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Anticipation before arriving in Jo’burg 


Anxiety is what I feel right now, but it shouldn’t carry the weight of the word from a normative view. I’m excited and happy and just beginning the journey to a dream I’ve had since starting college. It’s rewarding to finally get to the point where I can actualize on something I’ve kept fostered inside my head for so long.

I think that’s why this opportunity feels more rewarding, because it took a rejection from sophomore year to prompt me to better prepare for this year, (by taking a South African history class and interning at an NGO) to actually become a valid candidate. It took 2 applications this past year, accidentally deleting my first one, spending a night in Perkins until 4 am rewriting it, and a brutal bike ride back in the rain to Central Campus… to finally be presented with this opportunity.

Good things come to those who wait? Not quite… I think I just made myself more accident prone to a good opportunity.

It feels like the other day when I sat as a senior in high school on Blue Devil Days and listened to upperclassmen talk about their DukeEngage experience. I became enamored by the possibility of using a liberal arts degree to engage in the community. Or rather, get out of my theoretical mind, and actually attempt to use analytic skills to benefit other people. I’m reluctant to say this program is to ‘make a difference’ because we all know, the difference is mostly for me. However, if can use this opportunity to open my eyes a little wider, cultivate a little more empathy and understanding, then I think it’s a pretty worthwhile endeavor.

But for now… I’m sitting on my second plane, and about to take off for the final 11 hour leg of a 20 hour journey, and I feel Anxiety coming back.

I doesn’t matter if I’m about to run a race that I’ve prepared for with months of training, or am about to take a test I feel as if I don’t know anything for, or am retreating to my bed and laying in paralysis because I don’t know what to do— the feeling is all the same— Anxiety.

Anxiety is ok. Anxiety is actually good. “It means you care.” That’s what my dad would always tell me before a race. But often, I care too much, and right now, I feel the familiar sense of the word. It’s the jittery finger typing on my keypad, it’s the impulsive purchases of sugary drinks and gum, and my spiraling mind that almost feels numb because it’s going in a thousand directions and can’t seem to figure out which place to land on.

Anxiety feels like a lot of loose ends tied up, and not being satisfied with the bow I just made. Relationships are funny like that, and just because I said the formalities or good byes before leaving, doesn’t necessarily mean I made a nice present. I can’t just place my relationships under a Christmas tree and expect to feel apathetic, but I’m learning to be okay with the change for now, and comforted by the fact they’ll be there when I return.

I want to be fully present and fully aware for the next 8 weeks. That’s a pretty idealistic goal to make because I’m sure my own anxiety, ignorance, nerves, homesickness, confusion or fatigue will fog my mind at times, and prevent me from being as open to the moment in front of me. But I think all I can do is anticipate that, and try to be as much of a sponge as I can.

I want to soak everything up. All the parts I don’t understand and am upset by; the racial prejudices and socio-economic inequality and systemic problems of oppression. But that’s not enough, and I want to be more than an intellectual fart who’s become an expert on South African politics and social justice. I want to soak up all the small moments too, and not lose sight on making friendships and strong bonds along the way, and be open to all of the beauty that lies within this deeply confusing country. I know all of this, these small moments of joy, can only occur by continuously checking in with myself to stay aware and attentive.

Attention is said to be “narrowed perception” and I want to narrow my perception here. I’ve deleted most social media from my phone for now, and other than using WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger to stay in contact with friends and family, I want to be removed from what others are doing… to some extent. I’m usually unaware how a picture I saw on Facebook or Instagram makes me feel while I’m sitting at dinner with my parents, or out with my friends, but I realize it takes me away from the conversation at hand. It’s so easy to be overwhelmed with the grandiosity of my peers accomplishments during the school year, and with that, I want to be suspended in time for now, or away from anything in the so called ‘real world’ of others, and focus a bit more on my real world here.

Extending my awareness also comes leaving my judgements or expectations and preconceived notions at home. I want to be prepared for this trip, but I don’t want to heighten it. I want to be as culturally literate and as useful of an intern as I can be at SACTWU, but I haven’t let myself create too many narratives yet. I want to stay open to whatever I experience, and not be caught up in a story I tell myself for how it will turn out.

My mind’s finally slowing down. I’m starting to focus more on my growling stomach and 2 am airplane English breakfast meal, and less on my fears, insecurities, hopes or anticipation for what lies ahead.

My anxiety feels more quiet now, but I think I’ll still finish my Rubicon drink that has wayyyy too much sugar.