excelsior (or, the world race: nbd)

i left in october (technically, end of september) 2008 for the world race, an 11-month missions trip to 11-countries. it’s been five years, eight months, and 28 days since then, and i still

  • refer to my up-close-and-personal encounters with God from that season;
  • am reminded of the hard lessons learned;
  • feel the remnants of the crucible’s fire (mmmm, feedback);
  • remember prophetic words spoken through and over me;
  • recall the friendships formed and the amazing hospitality showered upon us all over the world (this is one of the biggest redeeming qualities of social media, otherwise a major time suck);
  • am amazed that once upon a time, i didn’t know the 50ish fellow men and women with whom i sojourned for 11 months;
  • ache, albeit not as acutely, from brokenness i witnessed
  • rejoice in the gentle miracles and mighty movements i glimpsed
  • marvel at how my worlds keep expanding, shrinking, and colliding simultaneously

yes, it was a most epic season of life. but it will not–cannot–be the pinnacle of my life.

my prayer has been that the world race would not be the highest mountain i would summit. when i die, i don’t want to look back at my life and think that my life’s most exciting adventure happened when i was 25, that the world race was the best time of my life.

i rebuke that so hard. instead, i see those 11+ months (pre- and post-race) as the finishing touch of a foundation — the ceiling of the basement of a mansion. while it’s appropriate to go to the basement time to time to grab something you need — those steaks from the freezer, or that vintage from the cellar — it’s not where i’m supposed to settle.

admittedly, it has been more challenging to recognize that the years since my world race have been adventurous and momentous in their own right, particularly since my nomadic tendencies have tapered off quite a bit in the past couple years. and while the lsat and the law school application process had their adrenaline-inducing moments, it was more stressful than it was thrilling. and from the accounts of the attorneys that have gone before me, it might be apropos to liken the next three years to the journey to mordor à la the lord of the rings: the two towers (is that allowed if actually haven’t read the trilogy?), making that epic global missionary trek into a cakewalk in comparison.

as i reworked my personal statement to ten law schools, it was clear that the world race was, without a doubt, pivotal. and the effects of that year keep reverberating throughout the facets of my life — my worldview, my approach to work, my interactions with people, my relationship with God — and i’ve no doubt that my study and practice of law (and [please, God] marriage and parenthood) will be influenced, too.

and that was the point of the world race — to me, anyway.

the world race isn’t something i finished — it was a start to something more, to something greater.

before the world race, God had been stirring in me. the world race set me in motion, and i haven’t stopped moving ever since. i’m more and more convinced it’s not the experience itself that keeps generating momentum; rather, my continual, progressively intimate encounters with God propel me forward. it can’t be coincidence that God brought me back to new york and the state motto is “excelsior,” which liberally translates to, “ever higher,” right?

suddenly i feel inspired to look into the prophetic meanings of the state flags, mottos, nicknames, for which i blame/credit the world race… anyway.

the world race has changed a lot since i went on it and even since i was on staff at adventures in missions. there are, like, eleventy jillion more people that have gone after me (and a very modestly increasing contingent of people of color, i hope?) and i’ve lost track of how many times the alphabet’s been cycled through (my squad was the original g squad, fyi).

yet i continue recommending, with confidence, the race to those who are eligible and (holistically) healthy enough to go — not because it’ll be the best time of your life, but because it’ll make your life better.

10 things i’m thankful for at the moment

    • the $20 i found on the sidewalk after i went on a run last week, which went a long way.
    • the box of godiva chocolates i received as a farewell gift from a couple of my now former students.
    • the new job that will give me a couple “free” weeks before starting law school.
    • the wide array of art i can access via museums, and dual-admission to the met & the cloisters, pay-what-you-want fridays, and pretty soon, student discounts that will make them even more accessible to me.
    • tabernacle time in dumbo & taco trucks in les/abc that gave me a chance to dine with 83% of the brick house.
    • the ability to speak spanish that allowed me to explain to the taco truck proprietors’ friend that i’m from new york (“yo nacÍ en nueva york, por eso soy nueva yorquina”), and to oblige three visitors from medellÍn, colombia a photo. consensus: “habla muy bien.”
    • the health insurance i now have thanks to the affordable care act, a.k.a. obamacare. say whatchu want, but who has two thumbs and had her first physical in almost 5 years? this woman. thanks to the lab results, i learned, among other things that i won’t disclose here, that i need a mmr booster. and thanks to obamacare, i can get that taken care of straightaway.
    • the dvr that lets me watch call the midwife and suits that i can’t watch in real time because my parents watch hgtv and korean news & dramas (almost) all day, everyday.
    • the netflix that lets me delve into/catch up on the west wing and breaking bad.
    • the epic worship song (shown below) that sums up my past and upcoming seasons.

after the wedding

months ago, i had watched this video of sarah kay performing a poem she’d written for and about her younger brother.

i thought it would be fitting to include in a post that i was going to write a week before the wedding. but then, it happened, in the blink of my teary eyes, my brother got married.

weddings are so different up close. from where i stood, behind the bride, i got maybe half a glimpse of the officiant but a pretty good view of my brother. it was fascinating to watch him get emotional and regain his composure as he pledged his troth.

though he’s younger than i am, he’s taken on the role as the older brother, especially as we’ve gotten older. i remember waking up one night to the sound of dinnerware colliding with the kitchen floor, and my parents shouting at each other.

i was scared out of bed and sat on the floor in the tiny hallway on the 2nd floor where our room was. i gripped the bannister, wishing and waiting for the detente, wondering if i should descend and intervene.

my brother was the one who sat beside me, doing his best to console worried little me. if he was just as alarmed and concerned, he certainly hid it well. or maybe he saw that there was enough fear from me.

the wedding was a commencement of a covenant. but it was also the culmination of phase I of my brother’s personal growth.

(disclaimer: i’m not saying that my brother getting married made him a grown up or made him grow up, or that being married makes you a more complete person — that latter part is something i gotta preach to myself at varying frequencies. what i am suggesting is that ideally, one enters marriage having reached a certain threshold of maturity. now back to our regularly scheduled programming.)

it’s kinda fun to compare mom’s not so quiet wishes for the day when her kids would “get out of my house” with her warm, almost effusive welcomes whenever my brother and sister-in-law visit. i think it’s mutual, somehow marriage has turned my brother into a bit of a mama’s boy–i mean, man.

not that he’s become a complete old fart. when he’s asked how married life is, he likes to quip, “terrible.” nevertheless, twenty-some years later, it is my brother who lamented about the near-impossibility of buying a house in new york city, and brainstormed with mom and dad about doing away with the house we live in now to build a new house.

as the married folk strategized about architecture and moving outside of new york city for retirement (but-wait-we-need-you-to-babysit-because-daycare-is-expensive) and threw around words like “mortgage,” “down payment,” “school district,” and “borrowing from 401k” , i sat and listened, feeling a little bit like the kid who got left back in three too many times.

it’ll be another undefined number of years until i’ll be able to contribute to my dormant retirement account. and nothing screams “date me!” quite like a thirty-something soon-to-be law student/aspiring public interest attorney who lives with her parents. and i wondered, even as a poor lawyer with little to no law school debt, if i’d be able to afford to live without roommates.

then i heard my brother argue for a multi-family dwelling so that i too might get in on the homeownership action, slowly but surely.

Elizabeth & Eugene's Wedding at The Swan Club in Roslyn, NY. March 8th, 2014. www.naskaras.com

Elizabeth & Eugene’s Wedding at The Swan Club in Roslyn, NY. March 8th, 2014. www.naskaras.com

the 동생 becomes the caring 오빠.

if/when mom & dad do move away, i’m sure my brother & sister-in-law wouldn’t hate having their future children’s favorite 고모 and the first attorney in the family free babysitter living next door.