Survivors and Surviving

March 25, 2020

by Deborah Pembrook, Human Trafficking Outreach Manager

For the last few days, a moment from years ago has kept returning to me. 

It was around 3 in the morning and I was on the Santa Cruz Wharf. I had just locked the seafood restaurant where I cleaned. Alone, I crouched down to unlock my bike and paused as I heard the waves. Slowly, slowly, they collided against the edge of the pier, then struck pillar after pillar, approaching and passing me, until they unfurled against the beach. As I listened, in the fog and in my grimy clothes, I felt sure of what I had done that brought me there. 

At the time, I was 19 and unmoored. I had cut every tie I had to my life before and gone into hiding. I knew what the stakes were if I had stayed in that old life, but there was no guide to building a new one. Each new step meant uncertainty and disconnection. But at that moment on the wharf, I knew I had done all I could to save my own life. And that knowledge felt good.

In the last week, so much has changed for all of us. Each of us has had to face hard decisions and uncertainty. What does a job loss or lost hours mean? Do I cancel even though my child has dreamed of this for years? Is one enough for us, if the stores run out? Does showing up to provide essential services risk harming myself, or my family, or others? 

Survivors too often have had to face hard choices. Leaving the certain world that is familiar means entering into an unknown space where there are no easy solutions. Facing this unknown takes courage, strength and a commitment to what is most important. 

Survivors teach us that surviving matters. The hard choices that we make today that keep us home and six feet distant mean that more of us will be here tomorrow. As you take steps to keep yourself and others safe, you are showing your strength and courage. 

And my hope is that one day soon, we will all stand together knowing we did all we could for each other in this crisis. And it will feel good.