This is a post written by our very first guest writer, Ellie Ford! Ellie is a dear friend of mine, and she wrote this reflection about coming home from Westmont in Cairo all too soon.
Entering self-isolation straight off of a semester in Egypt is a little like running a 100-meter sprint only to careen into a pool of molasses at the 75-meter mark.
The Westmont in Cairo cohort flew back to the U.S. on March 17. For me, this was two months and four countries sooner than I expected to be back in the States. After a whirlwind couple of days that took us from Cairo to Dubai to California, we made it to LAX via a 16 hour flight over the North Pole. Reentering America during this time has been an unusual transition, to put it lightly.
With Cairo so present in my mind, I’ve been thinking of all the families in Egypt who live just above the poverty line. They’ve been and will continue to be impacted by this crisis in ways that are potentially irreversible. In becoming aware of the gravity of this crisis, I feel the Spirit gently reminding me that even as I wrestle with uncertainty and culture shock, I’m blessed to be in a safe home.
With that caveat, I’ve certainly felt a profound absence as I’ve whiplashed from immersive and dynamic life in Cairo to an unprecedented level of domesticity in suburban California. There are many facets of my transition I could discuss, but I’ll zero in on just one aspect, one absence, that’s been particularly confronting. Isolating the source of that absence wasn’t difficult: I no longer have any excuse to rush. In Cairo—and college in general—staying on top of my increasingly busy schedule was a challenge that I became addicted to. “Overscheduled” is my default setting; I suspect many people reading this can relate. Some number of days ago (I’ve completely lost track), I was attempting to fill my time by going through all my books. I pulled a bin from under my bed and began to glance over the spines of various novels, flipping through some of them, dusting off others. I laughed aloud as an untouched paperback caught my eye. An Unhurried Life, by Alan Fadling. It was the Westmont Summer Read from my freshman year... I had been too hurried that summer to actually read it.
This morning, a mentor of mine reframed our new status quo by sharing a pithy Dallas Willard quote. Dr. Willard’s life advice to a student was this: “Ruthlessly exclude hurry from your life.” The student, pen poised to write, asked puzzledly, “Anything else?” Dr. Willard thought for a moment. “No. That’s it.”
My mentor looked pointedly at me after sharing this story. He knew as well as I did that “hurry” was the precise absence I had been feeling. The opportunity — to stop anxiously finding things to fill my time, to stop hurrying— is finally on the table! I, along with everyone, face a crossroads at which I need to decide what my new normal will be. Will I go straight back to a deceptive lifestyle of busyness? Or will I make the decision to slow my rhythm and maintain a thoughtful pace that will allow me to live a life of meaningful intentionality?
I’ve started reading An Unhurried Life. I’ll read it as slowly and carefully as I want to. After all, I have the time.