A now overused and thus misunderstood and diluted buzz word, sustainability is often defined as "the capacity to endure and remain productive." This term is often used to describe an ecological mindset, a goal of environmentalism, or a category of agriculture. While I am all in favor of saving the planet by whatever means we have available, the kind of sustainability I am discussing flows more deeply than through the fields of crop or tides of politics.
In anticipation of the move to a brand new country and culture, I have experienced a lot of fear and nervousness this past week. Uncertain of the specific cause, and unwilling to investigate enough to identify a reason for these feelings, I have struggled greatly. Part of it, I am sure, is the sharp reality of what is going to happen, and the rapidly approaching time frame of this adventure. As previously written about, this is not the sort of thing that I do. I am the girl with the plan, the steps, the system. I color-coded every single class I took in college. I agonize over simple plans for a visitor and record details with an obsessive bent. I organize my life to fit into a meticulous structure.
I have always hated this about myself, always wished it to change. And so I stepped out onto this branch of uncertainty with a kind of pride in my bravery, an assertion that THIS is the kind of person I wish to be. So I do a little research and lay down my life outline (bullet points included) and decide to teach in Romania. And I know almost nothing.
So on August 30th, 2010, I will arrive at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago with some luggage and family members and anticipation and hope and fear and a certain amount of loneliness. I will meet someone there who seems to be much better at adventure and spontaneity than I (one of the many reasons I am grateful for him), and we will get on a plane and leave the United States for a year. I will probably still be unsure of my living arrangements, my teaching situation or the cultural expectations. I won't know how to navigate my physical or cultural surroundings, and I will have a year of trial and a year of error and a year of growth. And I will be mostly alone.
I find myself envious of the Peace Corps volunteers I know and have read about, especially those serving in Romania. They have 10 weeks of pre-service language training and cultural immersion and group bonding time. I sit in the library alone pouring over cultural guides, travel planners and language tapes. While not trying to negate the tremendous difficulty of their service experiences, they at least have each other. They become familiar with a place while already familiar with some people. I am traveling to Romania with D~ and after a brief orientation he will leave for his city and his school and his job, and I will be left in Bucharest. And again, while tremendously excited, I am also terribly afraid of loneliness.
And so we return to sustainability. Because I know that such thoughts and feelings are neither good for my spirit nor sustainable in my brain, I find myself dwelling in the comfort of friends. I have such meaningful people in my life- those who bring joy and laughter and perspective and thought and prayer and happiness and beauty and inexpressible comfort. They force me to consider the world around me and think about more than myself and dwell in the good. They lift me up in ways unforeseen, in ways I could not ask for nor expect. They enable in me "the capacity to endure and remain productive."
Consider this quote, recently written to me by my dear friend L~. I sit in the library downtown and read this over and over. This little piece of wisdom spoken from the mouth of a true friend and accepted by the heart of one who was searching. This, my friends, is life sustainable.
"We need to flex our strengths and bend our weaknesses under new lights where they may become stronger- taking risks and stretching ourselves until we grow into the giants we hope to be."