Patrick C. Keaveny

The Wordy Coder

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Musings | Travel

Although I went to sleep last night full of ambition, this day held many overwhelming things.

I found that after only three hours of sleep, I was wide awake at 1 a.m., my internal clock still rapidly spinning like crazy. I tried to get back to sleep and even did some reading to try and wear out my mind, to little success. Soon it was 5 a.m., and I knew by this point it would be easier to stay awake another hour than to try to get back to sleep. So I got up, got dressed, combed my hair and made my way to the office kitchen to make some coffee, overwhelmed with exhaustion but unable to keep my eyes closed.

After finishing the first book in the Game of Thrones series — which was equally overwhelming — I made my way to the office chapel with Molly and the others. Here at JRS, the office has Mass every morning, which is something I don’t have to attend, yet I still want to.

Sitting in Mass again, after not having gone for so long, was also overwhelming, as I was unsure of whether or not I should even be sitting there, breaking bread and saying prayers with others whose faith is much stronger than my own.

Then the orientation began, where I learned from Father David everything I needed to know about Jesuit Refugee Services including history, projects, and mission statements. And if you haven’t caught on to the theme of this particular post yet, you’re about to. I found all the information completely overwhelming.

Learning about the Catholic themes in JRS I was prepared for, as well as the dangerous nature of the work. Yet for some reason, hearing about all the tragedies that many had endured, which included mass slaughter of refugees and JRS staff alike, forced eviction of many families from their homes, and children sold into prostitution, it all started to get under my skin, making my flesh crawl and my stomach sink. By the time the orientation was finished, I felt all of the information  — coupled with my indecisive internal clock — hit me like a tidal wave, one that seeped into my mind and flooded my thoughts.

I learned today that whenever I am faced with this kind of overwhelming feeling, I go into a certain state. Normally, I am a very charming, personable, intelligent and humorous person, one others can turn to for understanding or to joke with. Yet this state I go into transforms me into a very shy person, not at all unlike who I was back in my high school days. I find it difficult to talk to others, to express myself, even to form coherent words. I morph into a kind of awkward turtle, so different from who I am and yet so much like who I am in the deepest part of myself where fear, anxiety, and doubt lurks.

It is during these moments that I find it difficult to connect with other people, and I often wonder if they sense it too. My thoughts tend to be directed towards every move I make, every twitch of my fingers and movement of my lips. And yet I worry that every slight twitch of my body betrays the fear I feel within, that it somehow shows just how anxious and uncomfortable I am.

When Fr. David finished giving me the orientation, I was unsure of what to do next. Should I go be by myself? Should I talk it out to someone? At times I just wanted to rest my head, too exhausted to even think. Moments like these make me feel the most alone, especially since at this point in my life, I’m not sure who to turn to.

Then the words I told myself before I left — the same words that prompted me to get back on the road after the traffic incident — came to me: “I am not allowed to fail.”

With that, I knew that with all the fear I felt, the only thing I could do was face it. I defied the fear and the doubt, telling myself with each sinking feeling that I have the right to stand tall. With every wave of anxiety that makes my heart race, I take a deep breath. Despite whatever doubt I was feeling, I sat down and read every word I could read, defiantly working against my own exhaustion — with the help of some caffeine — until the work day was over.

I still feel very anxious and afraid. I worry that I am the wrong person in the wrong place, and I still am weighed under doubt. But I keep those words in mind,

“I am not allowed to fail.”