August 27th

Katie Dodge - Senegal


August 30, 2017

Hello! I wanted to do a quick explanation before I started the actual blog post. I’m currently at Stanford, where I will be for the next two days until I fly to Dakar. I wrote most of this on the plane from Seattle to San Francisco, but because I take forever to articulate my words, I didn’t post it until now. If you know someone who is even remotely interested in following my journey, please encourage them to subscribe!

 

 I lay sprawled out on my bed. The clock on my nightstand informed me that it was 12:23am. I had spent the last hour desperately trying to fit everything into my suitcase while still maintaining a weight under 50 pounds, and my fingers ached from the effort of trying to tug the zippers of my luggage closed. Yet after a brutal game of Tetris, I finally managed to fit everything while staying under weight (of course, the next morning everything was undone as I finally admitted to myself that strapping a role of duct tape to the outside of your backpack because you can’t make room for it is a sign that you need a bigger suitcase). Now the only thing left to do was to go to sleep but I wasn’t quite ready; I wanted to savor my last night in my own bed.

The months had turned into weeks, which had turned into days, which had turned into hours. Snuggling deeper under the covers, I reflected on how soon those hours would turn into minutes. Was I ready? I wasn’t sure. How did I feel? I wasn’t sure. I had been asked those two questions more than I could count in the week leading up to my departure, and I had gotten really good at stating emotions that one would expect to feel when in my situation: excitement, fear, nervousness. In reality, my emotions were simply too entangled and twisted to siphon out a clear answer.

The best metaphor that I can think of to describe how I felt was that it was if I was standing on the edge of a cliff, preparing to jump into the water below. I like to think of myself as a courageous person, but when it comes to jumping from heights, I’m a bit of a wimp. However, I also have a personal rule that whenever I say I’m going to do something terrifying, I have to do it. Rather than due to my strength of character, this rule comes from years of gymnastics, where backing out of a skill at the last minute is extremely dangerous. I give myself no other option other than to jump once I’ve been convinced to do so, usually because one of my friends say they will and I refuse to be shown up (I’m just a little competitive).

What usually happens after I look over the edge is 15 minutes of me hemming and hawing, simply overthinking and delaying the inevitable. I get stuck in a downward spiral where the longer I think, the longer I take to jump, which in turn gives me more time to think. The primal, survival part of my brain goes into overdrive, ignoring the fact that I will most certainly not die from this experience. I always have the same epiphany while looking over the edge, trying to muster up my courage: that this whole ordeal could have been avoided if I had simply jumped right away. Without thinking, without time to second-guess myself.

If I actually spent the time to think about how I felt about leaving the country and everything I have ever known for eight months, I would most likely be so paralyzed with fear and uncertainty that my mom would have to push me into the plane just like she pushed me into my classroom on the first day of fourth grade (true story). So, instead, I have made the decision to not think about what I’m about to do, to not think about how long the fall is or how cold the water is below. I’m just going to jump.

 


Katie Dodge