Before I came to Viet Nam I was full of good intentions to be here while I was here, and not think (which for me necessarily implies worry) about what "will happen to me" when I get back to the big, bad, adult American world...
However, while I would like to hope that I am still fully-absorbed in life in Viet Nam (and I can't really help but fully absorb the recent, continual rain that drips off my helmet as I ride to the office, even when I don my large, yellow poncho) there have been some recent events that have made me unable to not think about the future: my fellow SALTer extended her time in Viet Nam. One of my best friends who has been job-searching for awhile just got a job she's really excited about. Another good friend lost her job.
So, I decided to bow to the inevitable and let myself ponder...at least a little. The experience has proven to be surprising, overwhelming, and--somehow--also encouraging.
I have found myself filled with unprecedented excitement and surprisingly little fear; sometimes I even have trouble sleeping at night because I am filled with so much restless energy. Intentional community, grad. school, New Zealand, joining a running club, mentoring young people, coaching cross country, publishing, starting a bakery, traveling, being a traveling reporter: are these idealized (or shallow) dreams, borne of the things I miss, or are they real passions that I can legitimately pursue and anticipate with excitement?
One part of me always cautions me, saying, “Chill out, Calah, and stop being so stereotypically young and idealistic. Don’t you remember your other goals—the ones where you failed and ended up disappointed?”
The other part poses a quite tantalizing response: “Is it so wrong to have a stereotypically good attitude? Given your history of quaking with fear over the prospect of the future and change and...adult life, maybe a little excitement is a good thing. And maybe life isn't a series of passes and fails, but a journey of discovery and change and...living. Maybe you should stop being so worried about where each step will get you and more focused on bending your knees, because the view from the top (and the ones from the 3rd, 27th and 1000th steps) isn't going anywhere--but you’ll never get see it if you never take a step.”
Or in the (more eloquent) words of Annie Dillard:
It is so self-conscious, so apparently moral, simply to step aside from the gaps where the creeks and winds pour down, saying, I never merited this grace, quite rightly, and then to sulk along the rest of your days on the edge of rage. I won't have it. The world is wilder than that in all directions, more dangerous and bitter, more extravagant and bright. We are making hay when we should be making whoopee; we are raising tomatoes when we should be raising Cain, or Lazarus.
So I guess I haven't gotten anywhere, really. Or nowhere that a logical, realistic thinker would acknowledge as anywhere important. But what I have realized is--to my little world--earth-shattering:
There are a million things against me (I'll just say "US economy" and leave it at that). The next year could be really hard.
But I'm not scared any more.
So, as I see it, this woman--whose only hope in life is to raise a healthy child--has this main option: Assuming that, when the baby is born, it tests negative, she can chose to not breast-feed it (which would prevent her from passing HIV through the breast milk). Ok, pretty simple decision--even I could make that one, yeah? Oh wait--except for the minor detail of how on earth this woman will ever manage to afford formula. Sure, maybe she'll get a free bottle or two from the hospital, but seriously.
"I keep finding myself lamenting to my friends that we are one of the few generations in history to be burdened with the agonizing choice between good and potentially better options."