The summer is always supposed to be this extraordinary time where we can get away from the harsh grind of daily routine and catch up on all that stuff we’ve been meaning to get around to all year. That’s how I, at least, think about it at my most stressed.
But somehow it never works out that way; new things come up and we further procrastinate on the goals we’ve been putting off. It seems that the more time I have, the harder it is to work productively. I could prep for the committee I’m chairing next semester, but wouldn’t it be so much more interesting to record acoustic alt rock covers with my sister instead?
That’s how my summers usually go; I get quite a bit done, just not the things I was planning on doing. So they’re pleasantly extemporaneous, but always well within the comfortable, predictable bounds of suburban Greensboro, North Carolina.
It’s a cliche at this point to say that DukeEngage will take me out of my comfort zone. But there’s no better way to describe it – I’ve never left the country, and the last time I flew was when I was very young. I honestly have no context whatsoever for what to expect in the coming weeks besides the impressions that people have shared with me.
But even that doesn’t contribute much to my sense of how things are going to go over there. Almost everyone I’ve talked to for the past several weeks has felt compelled to give me some strongly-held opinion of theirs about conditions in Egypt. They have ranged from insightful to obscure, from consistent to downright contradictory. Even media responses to the election, for example, can’t seem to agree – is the run-off a “nightmare scenario,” an “inevitable result,” or even a choice between “flavors of bad”?
In the words of Donald Rumsfeld, the truth of the situation might be called a “known unknown,” somewhere in the middle of all these dichotomies. I can go around in mental circles indefinitely trying to figure out exactly where, but that’s ultimately not helpful. I have too much on my mind at the moment. If I don’t focus on the things I do feel relatively confident about, there will be literally no way I will come even close to being prepared for this trip.
I know I can relate to children pretty effortlessly, having lived with and worked with kids of every age for my whole life. I know I absolutely love teaching and working with all kinds of music. I know I completely trust and admire the DE Cairo group. There’s not too much more I can say for sure, but how much more do I really need?
So to conclude my abstract musings, I think this summer won’t be entirely different from my usual strategy. There’s simply a new culture to learn. I will focus on making sure the factors I can control are the best they possibly can be. Everything else, we’ll just have to figure out along the way. I’m counting down the days.