BY LEORA MOSMAN
We are only a month in, and so quickly a new life has unfolded in front of me. I wake up at seven (or did, for the first week), and start coffee. I go upstairs to wash my face and walk back to the coffee’s smell rising. I eat breakfast, get dressed in whatever mashup of business casual feels least oppressive, and check my phone for bus times. When it is three minutes away, I grab my bags and run down the street (I walked, the first week, when I used to wake up on time). At this point most of the bus drivers look familiar and I recognize people on my commute. At P Street and 11th I get off and walk twenty-five minutes to my building – a walk that is exactly what I need to dress myself in psychological armor to get through the day, and to take it off on my way home.
My days vary somewhat at work depending on what needs attention and what can wait, but about half of my time is spent communicating directly with or on behalf of asylum-seekers in the United States and globally who are trying to navigate complex immigration systems that vary drastically country to country. I have yet to meet anyone, even the most specialized in this field, who has any idea of a global fix. Certain countries (Canada, for example, my newest love interest) have immigration systems that seem amazing compared to the United States, but it serves such a small percentage of people that the vast majority will never experience the benefits. The other half of my time is spent trying to figure out how to be my most full and authentic self in an environment that often inadvertently forces people to become mechanical, standardized, and distanced from the human crisis we encounter. The entirety of Washington D.C. also imbues a certain level of prestige and pretension, which (even though no one truly knows what they are doing) can be intimidating to live amidst. Imposter syndrome is an epidemic here. However, I am making it my singular goal to fake it 0-30% of this year (I’m trying to be realistic too).
I am generally a person who allows the difficult parts of an experience to define whether my overall experience is positive or negative. While I don’t think I have figured out yet a good way to process and hold all of the stories that I hear throughout the day, and as difficult as it has been to bear witness to the world’s hopelessness, I surprisingly do not find myself treating my overall experience in the same way. While my work has been incredibly challenging and often has more negatives than positives, I can only say this — in the midst of encountering a horrible reality that too many people live, I have found my ability to find joy skyrocket. It has been perhaps a subconscious act of desperation – a wild effort to seek out anything that is bright and beautiful to fill up my mind to counter what I encounter throughout the day. Wherever the light is stemming from, I find myself chasing it every single day.
In so many ways, I can already see how working in such an impossible field has made me a better coworker, housemate, and friend. I’ve observed myself becoming more patient, more empathetic, and more personable than I’ve felt in a long time. I laugh quicker, deeper, and for longer. I chase my people down instead of wondering where my friends are. I have cared less about waiting to be asked questions before I share deeply, and more likely to share my experiences with darkness openly.
I came to DC with hopes, whether conscious or not, that I would uncover some brave and beautiful parts of myself that I never knew existed. Parts of myself that would only reveal themselves within a new location and among new people. In certain ways, that has happened. In many other ways, I’ve been reminded that changing location does not let me leave behind the parts of myself that are most difficult to live with. I made a promise to myself at the beginning of this Loretto experience that I would stop settling for anything that was less than what I wanted. While that references my external relationships, friendships, and lifestyle, in many more important ways it refers to myself and who I allow myself to be. It is a promise to myself that I will not settle for mediocrity in spaces that make it so easy to do and be the bare minimum. That I will strive to be who I want to be and do what I feel called to do, regardless of how much fear I might have to force through. It is also, of course, a promise that I break and re-make on a constant basis and one I imagine I will be trying to fulfill for the rest of my life.
My routine picks up again when I step outside the office. I retrace my steps down the same 10 blocks and pass numerous monuments and statues until I reach my bus stop to head home. I love this routine, and I love this new life that has so quickly been created. I love the newness that comes with a new city and how it allows me to experience myself in a new way, too. I love that the sky seems bluer since I exit the office needing beauty, and the sky is the first beautiful thing I see. I love how much brighter a life can seem when one has witnessed or lived through darkness. This transition has been a reminder of the resilience of my heart and of all hearts. It has been a reminder that I am never stuck and do not have to accept mediocrity. A reminder that hopes exists, even when I am sure that everything is hopeless.
Leora Mosman is originally from Los Angeles and recently graduated from Saint Mary’s College where she studied Politics and Women’s & Gender Studies. In DC, she will be working for the UN High Commissioner on Refugees where she hopes to learn how to pursue justice inside systems that are imperfect or incomplete. She loves Junia House, her new housemates, community meals, and the resistant community she is finding in DC.
In Their Own Words
We invite you to get to know Loretto Volunteers and the program here. Volunteers introduce themselves and reflect on their experiences.