It was the eve of my first post-Work-For-Da-Man trip. I’d spent two years in a kind of purgatory, required to bill 30 hours a week, haunted with ever-changing business processes and a persistent feeling that I wasn’t good enough, would never be good enough, was too old to be good enough.
As soon as I handed in my resignation, JF and I took off to start a pilgrimage through France, ten days of walking El Camino. We frolicked in freedom the whole summer. But I knew I wanted to leverage what I’d learned at The For-Profit for my overseas clients, particularly RCRD/CBR, the folks I’ve been working with since 2004.
What follows is the journal entry I wrote just before that trip was supposed to begin. It chronicles the panic and self-doubt that plagued me– that possibly plagues all of us when we are not comfortably at home where everything makes sense.
Sometime in October or early November, 2014
By Friday, I was getting frantic about my trip to Nepal. I’ve been trying to connect with the folks there for about a month– and have heard nary a word. Oh, Hari Shyam has sent friendly greetings, left his cell phone number and proposed a rousing game of badminton as soon as I arrive. He even offered to book a hotel for me. That right there sent my danger-warning-red-flag antennae up to Red Alert.
Have they not replied because they are embarrassed because they really don’t want me to come, I’ve offended them in some way, I’ve made some cultural faux pas that will screw up the whole deal? They used to like me but now they don’t? I asked if somebody could pick me up at the airport because I arrive at nearly 8pm, normally too late to get into the hostel, if there is even anybody staying there at all these days. No word.
We discussed the situation in depth with our Nepali friends. They thought it was not normal– that it would be rude in Nepal, as it would be here, to have agreed to receive a guest and then not to respond to emails or Facebook messages or Skype. Maybe they expect you to be raising money for them, and since you are not coming with funding, they are ignoring you, my friend speculated. Then, most kindly, he offered to call his brother and to arrange somebody to pick me up and put me up at their house for a couple of days until I could get the picture of reality more in focus.
Finally, I sent an “a little bit nervous,” “a little bit worried” email off to my principal contact there, Surya. And JF and I started brainstorming for a Plan B. He pointed out, and of course he was right, that we don’t actually KNOW that any of those fears are indeed reality. That even if they ARE, that doesn’t mean I couldn’t patch things up once I am face to face with them. That what I actually do, while seeming to be all about technology, is to create and maintain intercultural relationships– to bridge those gulfs that appear because we are actually not totally all alike.
Even so, the black cloud that passed over me was formidable. I took deep breaths to relieve a constriction in my chest and that horrible sinking feeling that all our plans– not just mine but the plans of the two friends I have encouraged to come with me– could very well be nothing but air, a puff of smoke that could dissipate into the void.
JF and I got takeout from our favorite restaurant, the Turkish place on Main St. We took it over to our next-door neighbor’s house and ate and chattered about the whole situation. By that time, I had– like one of those dolls with a weighted bottom that you smack and it bobs over and then bobs right back up– righted myself. I’d seen that there were at least two possible directions to go, even if my client there has completely abandoned the project of working with me. I’d seen that flying into the unknown is an integral part of what I do, what all of us who work internationally and on the ground, do. That I’d get my phone set up, and start finding lodging and start working on my Nepali and even if the worst came to the worst, I could handle it.
That night, while I slept fitfully, I got two emails from Surya. Short but clear: Yes, we are expecting you. Yes, we will pick you up at the airport. Yes, we have a place for you to stay that first night. Yes, we are looking forward to your visit.
I stopped sinking. I also realized, to my chagrin, that at least part of my panic had to do with the fact that I had PUBLICIZED this project. This is the first international project for WorldsTouch in 4 years. I’ve told EVERYBODY about it. I was, at least part of me, totally afraid of WHAT PEOPLE WOULD THINK. Gosh, me. Who thinks she is immune to the approvals or disapprovals of the crowd. Is not immune at all. I was, as much as chagrined at my possible cultural clumsiness, embarrassed to have presented myself as somebody with a client in Nepal, where I was going on a plane to realize a collaboration. To have presented myself as a professional at this, and then…what? turned into a tourist like everybody else. Destined to sink like a fraudulent nobody…in front of my professional tribe.
So all of that was, for the most part, just pre-trip nerves. Even so, I want to document the whole range of emotions and thought processes that accompanied it. They need to be part of the record– possibly transformed into a paragraph warning my future self and my colleagues that flying low to the ground and within the spirit of the Unknown that these moments of doubt are normal.