I would like to proudly proclaim that I was a big fan of the now immensely popular band Imagine Dragons before they exploded all over the Top 40 stations in and out of the United States.
I’m sure you read that and think, “um. Who cares?”
But HEY! It’s a rare thing for me to know about a “cool” thing before it’s actually deemed “cool” by the rest of society – often propelled by strong contingencies of hipsters.
This isn’t just the case because I was abroad in 2012 and 2013 – no, even when trends happened before, I was usually late to the taking.
Giga pets and pods when I was a small child
Bell bottoms when I entered middle school.
Even facebook when I was about to go into college. I had no idea.
Granted, I will admit when it comes to Imagine Dragons, I didn’t discover them because of my own cultural trendiness. I was introduced to the band by my Peace Corps replacement, Margaux. She visited me at home in Rwanda when she was first assigned to come and work there following my departure later in the year. She came to learn the ropes of our village and towards the end of her visit, I practically begged her for new tunes. I had exhausted my One Republic, The Fray, and country playlists. We did some good ole media sharing and she passed along all of Guster’s albums, Imagine Dragons, and Grizzly Bear.
I started dabbling in this eclectic collection, particularly as I did my household chores. There is something wonderful, I have found, about cleaning and enjoying good music at the same time. It’s cathartic or something.
One day, I remember Divine and I cleaned my house top to bottom and listened to their third song on the album, “It’s Time” on repeat. We both seemed to like it a lot. We shared old rags as we scrubbed on our knees, later mopping, and moving around furniture. And we listened to this music the entire time. That’s friendship.
So this is what you mean when you said that you were spent?
And now it’s time to build from the bottom of the pit right to the top, don’t hold back
Packing my bags and giving the academy a rain check
The sounds and words played as Divine and I moved room to room doing what we needed to do to clean my house up to the very high Rwandan standards of cleanliness. It was a Wednesday, I think. I was leaving my village – for good – on Friday.
The cool, wet concrete of the floors refreshed my feet as I moved around barefoot. I sat on my mattress for a moment to catch my breath. Sweat laced my forehead and I glanced at the now empty walls where photos, bags, and artwork had hung for so long. It had been quite a journey, hadn’t it?
I saw Divine washing my jeans in the room over. Scrubbing, rinsing, and scrubbing again. You must be smart and dressed very super when you go back to your family in America, she had said.
I had started the whole-Peace-Corps-thing without a clue in the world. When I came to Rwanda, I couldn’t have begun to imagine the type of life I would live.
Now, I was packing just a couple of bags and it was time to start again, this time leaving a place that had markedly changed me forever. It was time to begin – and to say goodbye – and I think I could finally understand what Imagine Dragons meant when they sang, “the path to heaven runs through miles of clouded hell.”
I witnessed, saw, and was a part of a lot of extraordinarily difficult things. Some of these things I will probably never quite process. But, in the end, the positive always outshone the negative. Darkness never wins.
It’s time to begin, isn’t it?
I get a little bit bigger, but then,
I’ll admit, I’m just the same as I was
Now don’t you understand?
That I’m never changing who I am?
For the first time in weeks, I opted out of church this morning. Instead, I slept in. Drank coffee in bed. And cleaned. I left the window of my room open to filter in fresh, crisp air as I removed the clutter that had infiltrated my drawers and closet the last couple of months. I stripped my bed and washed sheets. I got rid of old clothes. I gallivanted around my bedroom in my worn, pink slippers. My playlists of music were playing loudly and eventually I had to put on Imagine Dragons – my ‘go to’ for cleaning and lounging around the house.
“It’s Time” came on and it’s always amazing to me how music has the ability to transcend time and place and yet maintain that very personal meaning for each of us. Here I was, back home, cleaning my room, and that very song affected me just as strongly has it had as my time in Rwanda was winding down.
A bit differently, however.
Instead of reflecting on a life lived over the course of months and years, I thought a bit more about what lies ahead.
I’ve been discouraged lately by what’s happening in my life. While having a variety of options is a blessing and an extraordinary luxury, it’s also deeply disappointing and stressful when things don’t really line up in the way that you imagine it will. I’ve been aghast, wanting to simply give up.
Which, believe me, is a good thing.
You read that correctly. It’s good for me to give up – and by this I mean to give up the plans I construct for myself. I can make them, I should make them (after all, goal setting is incredibly important), but I must be open for God to take me elsewhere. Sometimes, our ideas for our lives are illusions and not exactly what we should be doing. God has always taken me right where I need to go – why would that be any different now?
So, yeah, I give up.
What is important to hold onto, I’m learning, is to not let go of being who you are, standing by your values, and what you believe to be true. Don’t settle. Don’t accommodate. You don’t have to. Even people who live in the worst conditions imaginable have the choice to live their lives fundamentally connected to what they believe to be true. We all have this power. And the last thing that I want to do is to give up all the way in my weariness for what the future might bring. If you believe in something, keep going.
It’s too easy to accommodate your dreams to the reality of the world. In tears, I recently told my best friend that perhaps all this time I had been naïve. I had been soft. I had been fighting for something that just might not make sense. That’s not the way the world works, I kept telling myself.
Those are all lies.
And while I give up my control to God – in the best way that I can – so that I will live a life that honors Him, there is nothing wrong with holding onto passions and a belief that even in our unclear, unforeseeable future, we will make a difference.
It’s time to begin, and don’t you understand? That I’m never changing who I am?