In Other Words, Faith.

PREFACE: Yes, this post has a preface. It’s a long one. But hopefully, it’s one you’ll find worth the read.

2016 has really begun to unfold into something unlike anything I could have ever imagined. I had traveled a decent amount before this year but definitely incomparable to the amount of travel I’ve done in just the first quarter of 2016. We all know travel teaches you volumes about the world, but what is equally fascinating is how much it teaches you about yourself. When you’ve spent a fair amount of time visiting various continents, countries, and cities, meeting countless faces, listening to life stories, and bearing constant witness to a sky painted in some of the most glorious sunrises and sunsets you’ll ever see in this lifetime, you realize how far you’ve come, how far you’ll go, what you’re capable of … and you suddenly remember the blessing of time. As much as travel is considered being “on-the-go”, there are simultaneously moments (so long as you’re searching for them), where time slows down. It’s when you slow down along with it that you come to some prodigious realizations.

The lovely team at Humanity Unified posted the incredible candid photo of me below from our trip to Rwanda earlier this year, with a very moving caption (also noted below). The story behind the image, the message it conveys, the timing of their post, the quote they chose to caption it with, along with my interpretation of that caption and what it means to me at this very moment in time – all of it – literally couldn’t be any more perfect. No other photograph or phrase could more accurately encompass the feeling I had been holding within for the past few months until I had the right words to articulate it. When you think so long and hard about the things you write, you often need a catalyst – something tangible or concrete that compels you to write. Their post was my catalyst.

Preface, DONE. :)

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“FAITH…”I have come to accept the feeling of not knowing where I am going. And I have trained myself to love it. Because it is only when we are suspended in mid-air with no landing in sight, that we force our wings to unravel and alas begin our flight. And as we fly, we still may not know where we are going to. But the miracle is in the unfolding of the wings. You may not know where you’re going, but you know that so long as you spread your wings, the winds will carry you.” One of our favorite photos of @arnelle with some of the children of our women. The tattoo on her arm reads: FAITH.
It reminds us that sometimes there is only faith and love to carry you through the difficulties and challenges and into the light of freedom.”

The very obvious personal life-lesson depicted in this photo, is that in August of last year I took a giant leap of faith in leaving full-time work and moving back to San Francisco in order to follow my dreams as well as be more present in the lives of those I loved. Did I have plans for what I would do as a post-full-timer, sans the steady paychecks? Eh. They’re really best described as (very) loose guideposts. There was/is a list of life goals that I knew I wanted to achieve, and my faith in not only the timing of my life, but also in my ability to reach those goals, was relentless. And here I am in this photo, a few months after taking that leap, crossing 3 items off of that list:

 Travel to Africa.
 Humanitarian work with a respectable nonprofit.
 Tell meaningful stories.

None of it would have happened without that blind faith that I would find my own way, if not make my own way.

I would like to be able to say I have always been a human being of intense faith, but it’s not that easy. I know that at my core I am a diehard, relentless, and faithful believer in the beauty of this life, love, and the human spirit. Sadly, while life holds the incredible power to build faith, it concurrently possesses the incredible power to diminish it. I can admit that I spent the last 7 years or so, maneuvering the world a very jaded person, which is what brings me to the more unique life-lesson in faith that this photo reinstills within me.

There was always an ideal buried deep within me; the ideal that people are truly kind, that we all have each other’s best intentions at heart, and any harm or hurt we cause comes from a different place than we are intended to operate from. But I’ve seen some pretty ugly things and felt some really ugly pain. Heartbreak and betrayal alone are enough to send some of even the strongest wills, minds, and hearts fleeing to their secluded, dark corners, only to re-emerge years later in diamond-clad armor as if ready to take on the world. To the untrained eye, this armor is seemingly beautiful and strong, some might even say, irresistable. But, to the ones who have already bore that very same armor in years past, it is simply extra weight. A captivating, but unrealistically heavy baggage that we must all carry at least once in this lifetime, so that at the end of that chapter we may realize that it is, in fact, nothing but extra weight. So that as its luster fades, we may be reminded that what is most beautiful, even more beautiful than our diamond-hard walls, is our naked skin – vulnerable, broken, and open. Kintsugi’ed, even. :)

I used to think that in order to be my own best friend, I had to protect myself from anguish and pain. But I’ve learned that to be my own best friend I must allow myself to feel, and I must nurture those feelings. To be my own best friend is to strip myself of the armor. To be my own best friend is not to prevent pain but instead to allow myself to be hurt, and then help myself heal. It is the healthy way, it is the only way … and THAT is what this photo reminds me of. It reminds me that faith in humanity is paramount. It is just as important as faith in yourself and your ability to handle all that this life has to offer, both good and bad. Why? Because if there is no faith then we walk the Earth guarded; and if we are guarded, then there is no love felt. These children will see so much hurt and so much pain in their lives, their circumstances automatically subject them to it. But as you can see in this photo, even in their less than fortunate circumstances they find it in their hearts to smile, to laugh, to dance, and to hold a stranger’s hand in pure faith that this person is there to help them, not hurt them. It serves as a reminder that they, in turn, deserve that same faith placed in them … faith in that they will continue to believe in humanity despite any pain that is inflicted upon them, so long as we continue to believe in them.

The final life-lesson that this photo reignites: love yourself. :) I often battle self-worth and my thoughts/feelings of “less than” or “not enough”, as we all do, and that is 100% ok. But we must remember to never work for the affection, attention, acceptance, or validation of another, because we don’t have to prove anything to anyone but ourselves. This photo is my reminder to myself that I have a good heart, and it is my proof that I am not only worth forgiving for my shortcomings, but I am also deserving of every ounce of love that this life has to offer, especially my own. And guess what? So are you.

Compassion toward your fellow human beings. Compassion towards yourself. Faith in humanity. Faith in yourself.

Spreading love on this inspired Monday morning. Pay it forward. :)

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