July 11, 2012 § Leave a comment
I can’t believe that I’m here. Writing, I mean. It doesn’t come so easily anymore, at work, at home, on my phone, there seem to be so may obstacles to taking the time. Thinking the thoughts. Being back in the state of mind where it’s not a chore to feel, but rather an outlet–a cleanse, even–a necessary shed to move onto the next stage. Writing used to be the phoenix rising from the leftover ashes of whatever emotional flame I had felt–be it an inferno or nothing more than a spark. I miss the feeling of letting go and I can’t help conflating it with my life in Spain. It was another summer just like this one that I was mourning the end of a nine-month adventure in the North of Spain, and it seems that this summer in Washington is a similar eulogy for adventure come and gone. It doesn’t help that I can’t seem to find a good soundtrack for anything–I used to get so into my music, I’d get lost in it and swear to anyone who’d listen that it must have been written just for me. Could that be?
Anyways, I suppose I really must explain myself. Not even to you, dear reader, but rather to myself. Where have I been for the last six months? Running in and out of class, rallies and protests, spending fruitless nights in the library’s purple hall under flourescent lights, playing Research Assistant in the NY Times 1851-1980 Archives, impressively sticking to a short-lived gym routine and planning, planning, planning. I’m joining thousands of other twenty-one year olds in Washington DC for a chance to intern at thousands of organizations all pledged to the greater good. A lesson I’ve been having a hard time learning this semester has been discretion, and in the effort to apply my education I thought I’d not say precisely where I’m working, but I’ll describe it to you as such: it’s a tiny little organization, no more than five staff and four interns. We’re almost one-to-one Experts to Young Things, and our office is littered with eighteenth century maps, framed leaflets from the Qu’ran and old Palestinian dresses (let me just take a moment to inform you that I was strokes away from typing “garb,” that all-too-often relied upon word to describe clothes, or more precisely swaths and swaths of black fabric covering a woman to the point of unrecognition). I work at an admittedly small NGO that deals with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and advocates for the end to said conflict through a negotiated two-state solution.
I could tell you that a semester in Jordan sparked my interest in the Cause, or maybe the weeks of travel to Israel and Palestine that I did after that semester, or that perhaps it was my intense study of the Middle East that brought me to delve further into the tightly-wound knot that is the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. But I would be lying, because really the thing that pulled me into a situation which has become highly academic, polemical and esoteric was its most essential element: a person. Namely, my second-year Arabic teacher Suhad. She told us about her family’s home in Gaza, about her experiences during the Second Intifada at Birzeit University, about the fifty-two days she spent between the Israeli and Jordanian borders as a stateless person, about coming to the US and re-doing her entire college education, and about the uphill battle she’s been fighting since birth. Her eyes pulled me in, right back to the center of this thing–the people whose lives will never be entirely their own, but rather a part of the intractable conflict in the Holy Land.
The dynamics of the conflict don’t touch the office on a day-in-day-out basis, rather I feel like I have ample time to be lost in my own thoughts. Recently, those turn to my future more than ever. Who will I be, what will I do, where will I live, what will I need to get there, how will I pay for it, how will I compare to the other 1,313 people in my class, how will I justify the choices I’m making now to myself in ten years, how will I stop worrying and just do it–there are streams and streams of questions that are never ending. And I hate being in this city trying to figure myself out. DC is a beautiful little town, exceptionally clean and with sprawling boulevards that lead up to a plethora of impressive monuments–it is a city with an image. The people who live in the District are always on the move–moving in, moving out, moving up, moving around until they can achieve what they want. Most of the people I’ve met are fiercely qualified, naturally competitive people who know exactly what they want, what they believe and who they are; after all in a place like this, how could you lose time questioning the essentials?
I’m not sure where I’m going, and right now I feel a little bit like the District itself–pretty, well-polished, but without a voice. Filled with countless experiences but not necessarily all the wiser for it. I don’t know what I want, and the scary thing is that after three years of throwing myself into a new language, a new place and so many ideas and people that have challenged the very core of my beliefs, I don’t know if I want to be a Middle East expert. Or policy worker. Or intelligence analyst. Or translator. Or diplomat. I know my bougie complaints (oh that’s a new one I just learned, apparently one can be sheltered from restaurants just as easily as one can be sheltered from their own upbringing) are not worth indulging, but for lack of graduating even more clueless about myself than when I entered Tufts, I feel like some serious introspection is necessary. But on the plus side, guess what I’ve decided to take next semester? Elementary Farsi (at Harvard, coincidentally, because Tufts hasn’t yet come to the realization that a solid Farsi program is really the only way to become competitive in the second-tier Ivy category)–and who knows? Perhaps I’ll be writing my next post another six months from now from Iran–inshallah!