I’d previously jotted some notes about what I would write to the listserve—issues I care about, questions I have for the world. But today, I received the proverbial email while driving with my family three hours (thank you, small-town MO) to the St. Louis airport, where I boarded the plane I’m now sitting in. I drank in my last glimpses of the city that has been my home for the past 6 years, and the state that I have lived in my whole life, but won’t see again for a year.
With that kind of timing, it seems the world has already decided my topic for me.
For the past two years I’ve worked at a St. Louis rape crisis center, working with survivors of sexual assault and sex trafficking. It‘s been an incredible opportunity; I grew as an advocate, employee, coworker, friend, social justice warrior, and human. One listserve topic I’d considered was the impact trauma can have over a lifetime. Fortunate that I’ve never dealt with suicidal thoughts myself, it wasn’t until this job that I came to truly understand why someone would view suicide as her only way to end the unbearable pain.
I’m so grateful for that job, but I was burning out fast, from constantly witnessing the ugliness of the world (reactively, never in a position to stop it. Just try to make it hurt less), and from draining office dynamics. If anyone knows how to solve issues of high turnover rates in nonprofits due to burnout, please let me know (seriously, if I could become aneffective, helpful consultant, I might just dedicate my life to that).
Then I visited Australia and New Zealand last summer with two friends from a semester in Holland, and I fell in love with Sydney in a way I never have before with a city. I met ex-pats living there on year-long visas, and realized maybe I could do it too, as a gap year before grad school.
So I started talking about it, more and more confidently, until one day I bought a one-way ticket to Sydney. I put in four weeks’ notice, did what else I could for my incredibly strong clients, and spent time soaking up St. Louis. I set up trips to see friends and family, and say year-long goodbyes, which is why I’m heading to Denver, LA, and SF. (I’ll be going to Burning Man for the first time – any tips??).
Goodbyes have been rough. The weight of my decision is sinking in as I realize how many special relationships I’m leaving behind. But I’ve also realized that in order to grow, thrive, and learn I need to intentionally place myself in conducive environments. I’m fortunate to be at a place in my life where I can easily change my reality. And right now I need to take time to invest in myself so I can come back refreshed, with a better sense of how to lovingly, sustainably invest in others again.
That’s my story. I’m happy to share my blog. If you have any Sydney connections who have room in their life for a new American friend, or just a tour or some tips, I’d be grateful. I’ll be building a community from scratch, so I’m on the lookout for wonderful humans.
Lastly, a few brief poems, format inspired by the soul-opening nayyirah waheed.
do you really think
if you were in his shoes they
would fit you better?
he loved me
as a portrait.
he didn’t understand
I was a mirror.
-you don't know me
Making my way to Sydney, Australia from St. Louis, MO