Carrying On: Adversity’s afterglow

April 25, 2013

Last week’s tragedies in Boston and West Texas caused many to reflect on what they have to be grateful for in their lives. It was a time to ponder the dangers of the crazy world we live in, and how we never know when something terrible is about to happen.

In those frightening hours after the attack, I, along with others who had friends and family in Boston, turned to Facebook, frantic text messages, and phone calls to make sure the people I knew in the area were okay. I scrolled up and down my newsfeed, checking off names in my head. Joe is okay, Maria is fine, Jonny is safe. Finally I saw something about my best friend from high school, now at Tufts University. He was 100 feet from the first explosion.

Fortunately, he was fine, just shook up and worried about his friends who are still in the hospital. But I was horrified and sickened by the idea that only a few feet separated one my best friends from serious injury or death. I hadn’t seen him since spring break, and that had only been for about an hour or two. A few dozen feet and that would have been our last time together.

I know the Boston attack was a rare event and served as just another reminder of how unpredictable our world is. But, thinking about my peers, I realized that many of us are choosing a dangerous life. Sure, some of us will go on to the halls of Congress, one of the most secure buildings in the world, or go into the mythical land of consulting, but many of us dream of going on to be foreign service officers, journalists, aid workers, and service members. We are not going to save the world by living within a secure compound, but by instead living out among the people we want to help, near danger.

No one has ever heard an SFS-er say “I want to be a foreign service officer working in Foggy Bottom.” No one has ever heard an international health major talk about living in Paris. We want to be where the action is—Libya, Egypt, the South China Sea, Iran, the border of Israel and Palestine—but we often forget the danger that exists in these places.

After all, who doesn’t want a career like that of Ambassador Chris Stevens? His resume reads like a map of the Middle East. He helped shape the United States’ relationship with the Libyan rebels. For his hard work and dedication, the Libyan people loved him, and there are accounts of Libyans rushing into the burning consulate in Benghazi to try and save him. Anyone who wants to go into the Foreign Service wants a tenure like Stevens’s, just without the risk of premature death.

These risks do not mean that students shouldn’t want to go forth to help solve these conflicts, to alleviate human suffering, to tell peoples’ stories—what it means is that we should always seek to make deep friendships, take the time to really get to know our friends, and spend some quality time with them doing something other than schoolwork or drinking the night away.

Even if you are not someone who wants to go and live and work abroad in this dangerous world, chances are that you know someone who does, that one of your friends is studying abroad next year, or that through the wonders of this global economic village you will find yourself travelling to Beijing, signing deals in Dubai, or cutting ribbons in South Africa.

Now that exams are upon us, many students will covetously stake out their spot in Lau and forget what the sun looks like, but really this is the time to take that late night study break with your friend who will be going to the unruly streets of Cairo. Get some lunch with your friend in ROTC doing some training with the Taiwanese army this summer. Watch a movie with that cute girl going to Moldova to research human trafficking. Not because you think they won’t come back, but because the sad truth is, you just can’t be sure.


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