Dancing with Paradox by Amy Melena

It is 7:30am and I climb out of bed after double-snoozing my alarm, I haven’t quite mastered becoming a morning person just yet. Dream walking downstairs, I find myself in the meditation room of 40 Prescott. For the next half hour or so, my three housemates and I will sit in contemplative practice as bold rays of sunshine contrast the small flicker of candlelight flames on the ground around us. It is in this silence that I’ll hear God’s quiet movement of paradoxical clarity move with tip-toed steps. It is the friend I have been waiting for.

Entering the 8th month of this fellowship, there is no simple nor easy way to wrap up an experience as profound as this. For every theme I thought up, I found another that seemed to contrast it. And so, I’m coming to accept that this year with Life Together has been one of profound paradox; but a paradox I feel eager to accept.

Locking up the building after another long workday, the sun had set hours earlier. The week had been the kind of exhausting that left my bones achy—the kind filled with an overarching sense of insufficiency. I had known that work-life balance for working with underserved high-schoolers would be trying, but I had largely underestimated the weight of balancing my housemates, my site placement, remembering to call my mom, my college friends, and my little mint plant that, like me, desperately prayed for more sunshine. I felt heavy. Yet, what I found myself desiring most was to head home, back to the same people I felt unable to balance, knowing that they also had a great power to rejuvenate and replenish. The same youth that kept me up at night with worry were the same kids who gifted me with boundless laughter that fueled me for days.

I have learned to love the paradox of the high school boys I work with, of how they often present pain through joking, growth through questioning and love through play. Though I’ve largely become disenchanted from the escapism of social media, my youth have re-taught me the significance of a text message. Throughout this year, I’ve received photos of Tupac quotes graffitied on bus stops they’ve been moved by and want to share, alongside reposted memes talking about racism and classism, serving as tangible markers of intellectual growth and critical thinking. Everyday, I meet my youth as they come exhausted from school systems not created for their success and watch as they reclaim their world through their creativity and innovative thinking.

Beyond my daily work, this year has taught me that our revolution consists of strong and forceful change, coupled with with compassionate love and intimacy. I am learning that the justice movement I want to be a part of requires both protests and boycotts, alongside potlucks, salsa dancing and morning coffee. Life Together has led me to recognize that paradoxical ways can, and in fact often should, coexist. Holding hands, complementing and colliding, stretching my boundaries until my arms are open wide, my palms facing up. Ready to embrace the conflict that will come. Knowing that I’m all the better for it.