So we’re all just chilling, living our lives. We wake up, groggily grumble a hello to our roommates, drink a cup of coffee so we can function and get our booties to class or work or wherever we may have to go. We work, we learn, we play and party, we talk to one another and we explore our worlds. We’ve got people we love and places we love and though we complain and whine and get caught up in things we don’t really need to get caught up in, we’re generally pretty happy with our routines or lack of routines, whichever our lives may consist of at the moment, things of note happen and life just keeps on keepin’ on. We’ve got plans that we depend on, you know? I’m pretty sure I’m gonna graduate next year. I’m pretty sure I’ll travel or get a job or something like that afterwards. And I’m pretty sure I can count on living a life I could have pictured myself living one way or another since I’ve been little. Working at Australia for the UNHCR has really made me see what a blessing that all of this is.
Think about living the kind of life I described, living the lives we all live, but little by little you realize trouble’s brewing. You feel the unrest in your stomach, under your skin, you’ve been hearing things in the news. Maybe our worlds haven’t been all that great – the government’s corrupt, there’s social injustice, cultural or religious tension, whatever it may be – and you have to start getting worried about your world and your parents’ world or your kids’ world. You start following self imposed curfews, you stop walking alone, you start looking over your shoulder on your way to and from work, startle whenever you hear a bang or a whistle. You have your little business or you go to school for economics or communications – you have a middle to high class life, and a middle to high class life ahead of you. Then war breaks out and you’re faced with a choice – you stay or you leave. You keep that life you thought you could depend on or you flee with your family and the things you can collectively carry without any assurance that you’ll ever see those places you loved, those people you loved ever again. All of a sudden, you choose homelessness over home. You choose to embark on a treacherous cross-border journey to a country where you don’t know the language, where the customs are unfamiliar. To a country in which you don’t know that you will be accepted or permitted or if the paperwork was filled out right but you pray to God they will and it is because they tell you this strange place is safer than where you are right now.
You get there and wait and wait and wait in line to register for a refugee camp. All of a sudden, you go from eating decent meals to eating rations, living in a home to living in a tent, having personal space to living five people in one room, going to school every day to attending a school that teaches three grades in one classroom at the same time. And the rest of your life is unsure. This camp, this life, is supposed to be temporary but it’s indefinitely temporary. The paperwork must be approved and there are thousands of people that are just like you in the exact same position. And more than likely, the country you’ve been relocated to doesn’t really want you there. Maybe you’ll get lucky and be accepted into the country. Then maybe they’ll give you a plot of land with a home on it and you’ve never even farmed before. It’s also pretty likely that you end up on that camp for years and years. Pretty crazy stuff.
I’ve been aware of the plight of refugees for a long time but it never really hit me how insane their lives are. The life of a refugee is a life turned completely upside down and inside out. One day, things are as they’ve always been and the next, these people have reverted to lives they never thought in a million years they’d ever have to live, for reasons entirely outside of their control. That’s so wild to me, you know? It’s given me such a huge renewed sense of gratitude for my life and for where I was born, for my grandparents decisions to move to America and for my family. My life is so relatively stable and I’m just so grateful for how lucky I am in my little world.