say, my job leaves me fulfilled.
Having gone through this same program myself in high school for 3 summers, I know just how impacting this program, and the people in it, can be. Of course, I’m sad to be leaving it. The sadness is mixed of many different reasons – will I ever find another job I love as much as I love this, will I miss it, the kids, and Boulder? Of course. And what will I do once I finish my MFA? Will I once again find a job that leaves me full?
4 years, 1 month, and 10 days ago I lost a friend. I wasn’t the only one. People lost friends, a son, a brother, and more. While I’m only 25, I’ve lived long enough to know and see that things break you. Sometimes experiences split you open from the inside into so many pieces it can seem impossible to put yourself back together and when you do, you wonder if you put yourself together in the right way, whether or not you’ve left any gaps, small crevices waiting to split you open again later in life. You live you learn. You live some more and inevitably have to learn again and again. And maybe sometimes putting yourself back together in the “right” way at the time feels too complicated, too hard, and later those “issues” come bubbling to the surface to split you open yet again, for the Creator to teach you, Ok Now It Is Time to Actually Learn This Lesson You Thought You Learned The First Time Around, but didn’t. My splitting was losing my friend who I shall call M.
Words cannot describe how much M meant not only to me but a lot of people. As a writer, I know that sounds cliche: “words cannot describe” but it is true. I should know. I’ve tried for 4 years 1 month and 10 days to try to write it in so many ways, so many poems, so many words and images. I’ve written that. I’ve written that poem countless times. My saving grace – my job, the youth.
I was supposed to be in Oxford doing a tutorial on poetry and having my study abroad experience. I was supposed to be on the quarter system, finishing mid-June and arriving to Boulder a little later than the students and staff to embark on a poetry project similar to Robert Pinsky’s Favorite Poems Project only my project was targeted toward Native youth “Many Hearts, One People: Poetry in Native America”. I was supposed to be late. Long story short, after the news of M’s death I left Oxford, tried to return to Stanford but couldn’t. My memories of M were there tied up in the place, the people, the air. So I went home. I went home and sunk into a dark place until I got another phone call. This phone call wasn’t telling me “We’d lost M” , it was the Assistant D from the program I am now the Assistant D of asking me to come to the job early. One of the Residential Advisors had dropped out last minute and since I was coming anyway, could I fill in for the job. I did. That job, this program, the kids – saved my life.
I always knew I was “meant to do something,” felt I’d had some sort of larger purpose in my life, but I never knew what it was – until losing M. Through my grief, I could see things so much more clearly. It was as if all those tears inside me came out to wash away all the things that came to cloud my vision for life. Working with the kids, some of whom came from backgrounds similar to M, or some who had experienced the loss of siblings, parents, etc, showed me what I wanted to do with my life, who I wanted to be. I wanted to be someone who could help them, show them ways to deal with their troubles and pains. For me, this was writing.
If I couldn’t save M, maybe I could save us, we could save each other with writing the words that could heal us just by being put down on the page, being realized and actualized outside of our bodies. We could give voice to these experiences.
That was 4 years and nearly 2 months ago that I first started working here as a RA, then an Instructor’s Assistant, then an Instructor and a Resident Supervisor, 5 summers later, I am the Assistant Director. So I suppose (because I know) my experiences with this program, job, and the kids is inevitably connected with the loss of M. Whenever I even think of leaving it brings back all of those memories and sometimes, a little grief. After losing M I’d put all of my energy and heart into this program and now, maybe it is time to finally come to terms with what I’d felt with M. Maybe it is time to Actually Learn the Lesson because I needed this, I needed this ongoing 5 summers to find myself again. Working with the people I know I want my life to serve – the youth and anyone who has ever experienced loss has given me purpose. I now know part of what I want to do with my life.
Each night I pray and give thanks for this life. I pray for my family and each of my friends, for their happiness and that they, too, find their life’s path. Reader, I pray for you too, in hopes that I can write the words you need to read and that if I can’t, I pray that you find the words in your own way, in your own time. Reader, I hope you are living a life that feeds you, one that leaves you full and always remember:
The world has not abandoned you.
I know I am still young. I am naive. I try. Sometimes I make mistakes. But, I try again. So I know I cannot be afraid of the ‘not-knowing’ what comes next. I can only move on to the next step in life knowing I put my heart and soul into this and only hope that I was able to impact some lives along the way. But I carry these people, I carry M, and the ongoing lessons with me and one day, I know I’ll find it again.