I don’t think I’ve ever undergone more self-reflection than I have on this trip, and have never felt so strongly or frequently as I do here. And in all honesty, I’m not sure if I like it.
It may be because I don’t surround myself with people at Duke who make having difficult conversations and really talking things out a priority, or it may just be because I don’t place myself in situations where I need to confront difficult topics (a privilege in of itself), which then leads to the types of conversations we’ve had so often this summer. I also may not be the kind of person who seeks out these conversations or situations, a person who doesn’t really want to talk about or face things like privilege, intersectionality, poverty, discrimination, politics, violence, etc. I totally recognize that this is not a good thing about me and that I do need to push myself out of my comfort zone. But I can’t help but feel annoyed when walking home from work on Thursdays, knowing that we have reflection in a few hours, or when a deep topic of conversation comes up at the table.
This trip has made me realize that while I do have a lot of feelings about a lot of different things, and as much as I like talking in general, I’m not a huge fan of talking about my feelings and self-reflecting.
I’ve been forced to really confront aspects of myself that I haven’t had to before. Why am I so able to ignore people asking me for money on the street? Why is it so easy for me to not believe in people? Why did I so quickly doubt the man propped up on the wall of the sidewalk when he was asking for help, so much so that I barely gave him a second glance while Kristina asked if we should turn back and help him? Why is it my first instinct to think people are lying?
These are all questions I’ve found myself asking more and more frequently during our time in Cape Town. And beyond just doubting my lack of sympathy and distrust of people, I’ve questioned how able I am to engage with intersectionality and acknowledge my privilege. Why did Thursday’s reflection on the two subjects make me so uncomfortable? Why is it so difficult for me to discuss my intersectionality? Why am I constantly comparing myself to others? Why do I sometimes delegitimize my own feelings in order to legitimize other peoples’ feelings? Why am I so emotional about certain aspects of my life that don’t seem to be a big deal? And why are those feelings dismissed on the basis of assumptions made about me? How can one of the only times I feel like I’ve been open in reflection and spoken about my feelings result in me being upset because of a comment made by someone who doesn’t even know me? Why are my emotions being simplified to a pair of boots? All questions running though my mind after Thursday’s reflection, and I hated it.
I don’t have many answers to these questions; I only know that it’s good that I’m starting to question these things to begin with. I can’t grow before I learn these things and more about myself. I can’t grow before I learn to become more receptive to difficult topics and open to discussing them. Feelings and difficult conversations are hard to deal with, especially when you’re not used to facing or having them. After this trip, I’m hoping to be engaged more frequently and more openly.