On Loving, Preemptively

Charlene journal

Singapore

Today, I am officially a staff member of Preemptive Love Coalition!  Preemptive Love and I have been talking about this for a while now, with my recent month in Kurdistan being a part of that conversation. It’s great to finally be able to say it 🙂 I’ll be photographing, writing and making video as a part of the Communications team in Iraq. All of my work will be about, and for, the people we serve in the region.

I write this at the end of my first work day. I’m still in Singapore, working remotely while waiting to head over. Today’s been about catching up with my team on video chat, and getting into the flow of how we speak about the lives of the people we serve.

I’ve dreamt about a job like this.

Never thought I’d see one advertised, much less actually have it.

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On the road in Kurdistan, Iraq. Oct 2018

My sixth anniversary as a nomad just went by a couple of weeks ago. In 2013, I left a suburban Australian life and real job to live on the road.

I was worried the sickest about not being employable afterwards, once my sabbatical was over. I’d worked in the IT department of a big Australian bank, and after a long period of not doing work that they were honed for, I knew my skills wouldn’t be much use to anyone. As that sabbatical year extended to six, and freelancing brought me in other professional directions, the thought continued to cling to the back of my head.

Six years and eleven days later, here I am.

In the first flush of travel, with no ascertainable goals, I wrote this about my hope for the future:

In a year, I hope to come back to this post with different eyes. To understand myself a little bit better, so I can pursue properly, whatever it is that fulfills me (assuming i figure this out too), without the chatter of the coulds and shoulds and nay-you-can’t-do-thats I’ve taken on board and allowed myself to believe over the course of my life. I  hope to have learnt to trust myself, to have the confidence to follow my own path and deal with my fears without being crippled by them. And most of all, I hope to have figured out how I can give back to this world that has blessed me so generously.

From Everywhere to go, and no reason to leave. Or stay – 20 Jan 2013

It’s true that whatever I’d learned to do in that former life is out of date now. I’ve been thinking about getting a job for the past year, and wasn’t sure what I was going to do about it. Then this position came up. And I went to Iraq for a month to meet the team. And they decided they wanted to take a chance on me. And I tried not to sink gratefully to my knees, because I so badly wanted them to.

On the road in Kurdistan, Iraq. Oct 2018

I didn’t see my sabbatical ending this way: In a whole new direction. In an entirely different industry. With very different people. An unexpected environment (Iraq!!). In a different language than the one I am accustomed to speaking – learning Kurdish and Arabic is going to prove entertaining for everyone around me, if my attempts at Danish are anything to go by.

With work that has purpose.

Which photographer doesn’t dream about using their camera for something meaningful? Who doesn’t dream of being that photographer?

Erbil before the storm. Kurdistan, Iraq. Oct 2018.

It feels good to be employed again. And it’s very grounding to be part of a team, working towards something bigger than myself. What a way to start 2019!

In 1999, I left Singapore for Australia with two bags, not knowing what I would find. I stayed in Australia for fourteen years. In 2013, I left Australia for the world with two different bags, not knowing what I’d find. Six years later, I’m waiting to go to Iraq (again, with two bags), still with no idea what I’ll discover. Am I scared? You bet. But I’m going anyway. Precisely because I don’t know who and what I’ll find. And the mountains are beautiful.

Somewhere in northern Iraq, Oct 2018