It's Okay To Be A Runaway - Joanna

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As the plane sped 500 miles from LA, so did my mind.
I thought back to Jaime’s prayer and send off blessing. Father Jaime joking that I’m going to save the world gave me a little chuckle, but I also felt a pang of guilt.

My motives for leaving on international medical mission are completely not altruistic. Like Jonah in the Old Testament, I feel like I’m running away. Except I don’t know what God is calling me to do next. So in a sense, I don’t know exactly what I’m running from.

I’ve shared of my unhealthy relationship with work. I used to find a lot of my sense of worth from it…that is, until this year, when I felt trapped by it.

I’ve also always found crisis situations so much easier to deal with than my own stillness. In medical emergencies, it’s so much easier for me to spot the next step- just stabilize the immediate need and send the recovery/recoup phase to someone else.

My head has been spinning, flying in a million directions. I read somewhere that people get very reflective happens at the end of each decade of life. Or neurotic. Last year, I started the process of upturning and uprooting every aspect of my life from relationships to faith systems and cultural patterns (another blog altogether

As my mind was flying a million times faster than the speed of the plane, I noticed that the pretty blonde gal next to me was reading one of my all time favorite books, “The Alchemist” by Paulo Cohelo, which is essentially about one young shepherd’s journey to “faraway lands” in search of finding treasure and discovering his “personal legend.” It’s a beautiful parable, and I struck up a conversation with her.

She had been through her own recent career change — a transition from a career as a successful Hollywood adult film star (until YouTube proved too much of a competitor) to a reiki healer. She was proud of both careers and embraced both chapters of her journey with such a sweet and free spirit.

Yesterday, as I was about to board the boat, I did not feel so free. I was worried that, actually, I had enclosed myself. The beds are supposedly spacious for the Navy but it still feels like being in a coffin. I have to bend my arm about 60 degrees to touch the ceiling. The bottom bunks are worse. And my team? They are all very nice to me, but I don’t feel too comfortable yet. I’ve noticed a few “us and them” commentary when discussing patients that are people of color or part of the LGBT community, nothing “hard core” discriminatory but definitely not something I’m that accustomed to.

In fact, I left the ship at 0830 this morning and it’s almost 2200. I went to the ornate Trinity Episcopal Church which was really way too much pomp and circumstance, and wandered through Wynwood, the quasi hipster neighborhood of Miami. I finally sat down at a Peruvian-Japanese restaurant (the most delicious food I’ve had here), and at the bar, took out my kindle and re-read “The Alchemist,” remembering why I love it.

I don’t exactly know what I’m running towards, but I’m taking meeting the girl on the plane as indirect validation that I’m slowly taking the right steps. Maybe she was my own guardian angel gently patting me on the back and reminding me to read that tale again. Yes, it can be cheesy, but come on, where do you get lines like this jump at you:

“He still had some doubts about the decision he had made. But he was able to understand one thing: making a decision was only the beginning of things. When someone makes a decision, he is really diving into a strong current that will carry him to places he had never dreamed of when he first made the decision.”

I’m thankful and grateful for such a supportive community. But I needed to know that for myself…That it’s okay to make 180 degree career changes even if perhaps people don’t understand why you can’t just be content in a nice stable job that pays the bills. That maybe it’s okay to be a runaway. That even if you’re not entirely sure if you made the right decision being trapped in a floating hospital for a month with strangers that may get on your nerves, God/the universe/the current can still take you places you never imagined.

~Joanna Josue

James Edwards-Acton