A Frequently Asked Question
A question I most commonly get while I am on the road is: "Do you get lonely? Do you feel isolated?" In fact, a new friend/work colleague here in San Antonio asked me this question last night. I paused for a moment and said: "Sure. Absolutely."
And then I told her that there is a difference though—these two concepts of loneliness and solitude. I often revel in solitude—because I am processing so much during the day (I am on week 4 of working in Texas immigration detention centers—this past week, I made the shift to the Karnes Residential Facility). I've mentioned to friends that I can often withstand multiple hours in the car in total silence because of the peace and tranquility that space can give. Ahh, sweet solitude.
On the other hand, is its closely related feeling, loneliness. And it's true, I can experience that too. I admit after working in Dilley the first couple weeks I got to Texas, I was pretty emotionally drained. I needed some time to recover, but I also needed to make sure that I didn't go into social withdrawal. Loneliness is more of that feeling that one isn't connected to the world and people around them. And when spent too long in this particular place—it can start to chip away at you. And it's definitely not good when one is working/traveling solo on the road.
When another new friend in San Antonio asked me the above question, I also mentioned that because I've moved around quite a bit in my life, and because my friends have too—it has been a bit like a reunion getting to see friends from all across the country. And meet wonderful new friends, too. It's because of this that even in the toughest of work days and most somber of situations, I luckily have a space in my heart that gently tugs me to remember that there are pieces of my heart scattered all throughout this country (and world, really).
Each friend who I have crossed paths with along the way lives on in me, somehow. Sometimes, I think of a funny memory that we've shared. Or, I think of a particularly resonant quote that someone said that sticks in my memory. And all of these interactions continue to go in and build upon themselves in whatever area I am in—metropolitan San Antonio or super rural Dilley, Texas—and all the other places I've been in this trip and beyond.
It's been a heavy 3-4 weeks here getting situated in immigration detention center work in Texas, and writing this post has helped me re-realize that anchoring myself in these friendships and connections are what will allow this work to continue in the longer-term.
The Spaces and Places in Between
The last 9 months (almost an entire gestational period—woah!) have been some of the most formative in my life. I feel like I haven't had a proper amount of time to completely digest everything, but I know that will be coming up soon enough. But I have experienced a lot of America in these last 9 months: rural California in the Central Valley working with migrant farmworkers; my first exposure to immigration law with Catholic Charities in Portland, Oregon; my first and highly impactful experience working at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington; being one of the only attorneys around for hundreds of miles in extremely rural Cut Bank, Montana; living on/near my second reservation on the Navajo Nation in the Arizonian desert; getting a view of issues on the US/Mexican border in Tucson, Arizona; helping out at DACA clinics in Santa Fe, New Mexico & hearing stories of hope; and working with Central American women and children in Dilley and Karnes City, Texas who are seeking asylum.
In all these spaces, and in all these places—a part of these experiences and all the people I've interacted with along the way lives on in me. It's in a place where when loneliness weighs in over solitude; I remember this treasure trove of people, warmth, love, and interactions. A little piece of my heart is with these people and places I've spent time with over these last 9 months.
And when your heart is in a million places, every new place feels like another potential community, and every person I meet could be a potential new friend. (Ya never know...) And it helps me to remind myself when I am chugging along during my travels that all of us, really, are connected to each other—in all of these spaces and places.
There are luckily SO many photo memories I could share of people and places where parts of my heart are, but here is one photo from each stop I've been.
I'll be here in San Antonio until the second week of May—if you or any of your loved ones is here—I'd love to connect. Much love to you all, and thanks again for hanging with me through the good & tougher times. I know the last few weeks had some heavy experiences and thoughts and I am grateful I was able to share it all with you. 'Til next time—peace!