Two days ago I was meant to be returning to the U.S. from Africa, but most of you already know I’ve been back home in Portland for about six weeks. I’m more than satisfied with my decision to leave early. Here and there I thought about writing a blog detailing my experience in Cameroon, but after going through a couple half-hearted drafts, I realized I was just trying to justify my choice to leave, which is unnecessary. Additionally, I don’t want to smear the organization I was working with, and in giving any amount of detail, such a thing might happen. So, in brief: it became very clear that continuing on to backpack as a lone woman through West Africa would be unsafe, unwise and unenjoyable. In fact, one of the Peace Corps Volunteers who helped me figure out logistics and encouraged me through the latter months of my travel research contacted me this morning to ask what was going on. After I told him he replied, “Yeah, it’s definitely not a good place to travel alone as a woman.” …the one piece of honest advice that I truly needed from an experienced traveler before embarking on an expensive trek across the world. I’m almost convinced that all the men I spoke to were going to dishonest lengths to be anti-sexist because they were afraid to advise me not to do something.
And that’s it. Well, I did climb part of Mount Cameroon and met some fabulous animals, too. Okay, there were also fresh coconuts and some volunteers that were wonderful company. It was not a complete disaster.
Returning so soon did not leave me with regrets but a renewed passion for my creative pursuits- something very much missing in my daily routine in Cameroon. When I think about the growth I’ve experienced since coming back, I truly cannot imagine having stayed. My practices of music, improvisation and meditation are expanding, and developing in all those areas is so incredibly important to me— the process is challenging but cyclically inspiring. Each time I learn something new, whether from a friend, a YouTuber, my own covert observation, or from myself, a warmth emerges from my gut and I crave more.
As for work, I designed a 6-week musical exploration course for kids, which begins this week and is serving as about half of my income, allowing me to scale back on less fulfilling gigs. It’s a huge step in the right direction. My right direction. Planning the classes has been so fun and the prospect of helping young people express themselves creatively, hone listening skills and learn something about their musical selves is beyond exciting. I’m hosting the classes in my home—YES, you read right—I’m out of my car and into my dream…home. Well, not quite, but a rather badass one, and mine.
Despite the aftermath of the small car accident I was in on the day of my move-in (not so terrible, not my fault, either), always being on the verge of bankruptcy due to only taking jobs when I either want them or desperately need them, coming down with another respiratory infection from the change from sopping humidity in Cameroon to comparatively arid conditions of autumn in the Pacific Northwest and battling insecurities this is a time that I can stop, feel myself, take account of what is in and around me and be grateful. The excitement for the future is one thing, but that energy propelling me forwards comes from being able to feel what is true each day, through challenge or success, despair or hope, and taking it for what it is instead of pretending.
The relationships I have been cultivating recently are so, so engaging. From budding friendships to deepening extant connections, surrounding me are people who understand the human need (and responsibility) for consciousness and who are motivated by kindness. It’s special, it’s what we all deserve for each other, and it’s no accident. Like-hearts, when open, naturally draw together while stifled souls are repelled. This becomes more apparent by the day.
That ‘cusp’ on which I speak of being continually throughout my writings (though, I know, it’s been awhile)—well, I’m on the other side of it. Rather than a tipping point, this is the apogee at which rapid flowering occurs. Now is my Spring, birthing fresh vegetation and re-sprouting that life which has lain dormant for, let us admit, more than a few seasons. Make no mistake, the timing is not unfortunate. Most Portlanders generally become hermits in the wintertime because of the rain, dreary skies and cold, and it’s often an especially productive time for creatives everywhere. Some may trade their bar-hopping escapades for for a silent reading party with pots of tea at the homestead. Others will collaborate in garages or basements, crafting crafty crafts. Still others will use this time to try to get their podcast off the ground or brainstorm the next unique food cart conception. Me, well, I’ll be doing none of the above (teapots being perhaps the only exception) but plenty of my own production.
There is a heartfelt performer, eager to share and connect, sitting in this seat right now. There is also a musician, who, in a cozy cafe, furiously writes a song between edits in this blog. There is an artist who is still afraid of admitting that they deserve to call herself an artist, but who undeniably is. There is a self swimming with a conviction that will inevitably waver but ultimately triumph.
Here’s to being here. It’s a nice place to be.