As I’m about to complete my year of service, a lot of my quiet time is spent trying to figure out how I will make sure I don’t revert back to where I was a year ago. It’s not that I was in a bad place. A year ago, I was a happy college graduate. I was living the life: bar hopping with friends, tubing down the New River, and binge-watching Netflix originals. It was an important summer for me. It was (hopefully) the last time in my life that I’d be working a part-time job with an easily customizable schedule, living off of late-night pizza, and not having any major responsibilities. It was the summer that I forced myself to stick to a bucket list before I left the Blue Ridge Mountains for an unknown amount of time.
Weekly, I still crave to live next to a National Parkway and to go to a brewery that is full of flannel and cornhole. My best friend has written in her planner the approximate day I will return to North Carolina. Yesterday, I caught myself daydreaming about driving to her house and being reunited with her family’s dog. I’m almost there and it’s obvious.
I am looking forward so much to being back in the Triangle and reuniting with pulled pork, bluegrass, and my favorite people, but part of me is very aware of the dangers of going back to this place of comfort. I’ve learned a lot about myself and about being an active member of each community I am a part of. I’ve watched my fellow Miami YAVs/Dwellers inspire me to be a better person – Patrick advocating for the rights of society’s marginalized workers, Shinhye teaching us that words are powerful devices that can hurt or help, and Quinten speaking to his program’s graduates about the importance of taking care of their home city. I don’t want to return and forget all of these lessons.
In a similar light, I don’t want our country to recover from this weekend’s massacre in Orlando and return to our idling ways in regards to violence in our nation. My favorite YouTuber, Hannah Hart uploaded this video on Tuesday and I encourage you to watch it. She echoes many of the thoughts I have had this week.
While I take steps to return to my home as the new and improved Natalie, please consider taking the steps to remind our elected officials in D.C. that we don’t want to continue doing nothing. We want to create ways to prevent yet another relapse. We must not give in to fear, silence, and submission. Go out and be brave, loud, and active.