On Adventure, Stupidity and Faith

Studio Shot of maps


I’m moving. In less than two weeks, I’m moving. Last night I called my boss, gave him my less-than-two-weeks and because he is like a saint, he wished me well and told me he was so excited for me. I’m moving because I am twenty-three years old and back in my childhood days, I used to crave this kind of adventure. I used to dream about seeing the world with all the romantic desperation poured into the tank of my car.


My two months in Kosovo last fall were a brilliant bust. I say brilliant because I spent many late nights drinking cheap booze and huffing down cigarettes with sixty year old Artists and also, alcoholics, living beneath the ghettos of Kosovo. We’d sit beneath the smog-filtered moonlight in that low level industrial park and they’d tell me stories, stories about the beautiful country before the war and the inevitable drinking that came after. I painted with them, showed them pictures of my home, spoke of one day moving into a vacant space in the ghetto and opening up a studio. And then we all collectively laughed, there was no way I could ever plant my American roots in the Balkan world.


During the days, on my lunch breaks, I went to the cafés down the street, all of them family owned and all of them entertained by the way I tried to talk Albanian. The way I tried so hard to blend in when anyone, from a mile away, could catch my Red White and Blue, iPhone-wielding, Machiatto sipping oblivion.


There was also the night when I forgot my credit card in a restaurant that I dined in often, it was situated right beneath my office where I worked. At 9 pm the place was packed and the music was blaring and people were dancing and, the brothers that owned the place, went wild when they saw my wide-eyed nervous self, looking under tables, going to check the bathroom. It was sort of their 4th of July celebration (except it’s really Albania’s which is a completely different story) but they all pitched in on the search and when it turned up, the drunk rambunctious crowd went bonkers. They draped a red and black Albanian flag around my shoulders, pulled a hat over my head, handed me a beer and chanted “USA! USA! USA!” And it was one of greatest nights of my life.


The experience of Kosovo opened my eyes to injustice and the many shades of beauty that go unnoticed and how relationships have little to do with shared language or background. It made Augustine’s beautiful quote very real to me, “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”


But Kosovo was also a bust and maybe that was only 4% of the total trip. After long days of combing through scholarly research, opening my dictionary every ten words, interviewing obnoxious government officials, and feeling manipulated by my superiors- who really just wanted me for the grunt work and, most importantly, my ties to the Embassy, it hit me that what I thought I wanted to do, for so many years, – be a public policy researcher- was not at all what I wanted to do anymore. Maybe it was best that this epiphany came in this rich of an experience, so much adventure to hold me up and not back… but it was still more than a little unnerving to step off my career path and float aimlessly into the world with absolutely no grip on a compass. There was nothing that could be done, but head back home to the Twin Cities and let my spirit buckle beneath gravity.


I’ve been working at a high school since returning, and although everyday its like my face slams square into the Christ in these kids- the drug-addicted, thirteen year old moms- I’ve also noticed a staleness. A mundaneness. I’m feeling a little too unscathed in my safe house (ahem, parents’ basement) and yet overly sensitive to words written in the balloons of the internet. I feel too sedentary and too antsy.


There’s been a loss of my wonder, the way my eyes used to marvel, my dreams somewhat clipped to fit reality, because at some point I told myself that this is what you do. You just figure it out. Work your cards to the best of your ability and make life happen. Before I knew it, my once flailing happy wings became boots, and they’ve been stubbornly trudging across the sucking mud ever since.


So I need an adventure. I need a new Kosovo. I need to see the Potomac at sunrise and feel the weight of all the ugliness and exquisiteness of our nation’s capital. I need to lose my cynicism, cultivate my skepticism, question structures and take the perfunctory, formal, work that is being done and somehow, in some small way, make it beat for justice. I need to fail and fly and see all kinds of strange things. I need to drive through the night and then quit and maybe wind up at some weird shady motel halfway- because it’s all I can afford- and then one day, brag to my suburban friends about how I survived it. I need to pack up all my things in my blueberry Saturn, drain a third of my checking account on gas money, dry clean my very best suit, and go knocking on doors in Washington, DC. I need to be dropped in the unfamiliar and make it my turf and somehow emerge changed and have the scars to prove it.


And it’s all sort of stupid, I get that. I am moving to a place where I hope to find work where the usual routine is to find work and then relocate there. But then, I don’t really care. Risk, stupidity, dumb luck, it’s all threaded into the thin fabric of my faith and I’d rather be living in that faith, swinging from it with both corners balled into my fists, than sitting back at home beside the window just wondering what I might do someday.


It begins by burying your face into a map. It goes one mile at a time into the hazy unexplored, trusting that even though none can be planned perfectly in your head, even though its terrifying and risky and will tax all your courage, it’s all known, stitched somehow by That Who is Love and That Who is For Me.


I’m finding myself a new Kosovo.

I’m heading into a stupid, faith-gripped-falling adventure.

And I can hardly wait.