Tomorrow marks a week from departure. It also marks four days from donning a cap and gown and putting a lei on and walking through TD Garden to graduate from Northeastern. Me graduating was never a guarantee, let alone jetting off to Greece. Suffice to say, it’s a pretty big week.
Molly helped me go shopping this weekend for all the things I’ll need–somehow I didn’t own a single baseball cap or pair of sunglasses before yesterday. The cashier asked me what I was doing post-graduation (I still hate making small talk at the checkout, but Molly’s been wearing me down in that aspect) and when I told him about the reporting trip, he thanked me for doing it. He thanked me, as if I’ve done anything worth thanking for being privileged enough to have this chance. I thanked him, and again he thanked me for doing what I can to tell more people here about what’s happening to the refugees in Greece.
I keep making and re-making detailed packing lists as if the repetition could somehow prepare me for what we’ll see in the camps. I’ve wanted this since the Arab Spring began; in high school, my sister gave me a number of books written by revolutionaries including Demanding Dignity, a series of essays by Arab Youth involved in the uprisings. To see the ramifications up close wasn’t ever something I thought possible. To say that this experience will be helping me build my reel, my resumé, and profoundly change me is an understatement.
Of course, the counterbalance of this is that what is “an amazing opportunity” for me and my career is the suffering and terror for others. In his piece for Newsweek, Winston Ross puts it far more eloquently,
When I do this kind of piece—when any of us does this kind of piece—we are still hyenas, no matter what good comes out of it. We can comfort ourselves by rationalizing our actions, proclaiming that we’re writing the first draft of history. But we’re also jabbing our snouts into freshly dug graves, gnashing through coffins and munching on broken bones. It’s our nature.
And maybe this is our curse as journalists–we are tasked with acting as a megaphone, elevating the pained voices of those we speak with, while at the same time, we’re probing into fresh wounds trying to elicit the best cry.
Tragedies in particular stick with me. I can’t look away, I obsess over them, collecting as much information as I can about them. Memoirs of those caught in the crossfire are ideal: Cambodia, Sierra Leone, Burma. Maybe it’s because through those stories, I can make abstract history lessons real.
I’m leaving in 8 days and I have more questions than ever, about this trip, about myself, and about the state of the world. I try to smile every time a well meaning stranger tells me how lucky I am to be going to Greece, how much fun I’ll have. Fun isn’t my biggest priority, but I know that this is my chance to make my mark. I’m nervous, but I will not throw away my shot.