Tonight I got an email from a woman I met at a conference in 2012 in Korea. I emailed her earlier because I’d like to interview her for an article I’m writing. I opened with the standard post-conference greeting, “I’m not sure if you remember me but…”
Turns out she not only remembers me, but often mentions me to her daughter as a model of courage and determination. I was surprised she remembered me and spoke so well of me to her daughter. I felt honored to exemplify such fine qualities yet, despite people always calling me courageous, I’ve never felt that way.
But then, I felt embarrassed—if she knew what I was about to do, she’d retract her statement. Going back to America feels like a compromise. To me, it lacks courage. It’s the easy choice. It’s a choice I probably would have scoffed at at 25. Who needs community? You don’t need to make a lot of money! Weak and greedy people make decisions based on such reasons.
The other day, a friend asked me how I felt about going back. To be honest, I’ve been waiting to leave almost since I got here. It’s been much harder transitioning to life in LP than expected. I also realized halfway through graduate school that I’d probably never be able to change the world with as much debt as I’ve accumulated in school loans. So I’ve known the end was coming but, with it just over 2 months away, I feel all over the place about leaving. On the one hand, I’m excited to see family and friends, I’m looking forward to what I believe are better odds at finding a mate (not that it’s really about odds), I can’t wait to go dancing, to breathe without thinking about it, and to return to church. Faster internet would be nice too. On the other hand, I feel bitter, like graduate school robbed me of my international aspirations, a little angry that black women are found so universally undesirable that finding a husband while living in Asia was unrealistic, and worried about finding a job that matters now that my idea of what matters has somewhat changed. Somewhere in that mix of emotions is disappointment at my cowardice, and I didn’t even realize it until getting this email from this woman.
Is it even important that people think I’m courageous? Isn’t it better to just be a responsible adult who takes care of her financial obligations? When the immediacy of this experience fades, will my new-found strength and conviction disappear as well? Can I sharpen them back in the States? Will I be less interesting with an ordinary job back in the States? Will life be less interesting with an ordinary job back in the States?
Another friend told me the other day that it’s better to think one step at a time and realize that what’s next doesn’t mean what’s permanent (except for in marriage). Choosing to make money and be in a healthier, more life-giving social community for the next phase of my life isn’t cheating. And, just because I go back, doesn’t mean that I have to stay there forever. I have to believe that there will be opportunities to exercise courage and determination wherever I go next.