July 20, 2010

The Unexpected Education (and last minute jitters)

In the short 12 days I was home, I learned so much more than I ever expected.

I learned about the oil industry and its effects (good and bad) on the land. I spoke to people from all around the United States who are living in campers and trailers in tiny towns and I was forced to view my home through their eyes. I was privileged to meet people from every sector and angle of the oil industry in North Dakota and develop a deep understanding for what it really means to be "Rockin' the Bakken."

I also learned about journalism -- the side of it that's impossible to write in textbooks or teach in the classroom. I asked questions. A lot of questions. And the answers came from two people who had devoted years and years to an industry that's famous for being fickle. I had never conducted interviews with a camera or learned how to attach a mic. I didn't know how to stand or what tone of voice to use. So, I opted out of a fancy newscaster voice and approached the whole thing as if I were having a conversation with someone on the street. Which was exactly the tone the story was seeking to strike.

This journey back home also helped me reconnect with the land. It took me leaving for the better portion of four years and living in large, sometimes foreign cities to understand the unique poetry of the prairie in a way that no restless 18-year old ever could. Granted, at 21 I have no where near the level of loyalty and respect for the land as someone like my dad, for example, who has invested his entire life there.

With China fast approaching, I had to carefully allocate and maximize the quality of time with my family. I knew exactly how many days I had left at home and had to amp up the quality of the time since the quantity was just not available. I was hyper-aware to every conversation and hug. I often found myself stepping back to make a mental note of just how thankful I was for that moment. Thankfully, we had a family reunion on my farm my last two days at home. I know some people dread the idea of family reunions -- the drama, forced conversation, tensions, etc... But my family is awesome. I absolutely love spending time with them. Sure there are a few "alright you can shut-up now" moments, but every family has those. I couldn't imagine a better sendoff than having everyone gathered at my house for those few days. It was incredibly hard to say goodbye, but I'm continually grateful that I've got a small army sending positive prayers my way.

Now I'm back in Fargo. I leave in 10 days. My apartment is empty-ish and what few things I have in here feel impersonal and are in disarray. I'm trying to go about my life as I would be if I weren't moving to Asia in a week and a half, which is damn near impossible. I've never in my life done something as uncertain as moving to China. I'm scared shitless. But I have an overwhelming sense that this experience is going to be incredible and life-channging. A part of me wishes I was a little kid again who had someone to hold my hand and keep my safe while crossing the street -- only this time it will be crossing the Pacific. However, a larger part of me is eagerly anticipating the adventure.

The glorious, challenging, socially awkward adventure that is me. Going to China.

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