Letting go of fear

On fear, my namesake Eleanor Roosevelt wrote,

The danger lies in refusing to face the fear, in not daring to come to grips with it. If you fail anywhere along the line it will take away your confidence. You must make yourself succeed every time. You must do the thing you think you cannot do.

So upon coming to Northeastern, I decided to do one thing every six months that absolutely terrified me.

I’ve held pretty solidly to that over the past four years. Some were more planned, some less so. After completing my first semester, which was intimidating in and of itself, the fear-tasks are as follows:

Competing in a beauty pageant. Taking a co-op in New York. Working said co-op, with the talented crew at MSNBC. Passing up an incredible career opportunity to take care of myself. Recovery. Applying to a five week reporting dialogue in Greece. And finally, taking two graduate level classes which I believed I had no business being in, as well as three tough undergrad classes in my last semester of school. 

Growing up, my mom always told us, “You’re already at no. Just ask.” I’ve been trying to apply that mantra to life, with an increasing amount of success as the years go by. A lot of us let the fear of rejection and failure limit us, stunting our growth. But I’ll amend Roosevelt’s passage; we’re not going to always succeed. Failure is inevitable and invaluable. If I didn’t learn to fail at the beauty pageant, I highly doubt I would’ve succeeded at everything else on the above list.

In every single one of those scenarios, I doubted my abilities, my resolve and my resilience. I certainly didn’t think I could handle being in a foreign country, reporting on crises that I didn’t really understand, and navigating language barriers at every turn. Yet here I am, on the other side, intact and improved.

Even yesterday, before my final story was completed, I complained to Bridget that I wanted to just scrap it and give up on it. Thankfully I didn’t, because I now have a product that I’m incredibly proud of and excited about.

Why did I want to scrap it? We didn’t have enough B roll, we didn’t have enough interviews, I wasn’t going to do it justice, I wasn’t going to sufficiently convey the importance of the work these amazing women are doing. It doesn’t matter why. There’s always a million excuses when fear is in the way.

But with Bridget behind the camera shooting my stand up, I thought about all the work Suma and I had done to get here. All the interviews we did, all the people we spoke with who wanted to shed light on the lack of reproductive health care for refugee and migrant women. I thought about all the women who suffered in camps, on the run, and in temporary apartments. This was bigger than me and my fear–to let my own insecurities impact someone else would be the true failure here.

What’s next on the fears list? I’m not so sure yet. But whatever it is, I know I’ll wind up returning to this blog to remind myself that whatever the task is, I will rise to meet it.

Even the rain can’t stop us from shooting!// Bridget Peery

Lean In

As we wrap up our time here in Greece–although I’ll be staying on to sightsee with my mom (Hi Mom!)–it’s a lot of crunch-time stress and reflections upon this trip. I touched upon this in my first post on this blog, that this is an opportunity to elevate the voices of those I meet with. That could be indie game developers, who I met with Cody. It could be volunteers working to ensure women have access to contraceptives, with Suma. Or refugees and migrants who choose to share their stories in the hopes that it would make a difference.

Continue reading “Lean In”

Sundays are for…not the boys

If you’ve been following Brandon’s blog at all, you know that Saturday’s are for the boys.

Brandon in his classic garb.//Bradley Fargo

But Sundays, not so much. Technically they’re our free day, although today I actually wound up accompanying Cody and Bridget to a games expo, where I got the opportunity to shoot some interviews with several developers and play some really entertaining games. Plus I got my first virtual reality experience! It was a simplistic soccer-based game, in which a cannon shoots a soccer ball at you and you have to head it in to the goal. Sounds simple, no?

It was not simple! Or it was, but I was not very good at it. I also was not great at the other game we played, called Moribund. But thankfully, Cody and I are speaking with some VR developers this week, so I’ll get another shot at trying some games I hope.

Bridget and I left the games expo without Cody, who stayed to keep interviewing, and went to get lunch. We went back to Etnico, a small restaurant we passed the first night in Athens, and where we had dinner with Brandon and Danny Friday night. The restaurant calls itself “alternative street food” and makes a series of Mexican, Arabic, and Indian dishes. And with the amount of 2004 RnB playing our first night there, I was basically in heaven.

When we returned today, it was much quiet, around 4:30 in the afternoon. Over curry, a quesadilla, and some sangria, Bridget and I wound up discussing the question I imagine many of us have been grappling with over the course of this trip: what am I doing here? What am I doing with my life?

Or maybe it’s just me, with graduation behind me and the (continuing) job hunt looming just over the horizon.

But I knew when I came on this trip

But I knew when I took my first journalism class

Look, I’ve known I want to help people since day one. When I was five, I wanted to be a chiropractor because I knew my mom went to one to help her and so I thought that would be how I could make the world a better place. And here I am, 17 years later, not a chiropractor. Or a cop. Or a lawyer. But a journalist. Hopefully making a difference.

Maybe this sounds too cliche, or too personal, or whatever reason people wall themselves off from being honest and vulnerable–but what is the purpose of living if not to try to make the world a better place for everyone else living in it? Maybe, as some have told me, my viewpoint is naive. But waking up to read about the London Bridge attack wasn’t even shocking at this point. I guess I have disaster fatigue. Over lunch, Bridget asked the painful question on both of our minds: will it ever end? 

Probably not. People have been hurting and killing each other since the beginning of time. But in spite of all of that, people have been helping each other too. In times of strife and terror, strangers step in to help one another. My hope, through all of the self-reflection time I’ve had on the various buses and hikes of this trip, is that I can be that stranger, stepping in to help in some way. Documenting the stories of those doing good, those suffering, and most critically those who are doing good in spite of their suffering. That is why I’m here.

Anyway, here’s Wonderwall a few photos from today.

A fitting find as we walked to the games expo.//Ellie Williams
We found Chinatown today! On the edge, a sign for the Beijing Olypmics hangs.//Ellie Williams
Bridget, displeased to be forced to spend yet another day with me.//Ellie Williams
This photo doesn’t do the curry justice but alas, it was eaten too quickly before I could snap another one.//Ellie Williams
I desperately attempted to befriend this cat today, who reminded me of Nova. But they weren’t having it.//Ellie Williams

Sic(k) Transit Gloria Mundi

Today marks the end of week two here in Thessaloniki, and it’s a full week that I’ve been in the country. It’s been a whirlwind and it won’t be slowing down any time soon. Here’s a quick recap of what I’ve done:

  • Walked to the Old City for some amazing views and cool street art on Saturday
  • Went to a Winery for a tour and a tasting; hit the beach afterwards. Had a bit of an existential crisis swimming in the Mediterranean Sea on Sunday
  • Covered the anti-austerity rally and general strike on Wednesday
  • Finally am not jet-lagged on Friday

In transit news, the bus drivers are on strike. They haven’t been paid in quite some time so are off until further notice. It’s quite a hassle–less for me, since the cabs aren’t as expensive as the Boston, but more for the people we’re reporting on. Suma and I are working on a piece focused on a refugee center and the work they’re doing, but unfortunately because the buses aren’t running, the people who normally go to the center for language classes and psychological services can’t get there. The center’s coordinator told me today that normally they have over 100 people on a daily basis; with the strike, they’re seeing about half that number.

If the MBTA was on strike; Boston would be crippled. Life goes on in Thessaloniki though. Apparently the last major strike went on for two weeks. For the sake of those who use the center, and for our story, I’m hoping the strike ends soon.

Since we’ve been taking cabs everywhere, I have learned about Greek tragedy: the parking situation. The double-parking alone is horrific, but today I saw something even worse. These cars were just parked in the middle of the intersection. Color me incredulous.


On The Eve Of The Strike

Just got out of a meeting with tomorrow’s strike team. For those of you back home who may not realize how bad things are in Greece, let’s break it down in some quick numbers.

  • 23% of the country is still unemployed
  • 52% of young people can’t get a job
  • Greece’s poverty rate jumped 40% between 2008 and 2015

And that’s not even including the refugee crisis. Continue reading “On The Eve Of The Strike”