Stephanie Brake
Stephanie Brake
New Zealand 2011-2012
Stephanie Brake earned a Bachelor of Arts in Entertainment Industry Studies from Belmont University with a minor in Spiritual Formation. Volunteer work on a farm in Waipahi, New Zealand will provide an opportunity to dig deeper into social justice, Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) and a host family in the South Otago region. " Read More About Stephanie →

A Bow, an Arrow & a Flag

No one prepares you for this. Cramming your self-acclaimed and equally materialistic identity into two bags – one to be checked and the other to carry-on; to be so overwhelmed with excitement and anxiety that rest and nutrition are simply the furthest values from your mind; and gazing into the faces of your beloved and attempt at convincing them that despite the distance, you’ll manage and promise never to forget them.

Instead, most of us were taught how to brush our teeth, eat essential fruits and veggies, say our bedtime prayers and recite the infamous lines of the Preamble… We memorized multiplication tables and various biblical verses… We said please and thank you and ma’am and sir and tried not to ease drop simply because it was none of our business… We held the door open for strangers and shared our crayons with classmates. We even appreciated our siblings most of the time.

Let’s face it though. These were easy.

Not one soul mentioned to me what it would be like to leave the only world you ever knew of behind. Yet in a matter of hours, I will board the first of many planes set to depart out of Nashville and eventually be bound for the real Middle Earth, a place we call New Zealand. I feel like a young member of a tribe whose about to go on his solo hunt – that if successful, would become a direct rite of passage into his manhood. Or a soldier, fresh out of boot camp, parting for a tour on foreign soil. It’s a kind of sweet liberation and novel terror to experience the moment when you realize your childhood protectors will be half way around the globe. When you realize you are, in fact, on your own. And say to yourself “this is it” and “there’s no turning back now”.

Yes, the dangers are clear and very authentic. My project for the next three months is fair game for failure, emergencies, and health challenges which can only be imagined at this point. And the more I sit still, the more likely I will become psychologically vulnerable about the animosity of uncertainty.

But the only threshold, reasoning and purpose preventing me from dashing back through the Music City terminal and out the sliding doors, however, is to know what awaits me at the other side of the Pacific Ocean: 3,000 acres of natural paradise and an organic farming family who was more than willing to open up their home to me. Such great persuasion could never be produced by fear’s fiercest smite.

So I’ll swallow the knot in my throat and revere the mystery of ambiguity. I’ll endure the eighteen hour time difference and contrary seasonal period. I’ll rummage with a bow and an arrow. I’ll fly the flag from my shoulders. For this is the narrow way I have chosen to undertake, the way of freedom, how I will be present in my own skin. Hands, be untied; hot diggity dog, here I go, go, go!


“As I’m leaving/ A change comes on my eyes/ These streets persuaded me/ With mumbles, strange goodbyes. Through the water/ Through the ring/ To the soul of everything/ I throw my heart out/ On the stones/ And I’m almost gone.” ~David Gray

One thought on “A Bow, an Arrow & a Flag”

  1. Steph,
    We (on the behalf of the “sorority”) are so incredibly proud of you. I’m glad that you got to New Zealand safely. I know you’ll do awesome. I’m watching you blog. Can’t wait to hear all about it! Absorb it all in, I’m living vicariously through you!


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