A little over 2 months ago, I gave away the last of my belongings in my Oakland apartment. The very last thing I gave away was my queen sized bed. As I watched a random Craigslist user put the bed over another queen bed on top of his Honda Civic (yes, I'm also impressed that he managed to somehow logistically coordinate that)—I thought to myself: everything I now own fits into the "trunk" compartment of my Smart car. A brief flash of panic washed over me as the realization sunk in: there was no turning back. No bed to sleep in, no furniture, no new Bay Area lease that was signed.
I was going on this legal cross-country adventure come hell or high water.
In other words: I pushed all those chips in and surrendered myself to taking perhaps the biggest risk in my life to date. It felt simultaneously terrifying and exhilarating.
I feel like I experience the duality of these two worlds every single day: exhilaration and fear. I started to think more about the nexus of these two different sentiments, and I recently realized that they often have a push/pull type of relationship. And it all revolves around the notion of what it means to take a risk.
This journey has me putting myself in situations that can often be highly uncomfortable: cold calling legal organizations and giving my elevator pitch; making some bold asks to live in someone else's home for a short period of time since I am on a tight budget (so grateful to those who have already hosted me!); meeting new people constantly and putting myself wholly out there both professionally and personally.
It's exhilarating to live this way and feel this sense of being present and alive, as I have written about before. It also often feels like my existence these days revolves around taking a consistent series of risks—and living with the results of taking them.
I've noticed something about my experience when it comes to risk. The human mind is highly adaptable—there have been numerous studies done on how the majority of people will inevitably adapt to whatever outcome may exist and learn to appreciate the more positive aspects of that outcome (generally speaking).
But as my final days in Portland are coming to end, I will be totally honest with you: I noticed that when making arrangements for Seattle/Tacoma (my next stop!!!), it felt more difficult than when I made arrangements for Portland and Bakersfield. I felt more scattered, depleted, indecisive. In retrospect, perhaps it was the luxurious problem of having a number of different routes/organizations I could take. Seattle will be the biggest metropolitan area I have been in since I left the Bay. I felt overwhelmed with how many different directions I could go in and wasn't sure what route I should take.
And after some further introspection about the aforementioned experience I realized:
The more risk averse one is when facing a situation that requires action—the more unpleasant the experience will be—regardless of outcome.
I look back at the last couple months and think about the number of uncomfortable asks or decisions I've had to make. And it's true that I want (and need!) to weigh the pros and cons of each decision.
But there's a point of diminishing returns.
There is a point where the analysis becomes this jumbling mess of flip-flopping back and forth and it doesn't become so much of an analysis anymore. Instead, it is more of living in a real-life purgatory of indecision. It's like pulling off that Band-Aid little by little versus just ripping it off in one fell swoop. The wound may or may not be healed yet, but at least if you just rip it off that little sucker is off and you'll know either way much faster.
Life in the indecisive purgatory zone sucks. It feels like a more watered down version of the oh-so-precious commodity of time. It has a false illusion of being more comfortable because no "decision" has been made yet—and as a result—no consequences have been incurred either.
But isn't wasted time a consequence in and of itself?
Something in me over literally the last 24 hours just kind of—clicked into action. It was my brain switching gears from the "but I dunnoooooooo" mode to the "do it and you know you can deal with whatever the outcome is" mode.
Some observations: initially, the just-do-it mode is high on that terror/fear scale. But it's like riding a bike. Once it's been activated, it goes off on its own momentum or trajectory. That trajectory is going to go wherever the hell it's going to go and depending on the situation, there is a limited directional influence one can put on it. And that can be interestingly accompanied with a sense of peace.
More importantly in this mode, I feel more ownership over my actions and life and have faith that whatever comes my way—things will work out.
So with that, this weekend I am heading up to Seattle/Tacoma, WA for my next stop for the next 4 weeks. I will be a volunteer attorney at the Northwest Immigration Rights Project that does a lot of work with the Tacoma immigration detention center. I am also making plans to try to get more experience in working with detainees after they have been released and what that post-process looks like.
And it can be a hustle to put myself out there and ask to be deeply included in a relatively short period of time. But I know that if I don't make those big asks, it simply won't happen. And that isn't an outcome I will allow to happen.
So in those moments when I feel internal resistance to ripping that Band-Aid off and going pedal to the metal: I remind myself that no matter what the outcome is to taking the risk, it will bear something, which is undoubtedly better than nothing at all.
And with that—it is off to Washington state for me! And here is me practicing the theme of this blog post in action! :-) If you know of any attorneys/advocates/wonderful folks I should connect with in Seattle/Tacoma, I'd absolutely love to be introduced to them. I've quickly learned that the people I meet on the ground where I go makes the entire experience. Thanks for being a part of that. :)