Departure without Defeat: A Reflection
I stare out a window in Minneapolis, MN – the starting point for this entire journey. In my directors’ apartment, we sit around with computers on our laps and pizza boxes on the floor, frantically moving to bring this trip to a close; filling out evaluations, sending thank you notes and postcards, emailing our schools so that classes are all set when we return. The outward motions move quickly, but I’m not sure the same could be said for the processes in our hearts. I would like to believe that I am not alone in writing that part of me wishes this weren’t coming to a close, that we weren’t wishing each other goodbye, that the weight of realizing that this may be our last time together is almost too much to carry.
I am starting to think about what my mind and heart will have to endure in processing these past two months and not quite sure what will be left when that process is over. At this point all I can say is that I am permanently changed, inspired, and motivated to see to that efforts such as these do not merely fade into the background of my life’s history. I keep trying to find myself when I look in the mirror and then I realize that it is not me who is staring back but rather who I have become. All I have to articulate that experience are these words and this space.
In an effort to begin the processing I look at a map on the wall in disbelief: we’ve traveled half the country, from the plains of Iowa, through the swamps of Mississippi, across the mountains of Georgia, and back up to the trees of Massachusetts. I know right now that I did not bring enough film. We’ve had innumerable conversations, faced police hostility in a number of states, sat in jail for nearly thirty hours, listened to the screams of people who swear we are eternally damned, been embraced with warm arms from communities and churches, and came back to gift bags prepared for us by our fellow Riders from the West bus who were eagerly waiting our arrival. Even if I could begin to illustrate the motions inside my mind, this page would not suffice. I could write until my fingers cramped and it would still feel unfinished. Perhaps that feeling is what will motivate me to continue this work through some other means when I return home.
As I begin sending out last emails to our sponsors and supporters I think about how lucky we’ve been to have so many people who believe in us. Young adults are somewhat discouraged at times when they tell people they have a dream only to receive a pat on the head and some patronizing words of encouragement. But our supporters have sincerely followed our journey, sent us emails and words of perseverance, and continue to keep the glow of the flames burning. To them I would like to say thank you – you are much of what has sustained us when we thought we wouldn’t make it and still retain sanity throughout this journey.
When I think of my Riders, I start feeling a space widening in my chest realizing that we won’t be sharing a bed together, that dance parties on the bus are over, and that your voices won’t be singing with mine. I am listening to your laughs one room over and the sound of your footsteps shuffling down the hall. I shudder at the approach of our departure creeping in with the breeze as I look out this window, singing in my head a favorite Rolling Stones song, “Til the next time we say goodbye, I’ll be thinking of you…”