It’s rare to stand in a pivotal moment and recognize it as such. I knew when I prepared mentally and emotionally for my first trip to a third world country, so far from my own home, that I would return a little bit of a different person. I just thought it would look a certain way, and it didn’t.
I changed in all the predictable ways, and I don't discount those. It was good for me to broaden my worldview in a way that didn't involve landmarks and unusual architecture. It was good to put a real face on need, to want to do more to better the world than writing a check. I have images burned into my blood.
But a surprising byproduct of nine days in Sri Lanka came from spending 16 hours a day with a group of incredibly smart writers. We spent huge chunks of time in a van driving and all of our evenings down a long communal dinner table, then hunkered over the glow of laptops. As conversations unfolded about theology and publishing and marriage and politics, I was more intellectually stimulated than I have been in over five years.
It crept on me slowly, with sadness and surprise, that I have let my brain get lazy. In my daily life, I only follow things I already know something about. If something comes up on my radar that I don't know much about, I often dismiss it, thinking that I don't have the time or desire to put into researching or that it isn't relevant to me.
This isn't to say that I've become a total dumbo. I read a lot, all sorts of things, and I follow politics closely. But those things are easy for me. I understand literature, I understand the two-party system. I immerse myself in them like many people do sports. It's enjoyable for my interests, but rarely does it stretch into thoughtful critical analysis.
I listened to Tony deconstruct whole religions and Roxy talk about life as a magazine editor. I heard about Shawn's time in England and Allison's choice to go to Wheaton. And I thought to myself, I have so much to learn.
I quit my career in reality television five years ago this fall, just after I got married. My reasons for quitting weren't so complicated, but how I felt about myself for the next two years were. I felt “less than” for a long time without an answer for how I spent my days without a job or a baby. I slowly made peace with my choices, and I slowly made babies. Now people pay me to write, so lots of those insecurities have come to a natural conclusion. But the side effect of not going in to a day job is that I'm not around people very often. I'm around ideas (of my own creation) and children (of my own creation) and that is not enough for me to stretch this mass in my head.
I left the other side of the world weak and weary but my mind was strong with my own determination and possibility. I want to use this life I was given, I want to exercise my talents and not fall into the comfort trap. I am having A Moment, and I will cling to it.
This post was a personal reflection on my time in Sri Lanka, but I have so much more to say about that trip. Over the next weeks, I'll slowly be unrolling some of the parts of the journey to the other side of the world. I explain what child sponsorship means here. If you're interested in sponsoring a child through World Vision, please click here.