Journey of Understanding
Not that I didn't have a happy childhood, but as I entered my teens, the verbal and physical abuse at home escalated. My parents separated. The turmoil of the adult relationships around me was confusing and painful. I felt a lack of stability and lack of control over the situation.
My mother made my education a priority, and wanted me to learn creativity and passion for learning. She made it possible for me to take part in a high school exchange program and I chose to go to Central America for 10 months. There I began to gain a broader perspective on the world, to see the impact that my country of birth has on the political economies of other countries.
I didn't consciously make a connection between these macro-level injustices and the micro-level violence I grew up with, but at some level I wanted to save others the pain I had felt. In the jobs I held after college, I was most satisfied when I helped to overcome bickering between two of the company's departments or encourage several kids to cooperate on a project and listen to each others' ideas. I decided I needed to go back to school and I spent several years learning a great deal from my fellow students and colleagues. I intentionally looked at how race, class and gender affect my life.
After completing a graduate degree in Conflict Transformation, I took a job in social services, and found a great deal of meaning and satisfaction in helping people. I pushed myself and my colleagues to go beyond "good enough" when providing services to help and support vulnerable members of our community. I challenged myself and others to listen openly even when we didn't agree with how our clients viewed society or government agencies or even us as individuals. But one day I realized I had completely given myself over to my job and I wasn't enjoying life. An opportunity for change came and I joined a peacebuilding organization in India.
Everything is so strangely similar and yet so different from working in an office back at home. I happen to like the image of myself as someone who can easily build relationships across borders and cultures, yet I sometimes have visceral reactions when I am outside my comfort zone. I know from experience that those feelings will pass with time and it is an adjustment process.
I'm in a stage where I'm realizing I have to very clearly understand my own motivations, weaknesses and needs in order to provide any assistance to others. I will continue to work for a world with less suffering, and I will try to have fun while I do it. I am applying to Voices of Our Future because through writing down my perspectives on the world I also hope to shift, if ever-so-slightly, the way my readers think about people different from themselves and about who is to "blame" for conflict.