I’ll probably live longer than you and never fade away
I’ll never fade away, I’ll never fade away, I know my fate
-“Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst”, Kendrick Lamar
There is a family legend that happened when I was very, very young. I was acting out as usual and, after being reprimanded by my parents (I’m assuming they said “Franny how can you be so cute but so annoying?!”), I apparently said
“I’m not Franny, I’m Basia Bastick, the baaaaddd Franny.”
This is LITERALLY the weirdest and creepiest thing I have ever heard in my life and it came out of my OWN MOUTH. I think we could unpack this and suggest its implications for my future as a dictator but I’ll leave that for another post.
Questionable career paths aside, lately I have been feeling a lot like Basia. I have this distinct, small anger that has been sitting inside of me for the past few months, if not longer, only to be briefly quelled by a cold and glorious week in Montreal before conference surrounded by people I love, good conversation in friends’ living rooms, and lots of dancing. I heard that it’s normal for JFs to feel angry and dispirited after returning from placements, but it has been over six months now. Why the sudden dissatisfaction? Is it that the novelty of being back in Van has worn off and I’m restless again, looking for the next thing? Why can’t I be happy just doing school? Is it a remnant of Mercury’s retrograde patterns as (semi-jokingly) suggested by a Professional Fellow’s moving and eloquent blog?
The last time I felt this lasting hardness was in Liwonde when I heard from Mr. Banda* who had not been paid for over a month because the ORT from the national level was late. As I wrote in my journal that night, “I biked home at sunset with tears in my eyes and fire in my heart.” I remember crying quietly in the bushes over the phone to my mom, hoping no one in my village would hear me. Crying about how unfair the world is. Lately this hardness has overtaken me on seemingly innocent moments: walking home last weekend after a lovely vegetarian dim sum celebration with sun in my eyes and suddenly -whoosh- fire in my heart, the hardness solidifying in me like that last turnip cake. Today walking to the beach with wine gums in my mouth and fire in my heart, a permanent frown on my face ever since. Tears are not going to solve this but I don’t know how to quell this fire. I don’t know if I want to.
People always seem surprised to hear that I love hip hop and rap. I’m not sure what they think I should be listening to, the sounds of waterfalls and bluebells dancing in the wind, baby’s laughter, I don’t know, but I love it. Hip hop is the musical form of a protest, liquid swords and lyrical activism. It is a distinct calling out on what is wrong and a demand to take up space, to matter, to yell out “We as a world deserve better. I deserve better.” I’ve been reading up on resistance literature, and I feel that writing and song are crucial components to any resistance movement, to any social action. Tears are not enough, but communication and listening may be.
As I conducted my bi-weekly Kendrick Lamar meditation (try it) on the island I realized how soothed I am by the forest and the calm quiet. I think I need to be outside more, in nature, away from the city and distractions. Today, in between long forest frolics, daydreams by the beach, and making a lot of quesadillas, I have had two job interviews, written grant applications, started getting shit done. I have time to think for myself and take a break to figure out what I want. This time in nature and productive action is what I miss a lot from Liwonde, other than the connections with my friends and host family and that sense of adventure. Though it was slow, through working for the District Water Development Office I felt like I was contributing. We in the office were a team, all with the common goal of ensuring consistent water access for our district. I miss that feeling of doing something. I’m restless. (I may be romanticizing my involvement.)
Though I’m really enjoying my courses this term I am really tired of talking. I want to take action, though I understand the issues I care about are very very complicated therefor we need to learn, to take time to talk about all sides and perspectives. But I’m tired. I realized why I feel like I’m slipping away from EWB (though never WASH) is because I don’t want to talk about things anymore. That being said, I want to learn from people with different perspectives, from different countries and backgrounds, but I’m tired of talking about the same things in my chapter and at conference. I think that is a very selfish thing to say but I am feeling kind of selfish, indulgent, and crabby, and Basia doesn’t care what people think.
What it is is that I have never really liked forced bonding or forced time to have “deep” conversation; it makes my neck skin crawl. I love discussing these issues and chatting, but only when it feels natural and I think that perhaps the way we frame these issues in our chapter or at other events has the danger of being overly simplistic or too focused on the individual. One member of our chapter said they felt that we were too focused on individual growth and building leadership skills of our members instead of actually focussing on development. I then argued that we have probably shifted away because development has been largely unsuccessful and there is little sustainable, partnership-based action, that can be done by people in Vancouver in such a short time frame. Now I think that is kind of bullshit. We need to invest in our members and provide learning opportunities for people in our community so that when they as leaders take action, they have the skills to do so in a respectful, intersectional manner, HOWEVER I think there are things we can do now. We don’t have to wait until we are in “positions of power.” There is action that we can take here and now I want to find it. Divestment at UBC is one example. The annual Women’s Memorial March is another.
I want to use my emotions as a guide to action, turn the conversations that I sometimes dread with EWB into motivation to make change. Where are my emotions at? I’m angry about how many communities in Northern Canada are STILL on boil water advisories, going completely against the Indian Act and basic human rights. I’m really angry that Harper said there is nothing systemic about the missing and murdered Aboriginal women across Canada. I’m angry that people still think Africa is a country. I’m angry that UBC aims to increase international student fees by 20%. I’m sad about the floods in Southern Malawi. I’m sad about the Chapel Hill shootings. I’m sad about the recent attacks in Libya. I’m sad that I know at least one person who probably won’t vote in October’s federal election and that I know many who will vote Conservative.
But I’m also sad that the boy I like lives as far east from Vancouver as you can get without actually being in the Atlantic Ocean. I was disappointed that the grocery store didn’t have the scone that I walked there for so I bought wine gums instead. I’m sad that my friend can’t drive me to Tofino to go surfing. These kinds of emotions, some of which are petty and entitled, also exist in my head and I think that this represents the challenge of trying to create change. I often am bogged down with these kinds of “problems” which can distract me from school and volunteering, but they are also what makes life fun. I love gossip! I don’t care! I would much rather watch an episode of Broad City and giggle with my roommate instead of learning about soil infiltrability I’m sorry.
I think that sometimes when we get stuck on these big global challenges, poverty, water access, gender equality, we forget about the actual people we are trying to partner with and support. We forget that people everywhere are just trying to get by, to go to work or school, wondering what’s for dinner, and doing their level best. I guess that’s what I’ll try to remember while figuring out what I can do to take more action and deal with the hardness. I’ll try to put aside Basia Bastick (even though I’m excited to see where she will take me) for the EWB BC retreat and actively avoid the forced bonding while remembering to be kind, respectful, and listen to others. I think that’s all we can do. I’m looking forward to finding more places where I can take direct action and I hope I can do so from a place of considerate compassion and humility, while being badass Basia who probably wears (ethical) pleather pants and cruises on a sweet banana-handled bike with flames off the seat.
I also did not care for the “Art of Hosting” AT ALL. Does that make me incapable of human connection or what?
*Name has been changed