A Real-World Peacebuilder

I want to start off with a blog that I recently found from my old MySpace. This was written July 18, 2007, just a few days before I turned 17:

This summer has changed me.

I said that same thing last summer.

Last summer did change me.

It was a crazy summer.

I felt this confidence I had never felt before.

I also felt so carefree.

It was a great summer.

I was different.

But this summer… I am different.

Even more different.

I don’t even know if I can explain it.

I admire people that speak their mind. [sometimes]

And I have had a lot of people speak their minds to me this summer.
At first I take it hard. It hurts

I am a sensitive person and I can’t change that. [blame my father]

But then, I turn the criticism into something constructive.

So then, I make it change my life for the better instead of crippling me.

I really would love to start working with different charities.

Focusing on different things that don’t deal with me.

We have one life.

Are we going to spend it on ourselves?

Or are we going to out there and make ourselves be remembered by the impact we are leaving on this world?

Please forgive the imperfection of it all and thank you for following my young mind. It was actually a very long blog with a lot more to it but the introduction is enough to make my point.

In reading this blog, I thought of all the various summer time experiences I have had that have changed me. I can’t tell you exactly what was happening during the summer of my 17th year but I do know the thought processes I was going through because I seem to have a pattern occurring in my life.

Even as I was about to turn 17, I was critical of myself and listened to criticisms others had of me. I was in this pursuit of wanting to make a positive impact of the world and was in a deep sense of questioning how I was going to do that.

Let’s flash-forward to the summer of 2018 (11 summers later) and here I am doing the same thing. As I read through the blogs that I wrote during SPP, I was in a deep sense of questioning the impact my being was having on the world. I was in a constant state of questioning my downfalls and strengths in relation to what we discussed and learned about during the day. I was consistently inspired daily by the type of work and people we learned about, and here I was again wondering what kind of impact I was going to have on this world after graduate school.

In the Fall, I was able to work in a position that focused on healing and reconciliation practices. I dove into a meaty library of books that focused on forgiveness and reconciliation, white allyship, leadership, European history & ancestry, as well as some literature focusing on New Mexico history, all with the hopes to create a curriculum that would help support community leaders embarking on community reconciliation practices.

This is a list of a few books that inspired me and the curruiculum, and that I greatly recommend:

  • The Book of Forgiving by Desmond Tutu & Mpho Tutu
  • Building Peace by John Paul Lederach
  • Emergent Strategy by Adrienne Maree Brown
  • The Biological Mind by Alan Jasanoff
  • The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D.
  • Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
  • Practice Showing Up by Jardana Peacock
  • This Will Be My Undoing by Morgan Jenkins
  • Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
  • Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

In the end, I felt like I developed myself more than I developed any curriculum. This was an emotional time for me as I read through history and people’s narratives. Some narratives were hard to read as I questioned if other around me felt the same way some of the authors did, and I had no idea. Other histories were hard to learn about as it debunked aspects of history I had recognized as truth. These books inspired me to, yet again, look inward and find my short-fallings. They made me question if I even had the ability to do anything good or if I was just stuck in a system where my actions automatically created there to be negative effects on others.

In December, I walked as a graduate at Middlebury, still unsure of what I was meant to do or where I even wanted to go.

​Here I am now on March 21, 2019 where I have just wrapped up two days of interviews for jobs in different countries, one in Haiti and the other in Chad, after about a million applications. Here I am again questioning if I am prepared to enter the world and leave that positive impact I’ve been searching for since as teenager. Is that even possible? What mistakes am I going to make? Am I really the best person to be working with these communities? Am I going to create more harm than good? Am I ready?

My answer to all of these questions is: As long as I never quit reflecting, questioning myself, listening to others, or striving to learn from the impacts I do make, I will remain ready. These are qualities that I believe make a real-world peacebuilder. Maybe I even began the embodiment of a peacebuilder since I was 17 after all.