I’m moving to Prague in the Czech Republic at the end of August. (In case anyone is concerned, I will still be a regular contributor to this blog.) In part, moving to Europe feels like diving headfirst into the unknown. At the same time, it also feels right.
A full-time teaching job still did not materialize again this year despite my best efforts. I’m beginning to see the blessing in that since a full-time job would have made the decision to go that much harder. Yet, the decision to move wasn’t easy either.
My plan in Prague is to teach English to local business people as well as feminism and ecology at Charles University. Neither of these plans is solid. I don’t have any job offers yet. I could go there and everything could fall through or I could go there and decide to do something totally different. In many ways, it’s up to me. I’m not sure if I have ever placed myself into a situation in which I have so much freedom. At the same time, I’m also quite nervous about the entire situation. At least I’m not moving to Prague alone.
This reminds me of some recent headline news. I cannot imagine what it must be like for the thousands of children coming “illegally” into the United States. I feel for them. My situation is completely different than theirs but my experiences with planning and motivations for leaving fill me with a sense of empathy and compassion towards their dire situation. I don’t understand all of this discussion of deportation and incarceration. They are children! Why aren’t we offering them hospitality and love? We should help change the pervasive patriarchal violence and poverty that forces extreme desperation like this in the first place. In the interests of compassion, peace and cooperation, we should listen and provide support to the countries from where these individuals come. It is not an “us versus them” situation. We are one human community with one earth and its limited resources. We need to learn to share, to act responsibly and to protect each other and the world we share. When did children, or anyone for that matter, become “the enemy,” become “illegal,” become “problems to solve”? They are not and never should be considered in such patronizing ways.
There are very few things that we do daily which do not require us to make a decision, whether that is moving to Prague, making breakfast, riding public transportation, donating money to good causes or deciding on the fate of children whose only goal is to find a better life. Yet I wonder how often we make decisions thoughtfully and carefully. Perhaps, we choose based on which path offers us the least resistance or which one just feels right. I wonder: how does one know she has made the right choice; how does one know when she has reflected enough to decide; what principles does one consider for deliberation; and do all choices have to be decisive or can they be vague and flexible? Even answering these questions require decisions! Oy vey!
I don’t have solid answers for these questions. Nevertheless, I’m convinced that values, priorities and practice all help us make better decisions. Feminists make decisions on different criteria than nonfeminists. Environmentalists have a completely different value set from oil tycoons. Children often have less experience making choices necessitating suggestions and guidance.
Decisions are an important aspect of our everyday lives, yet most decisions we make aren’t conscious choices. In other words, if we thought about every decision we made, we’d never get anything done. Yet, if we only consider large decisions real ones, then when we are faced with them, chances are we feel inept to make them. We might consider ourselves to have no experience or criterion on which to know if we can even make good decisions. We have to learn to trust our decision-making abilities. Our choices have led us to where we are and our choices can lead us safely onwards. While we may not get every decision right, chances are we’ve learned from our mistakes.
Making the decision to move to Prague was a choice. Was it the right one? Was it the best one? I don’t know the answer to either question, but I trust myself to have made the right decision. Counting all the decisions I make in a day, I think I’ve done pretty well for myself.
There is one more decision that deserves notice. I’ve chosen to learn Czech in Prague even though I could probably do fine without it given the international nature of the city. Learning Czech is the right thing to do if I am going to live there for at least a year. In addition, if I don’t, I will never be able to communicate one-on-one with my partner’s grandmother who speaks no English. She and my partner’s mother seem like amazing, strong, beautiful and fun women. They are just like my partner actually. I can’t wait to get to know them! Surprisingly, I’m not sure I know a family who laughs as much as the three of them do and I can’t wait to be a part of that.
I think I’m on the right path.
To those deciding the fate of newly arrived migrant children: I hope you choose a path of love, support and compassion. Make the right decision.
Ivy A. Helman, Ph. D.: A feminist scholar currently on the faculty at Merrimack College. Her most recent publications include: “Queer Systems: The Benefits of a More Systematic Approach to Queer Theology,” in CrossCurrents (March 2011) and Women and the Vatican: An Exploration of Official Documents(2012).