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Rayla Freeman - Senegal


December 23, 2014

Home. “Everyone in the world was programmed by the place they were born, hemmed in by their beliefs, but you had to at least try to grow your own brain. Otherwise, you might as well be living on a reservation, worshipping a bunch of bogus gods.” – Scott Westerfield, Pretties. I grew up in funny kind of family. Beyond the fact that it is ever-changing, with step parents and siblings, friends who need a place to stay, room renters, and not to even get started on pets—- my family has always just been a little odd. Our house has always been in an everlasting state of expansion and construction (because my dad always has a new idea to make things better). I grew up with well used fishing poles, strewn about computer parts, lots of happy dogs and a creepy, singing Christmas tree. There were many mornings spent laughing with friends while my dad sung opera and made breakfast in the kitchen, and many late nights dredging through a print job (folding invitations, stuffing envelopes–my dad is a commercial printer) with my best friend, listening to music and going a little crazy. I was always encouraged to do exactly what would make me happiest, even though they didn’t always sound like future-stable-job-procuring activities (theatre, writing, foregoing college for a year and shipping off to Senegal). My mom was always helping with outlandish ideas and activies, bringing me to concerts and festivals, “culture”ing me, one might say. She inspired me to paint and to dance without caring what other people think. For me, my dad never really had rules and punishments like my friends’ families, but we also told him (almost, because let’s face it everyone rebels while they grow up) everything. He trusts us. In return, we trust him, and more than anything my parents want my siblings and me to be happy. Despite all that, I have always been pretty independent. There were times when my parents couldn’t be there—they divorced before I could have known they were ever together and both worked very hard to provide as much as they could. And it’s a part of who I am, I like to be in control of my situation and circumstances. I started working at a very young age (thank you KIDSTAGE). I figured out how to make adults take me seriously (before I even really knew how to myself.) And I spent as much time as I could out of my house, trying to understand the world, learning, and just existing with my friends. So when I left home, I didnt pack my travel beanie baby (something I gave my dad every time he went on a trip when I was little) or my brothers hoodie to remind me of home. While I knew I would miss being completely comfortable and the ability to be independant (I really am like a baby here, everything is so foreign), I didnt imagine missing home quite like I do. I got here expecting the world to open up, to feel excited by the immense amount of life and culture that the world has to offer, and while I have definitely gotten a very large dose of perspective, in many ways I think my world is a little smaller now. Everything feels a little more focused, because looking through the lense of another culture, another place — it has helped me really start to see through all the major ideas of my own culture, that my city, my school, and my family all imprinted me with. I’m questioning what I think is important and I am reevaluating. I think for the rest of my life I will continue wanting to explore the world, I will want to know more and ask why, but what I know now is that having a place to get back to makes the journey (at least in part, for me). Senegal has (and will continue to) change me, but my home shaped me and gave me the ability to get here, to ask questions, and to want more. What I am left with today is that I miss home. I have never been a huge Christmas person, but this year, five days before Christmas, I am feeling an ache for setting up our fake Christmas tree with my big sister and retelling the story of why our dad isn’t allowed near it. For plugging in our Christmas lights that are up year round (we’re that kind of family) and enjoying the warm glow with the Seattle-esqueåÊåÊdrizzle outside. For seeing my brother’s dork around together, no matter that they are almost in their 30s and have very contrasting personalities. For calling my best friend and wishing her a happy Christmas birthday and later crashing her time with her mom. For all of the things I have done a million times and that never felt so important. But even more so I am happy to be missing them, because I am so lucky to have them in the first place, and can only appreciate it all even more now.

Rayla Freeman