Earth Mother teach me of my kin,
Of Hawk, and Dove, and flower,
Of blinding sunlight, shady knoll,
Desert wind and morning showers.
Teach me every language of
The creatures that sing to me,
That I may count the cadence of
Infinite lessons in harmony.
Teach me how to honor
The Sacred Spaces of all,
Gently melding with the whole,
Answering the whippoorwills call.
Steamy tropics to glacial ice,
To thundering oceans tides,
In every grain of desert sands,
Your beauty forever abides.
Oh, Mother of every kingdom,
Let me claim my family’s love,
From the whales of deepest oceans,
To the winged-ones high above.
Expand my limited vision
Until I can truly know
The missions of my Relations
And the blessings they bestow.
—  Making Family from Earth Medicine (ancestors ways of harmony for many moons)

“N-no.. Look, it’s my job. I pour drinks, you pay for them. I didn’t..– i bought you one drink, it doesn’t make this,” He said, gesturing between the woman and he, “anything at all.” Was that harsh? It sounded harsh, but the truth was the truth. “I’m not your boyfriend, and I’d really appreciate it if you told your brothers to stop coming in to interrogate me.” After an attempted sidestep around her; one which failed, he sighed heavily, rubbing at the back of his neck, “I really have to get back…”

I can imagine Thomas and Teresa getting their pictures taken right before they get their memories swiped and sent into the maze.

Thomas, forever the realist and pessimist, knows that they’re going to go through shit and he is starting to notice that something is wrong because the minute he put on the test subject outfit and stepped in front of the camera it seems like the scientists have forgotten they are colleagues. But he just crushes those doubts, repeating WCKD is good, WCKD is good,” in his mind. He would do his part and they would get the cure, so he steels his face and sets his mouth in a hard line, trying to ignore the creeping apprehension bubbling up in his chest. 

And Teresa steps in front of the camera full of confidence like always. As if none of this bothers her. She raises her eyebrows slightly at the way her colleagues are treating her but she doesn’t think much of it. She assumes they’re just trying to prepare themselves to see her as simply a test subject in case anything goes wrong. They aren’t treating her like she’s beneath them on purpose, after all, none of this could have been possible without her. 

Being Competitive

So while this might seem a bit unrelated to Cambodia and my wild adventures here, I had a little realization today. While corresponding with a fellow Luce scholar, we were talking about our insecurities and personal perceptions of shortcomings. Now, I’m sitting here writing a personal statement, thinking about similar things, and a little bit of serendipity happened. 

I used to be a competitive person. That is an understatement. I was incredibly competitive. I had this rage and fuel inside of me that I would channel into sports, field days, debate, anything that would proclaim a victor. Growing up, I also had a lot of insecurities and felt that I was a disappointment. Being competitive was a way to prove that feeling wrong, even if just for a moment. If I could beat some physical exterior challenge, the internal things were nothing. 

The last time I competed for something was in February, two things actually, but I’ll just talk about one for now. While I don’t think of my Luce interview as a competition, it fit similar criteria. It was a roomful of people hoping to be a part of a limited opportunity. Through the interview process, I really saw that competitive side of people again that I used to see in myself. Some were bragging about their skills and research, others visibly schmoozing while some were just a bit drunk. It was strange to be there in a lot of ways– I didn’t see myself as that kind of person anymore. 

During one of many speeches, a member of the Luce Foundation said something along the lines of “Don’t take this as a competition. This is your chance you show up as yourself, and help us understand what that looks like. Be vulnerable, be humble, be honest”. I remember it was that comment that let me to some pretty honest and vulnerable moments with strangers in those two days. While I was “competing” for an opportunity, it wasn’t rage that fueled me anymore, it was human connection and empathy that became more important. I didn’t feel the need to compensate for who I was with winning, I just wanted to make myself happy and proud. 

Here, in Cambodia, it’s that same level of human connection I want to be present with constantly and hope to learn by pushing myself to get vulnerable. One of the most beautiful things is that moment where you connect with someone. You don’t need to have the same background or experiences, but you understand one piece of someone’s life just a bit better, and you’re better off for doing so. This is year is about getting to that place more easily, and letting myself open up to make that connection an everyday possibility, 

The way the whole-hearted live

They have the courage to be imperfect

They have the compassion to be kind to themselves first and then to others

They have connection as a result of authenticity – being able to let go of who they think they should be in order to be who they are

Finally, they fully embrace vulnerability – they believe that what makes them vulnerable makes them beautiful. They don’t talk about vulnerability being comfortable or excruciating, they just talked about it being necessary. They are willing to do something where there are no guarantees.