Come Home: My Reflections on Olympia, Washington

Isaac Graves of AERO just interviewed me for a book he’s working on. While we talked about community the conversation was swelling in my chest, and now I feel like I might explode.

I have lived in Olympia, Washington, for more than 13 years now. It is a place of constant contradiction for me, where I can go from feeling completely complacent to completely aggravated in three seconds or less, and that’s not just because of my apparent ADD. All this time I’ve struggled with connections and meaning here: devoid of the urgent crises that gave my younger self purpose, I have yearned for the critical engagement of community, and that rapid purposefulness of activism. From almost the beginning I connected with the city’s social justice community in an attempt to find conciliation between my perception of nonviolence and their appearance of peacefulness. However, I have never found a home within that community, and after all that time I continue to settle for skirmishes on the outside. My allyship to a group of youth in a group called, “Get It Right!” morphed into Freechild; my connections to Partners in Prevention Education and Community Youth Services have never went beyond preliminary. My friend Megan at Together, Inc., has amounted to some good trainings and a speech, but nothing sustained.

No part of me blames any of these groups for my inadequacies. Instead, I embrace the reality that I have to travel across the country to feel deep affinity with a community, particularly ones similar to what I grew up in. Sit me down with homeless kids or African American youth, and I feel like I’m in the middle of my people! Put me into calm, complacent Olympia, and I feel disconnected. This is my reality.

I want no more than to come home, to arrive at a place that I can call my own. For me, this would mean an organization that fully actualizes the ability of children and youth to change the world; friends who are fully committed to supporting one another in healthy, whole relationships; family who is accessible and kind and learning and powerful; and a life that reflects my highest intentions and conception of myself. That’s what I want.

And maybe that last sentence holds the key to my own home. The Mahatma Gandhi taught the simple truth that we must, “Be the change we wish to see in the world.” For all the complexities and transactions we face in all of our complex and networked lives, at the end of the day the work of tomorrow is seeded in today, and today the only person I can actually change is me.

If I want to feel connected, its my responsibility to get off my butt and get in touch with people, reaching out to reach in. In this same way, the Hawaiian belief in ho’o pono pono is related, as it relates the responsibility for forgiveness back to me every time. I like this idea of teaching consequences and actions, cause and outcomes, and relating this back to my life all the time. If I really want to come home, I need to welcome myself there, because in that cheesy sense, wherever I lay my head is home.

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