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The Archibald Project Media Mission Recap | Post #1

April 21, 2017

I’ve been waiting and waiting on this post for quite some time now, writing in my head and instantly drawing a blank, anytime my fingers get close to a keyboard.  But, after starting it, it looks like it may be turning into MORE than one post. You see…there were were so many things that made this trip totally and completely unreal and unforgettable. As I sit here and click through photo after photo, tears streaming down my face, I am almost having a hard time believing that it happened. I traveled halfway around the world with a group of strangers that soon became some of my closest friends to share the stories of a cause that I truly believe in. I may need someone to pinch me, because the fact that that happened still feels like a dream. I have cried a total of about 5 times, just drafting this post and know that there are still many more tears to come! Explaining why caring for orphans and vaulnerable children means so much to me is another post in and of itself, so more to come on that note.

Today, I miss the amazing souls that laughed with me and cried with me and prayed with me each and every day. I miss stashing toilet paper in our bags, just in case, and talking about our dreams and visions and families and hopes for the future. I miss drinking bunna right before bed and trying to pronounce Amharic words, but failing so unbelievably bad {it is SUCH a tough language}. I miss feeling so far removed from my comfort zone and having a camera in my hand all day long.

After doing a little bit of soul searching, I decided that this first blog post needed to be more of a confession and an explanation and a personal recap of where I was mentally before and during the trip then how I felt afterwards. I feel like this post almost comes from a completely selfish place–a need for me to clear my head before getting down to business. I never wanted my recap posts to be about me…but I felt like I really needed to share this piece of my heart for the rest of the story to make sense.

The next post? We’ll see! It is for sure going to profile the amazing organization that we had the privilege of learning about and working alongside. I have a few ideas and quite a bit of content up my sleeve…I’m just waiting to see what feels exactly right to share with you!

For those of you that don’t know, I had the incredible opportunity to travel to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia with the Archibald Project just a few months ago. I’ve been asked by quite a few people when this recap post was going to come, and honestly, each time, my answer was…I have no idea when….but soon(ish?). I’ve been waiting to wiggle around my writer’s block that has seemed to wedge itself in my mind, but it doesn’t look like it’s leaving anytime soon. So, we’ll just give this a go and see where my word vomit takes us.

You see…this trip changed my life in ways that I never expected. It rocked my world completely and totally upside down backwards and sideways in the best ways possible, and honestly? I still don’t know if I will truly ever comprehend all that happened in my heart in the short week or so that we were there. It was crazy, and amazing, and exhausting and reenergizing and gave me so much hope all while breaking my heart and forever changing the way I see the world. PHEW…see why I’m having a hard time putting these stories into words? I met some of the coolest and kindest people with the biggest dreams and strongest drive that I still think about daily. I know I will carry their stories and incredible souls in my heart for quite some time.

One thing I can say for sure: I went into the trip with almost zero expectations…I say almost because I set extremely high expectations for what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to bring home some super amazing stories and experiences to help you understand why advocating for this cause means so much to me. I really wanted to bring you all live blog posts throughout our time in country and an incredible product afterwards to help you understand why caring for children in need is so beautiful to me. But in the end, I ended up putting SO much pressure on myself, and I didn’t even realize it until the week was almost over. I felt like I was failing my amazing donors and my community at home, and really felt myself shut down at quite a few points, and for that, I am really sorry. While I wish I could have been better, I know that this trip happened just the way it did for a good reason, and for that I will be forever thankful.

Similar to the writer’s block I’m experiencing today, I had such a hard time feeling like I could do justice to all the amazing things I was experiencing. I started to let my insecurities get the better of me, and felt like I wasn’t serving my purpose. To say that the people I met had such a profound influence on how I see the world today, would pretty much be the understatement of the century. How in the world do I document and share that using my media skills?! I really felt anything I would produce would totally and completely fall flat on its face. Luckily, I was placed with one of the strongest, gracious, and most faithful teams I could have never have dreamt up myself. They really helped me recognize these lies I was letting myself listen to, and I honestly have to say that their guidance and advice have been a huge turning points for me, personally and as a creative.

Creative minds are a funny place, y’all…they really are. They’re filled with unicorns and butterflies and excitement and passion but also SO many dark corners filled with self doubt and worry. Still, I often wonder how this week would have played out differently, if I just let myself be and didn’t listen so much to the lies.

Going into this trip, I was in a really bad headspace. Like…experiencing weekly, if not daily, panic attacks, almost moving home because I was just so unhappy, not wanting to get out of bed, kind of bad headspace. I tried to hide it, but honestly, looking back, these winter months were some of the toughest, darkest, and loneliest times I have ever experienced. And goodness…I really am SO happy those days feel like they are almost completely behind me for now.

If you’ve spent any amount of time living in D.C., you know that this city can be really tough place. {Or maybe you’ve just moved to a new city yourself and are having a tough time. I totally get it and am here for you if you need an Internet or real hug!}. There was something about this winter that made me super uneasy and homesick and lonely, and by now, you’re probably wondering what the heck this has to do with Ethiopia. Let me explain.

First and foremost, I think the coolest thing is that we serve a God that is so much bigger than us and knows just how to heal our hearts all while breaking them in a different way. His plan is so big and crazy and wonderful, and I just need to let myself TRUST. Your girl is a crazy control freak, and you see…I spent about 7 or 8 months feeling totally out of my element and almost like I was a guest in the life I was living. My apartment didn’t feel like my home. DC traffic was slowly making me lose my mind. My jobs were leaving little time for me to have a personal life. I wasn’t eating, and my anxiety was slowly making my health slip away from me. I wasn’t sleeping well, and I just didn’t feel anything like myself.

For some reason, when I stepped off the plane in Ethiopia all of those feelings went away. I, almost, instantly felt at peace. Which was crazy…considering it was about midnight in a country very foreign to me, I was with people I had only known for the 24+ hours we spent together on the plane, and I had pretty much no idea where we were headed or what to expect. Still, I felt like Ethiopia welcomed me in with a big warm hug. It was almost like someone with a much bigger plan than my own knew just what I needed and filled my life up with more joy and some of the most amazing influences that I didn’t even know I needed in my life {but am so happy to now have!}. I learned so much about myself in that week that I never knew possible. I learned so much about the world and developing nations and documenting the lives of others. I laughed and cried and danced and felt frustrated and sad and elated.

I truly credit this media mission to Ethiopia for helping me to turn my crazy headspace around, for helping me to recognize the crazy pressure I put on myself each day, and for opening my eyes up to a beautiful culture that I now hold really close to my heart, and for that, I will always be thankful. I felt like I needed to go to Ethiopia to open up the eyes of my community…but really, the person that needed to change the most was me. I was on an incredibly dark road and with no idea of where to go next. I felt trapped and lonely and scared and so incredibly confused each and every day. I still have no idea where my next steps will take me, but the path seems a little brighter these days. Sure…I’m still pretty confused and am just kind of taking blind step after blind step, but my heart and soul feel about a million times lighter.

I don’t want you to think a crazy trip across the world is the solution to all of your problems. I had some super rough days upon returning home, and I am so thankful for the friends and family that helped me get through them. I was questioning pretty much my everything in my life–from my career path to the way I live my life and the amount of things I have, to the food I eat, and the way I pour into my family and friends. I had so many things I needed to come to peace with, and I am still working on that! I know there are many more rough days ahead of me, but for now, I am so thankful that these experiences helped me feel a little more at home in my own head during this crazy season of life.

I have SO much goodness to share from my adventure with The Archibald Project, but for now, I think I’m going to leave it at that. I am a huge fan of questions and have absolutely loved sitting down to chat about this experience with some of my friends and family in the last couple of weeks. SO…if you have made it this far in my post, first, I just want to thank you. For your support and your curiosity and for being a genuinely amazing human for dealing with me and my crazy word vomit. Second…I want to invite you to ask questions and to express any confusion you may have about what it was I did in Ethiopia. Drop me a comment below or send me an email at caity@caitkramer.com. I have another post just on the horizon and want to know what you want to know about this incredible adventure!

More updates to come soon! In the meantime, find The Archibald Project & Selamta Family Project online.

 Photo by Allie Chandler Photo by Allie Chandler

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