It’s been about 72 hours since I touched down at LAX after ten days in South America. I still can’t talk about my experience there. Every time I try… tears start rolling down my face and I can’t get the words out. I’m not even sure why or how I’m writing this, because clearly it is all too raw and too deeply emotional for me to have fully absorbed yet. The day after I got home, I spent about four hours in front of the television, just to get away from my own thoughts. I went back on the radio this morning, and as the red “on air” light went on, I just hoped that I could focus on the two hours of live broadcasting in front of me. Luckily, at this point in my career, it’s a little like riding a bike — all instinct.
As someone who likes to think of herself as a citizen of the world, and relatively well-traveled, I’m ashamed to admit that this was my first real venture into the developing world. I’ve been to Argentina, but it is quickly modernizing, and I didn’t spend a lot of time (ok, I didn’t spend any time) in poverty-striken areas while I was vacationing there. I’ve done plenty of reporting on inner-city America, which is not visited by any of the advantages of this great country, but that did nothing to prepare me for what I saw and experienced in Peru. Clearly, I need to travel much more outside the bubble that is the modern, capitalized West. As of this moment, that’s really all I want to do. How I go about it? Another question altogether.
I’ve always believed in giving back, and I’ve tried throughout my adult life to volunteer and raise money and provide help wherever I can. But now I feel this deep need and longing to do something so much larger than myself. Journalism is a mighty and noble profession. It is now and always will be my first love. But after two years of soul-searching after leaving my job, I wonder if Peru was trying to tell me something about what needs to happen next. Everything in my life seems so inconsequential and frivolous — even though I know it’s not. Not really. Just because I have things, just because I have advantages, doesn’t mean I’m taking all of that away from someone else’s life. But I do question anew what my priorities are, and how they came to be, and how they need to change.
What I’m afraid of now is that after a few days I’ll slip back into the comfortable skin of my life and let this feeling somehow fade into background noise. I don’t want it to. I want something to happen. I want change. I want to figure out what’s supposed to come next. But it would be a lot easier to let this all ease away and just pick up where I left off about two weeks ago. And part of me feels like it’s awfully silly for all of this to have exploded in my head over a matter of a few days. How is it possible for one very short experience to prompt so much soul-searching? But I can’t answer that, and I’m trying to give myself the benefit of the doubt that this is just part of a long personal journey that started about two and a half years ago. I’ve never been a woo-woo girl, I haven’t believed that the universe bothered to put a plan together for me — that’s just not who I am. And yet.
So to all of you who’ve asked, excitedly, how my trip went and watched as I fell to pieces in front of you — this is why. I can’t explain it. I can’t even really write about it yet — this is a feeble attempt to put a few words down before the moment escapes me. I’ll get on with things soon enough. I’ll tell you about my adventures, about the people I met, about all the beautiful smiles I saw on the faces of children who have nothing, about one of the seven wonders of the world that everyone should see before they die, and about the stories I gathered with a microphone and a camera. But for now, this will have to do. This, and a renewed sense of gratitude for the life I have, and the life that might lie before me. I am so very fortunate.