Fuerza

Sarah Richmond - Ecuador


March 31, 2015

I expected to leave this experience feeling stronger. When I envisioned myself towards the end of my time here, I pictured a fierce and unwavering spectrum of a human being, undoubted by whatever may be thrown her way‰Û_basically, a crossover of Cat Woman and Erowyn from Lord of the Rings. However, here I am with just less than a month left in my community and I feel like the emotional equivalent of going too long without eating; woozy, shaking, tired, and unable to shake the image of a sliced apple with organic Trader Joe’s peanut butter from my mind.

Maybe the peanut butter daydreams are unrelated, but still.

More and more frequently, my chest is filled with the knotting sensation that I could’ve have put more into this year, that if I were stronger, this wouldn’t be so hard for me. After digging out most of what’s inside of me and putting it into these past seven months, I find myself left hollowed out with a glistening plate of my own organs sitting in front of me, and a question that won’t go away: Where is my strength??

Resolute, if not a little bone-weary, I decided to set out and find it wherever I could. I asked the question Que es la fuerza? What is strength? To see if maybe the answer to my own internal dilemma was waiting for me lying within someone else. Here are some of the answers I got:

More than anything, strength seems to wear a lot of different masks. I found strength in the office of a lawyer working for victims of domestic abuse and on the side of the dirt road that winds up to my house. And as everyone seems to carry their own, enigmatic notions of what exactly makes us strong, I continually collided with the question I was asking of others, or rather, what is strength to me?

Strength, I’ve realized, maybe doesn’t always feel so strong. Maybe, sometimes, strength even feels shaky enough to really, really crave apples with peanut butter. Strength is easy to see in leather bodysuits and mithril armor, but I’m squinting and tilting my head to the side, and I think I’m seeing it in a 5’2 eighteen year old as well. I’m seeing the strength it takes to dig into yet another bowl of soup and potatoes. Of walking down my street and saying hello to every person I pass, even when I’m met with blank stares and blatant gawking. Of playing freeze-dance with my students, and making the entire school laugh as I attempt the robot. After years of dealing with anxiety, I’m fostering the quiet strength of putting both hands on my heart and whispering oh

Sarah Richmond