The Journey Inward

A little over two weeks ago I woke up, May 15th, wide eyed and jittery. To ground myself, as I said my last goodbye, I recited my favorite Ignatian prayer The Suscipe which reads:

Take Lord and receive all my liberty, 

My memory, my understanding, 

And my entire will — 

All I have and call my own. 

You have given all to me, 

To you, Lord, I will return it. 

Everything is yours; 

Do with it what you will.

Give me only your love your grace. 

That is enough for me.

I always feel quite vulnerable yet awakened after saying or listening to this prayer. 

The best way I can explain the feeling to others is like when I am holding a really difficult yoga pose (my “least” favorite, a twisted chair, for those who are familiar). A twisted chair is always super uncomfortable and simply annoying to me, but then there is a moment of sweet bliss where a teacher’s instruction guides me to make that connection which helps me return back to body/mind awareness. I find myself often repeating in Yoga that “This practice teaches me to trust that this is how it is supposed to be right now” and that “The Mystery of Faith is enough for me” and “Wow, this is such an amazing feeling!” 

I know God is always present to accompany and hold me, but to ignite and embody that feeling of gentle surrender to God, it is vital to find flames or connections in my mind, body, and spirit that bring me to joy and curiosity. Two weeks later as I hit this beautiful half way point, I know for certain that Zambia has allowed me to keep alive God’s flame or “practice” the challenges, questions, vulnerabilities, and awakenings that life has to offers us! 

The person that first ignited a flame for me here has to be the beloved Dominic. The Zambia Dominic introduced to me holds space for curiosity, joy, confusion, music, stillness, sadness, nostalgia, romance and so much life. and let me tell you: Zambians are filled with life! On the first morning in Lusaka, I sat with Dominic in some silence eating our breakfast of scrambled eggs and toast. After some simple chat, the conversation started to flow between the two of us. If you know me, I love a good “God chat,” and if you wanna have the most fruitful “God chat” — have it with an enlightened ex-priest. 

At this breakfast, Dominic shared some of his experience leaving Catholic priesthood. Immediately my tensions eased as I felt comfort from his story. Those close to me know that I, too, have been going through my own wrestling with the Catholic church’s magisterium. Dominic said leaving was a difficult decision but one that he does not regret. 

Dominic articulated his experience with poise and grace. He explained to me how the absence of his priest collar actually led to what he saw as more deeply meaningful conversations with humankind. Dominic’s embodiment of the Word is enough, and his stripping of the title did not act as a barrier but unlocked a freedom. Last year I wrote an essay on the idea that if God intended for all of humankind to live in mutual relationship then hierarchy is the result of disobedience. In that case, Dominic is among the most obedient of them all and there is much to be learned. 

After my conversation with Dominic, I distinctly recalled a phrase that a mentor in high school once told me. She always said the “journey is human life and life needs company.” As Dominic accompanied me and our ZamFam for the first week in Lusaka then Livingstone, this phrase was more than just true, but embodied as we sang, laughed, cried, learned, and loved. My initial conversation with Dominic and many more enriching ones along the way have been catalysts for self exploration. They have made me realize, like Dominic, that I seek to express my relationship with Jesus in some of the challenges of our time, just as Dominic expressed with me at breakfast. 

Dominic’s ability to meet our group at eye-level, in a way that holds wisdom and playfulness, is something that I yearn to embody during my time in Zambia. A couple days ago I met these two girls named Priscilla and Chi Chi at ZamCity. I sat on the bench with Julia, Brynn, and two best friends in Grade 9, Chi Chi, and Priscilla. After some chatting, Chi Chi began to plait Brynn’s hair. Ever since I started dance and theater around the age of 8, I have always loved the act of someone doing my hair. Don’t get me wrong I love a good braid or updo, but my skin is quite sensitive so it is not really about the actual “style.” To me, it has also been the giving and receiving of braiding and get braided. I see it as a communal, vulnerable, and sacred space, a place that holds space for playfulness but also deep connection. As I reflect back, I realize that my younger self would ask another girl to do my hair as a way of simply connecting. I thought about this when I watched Chi Chi braid Brynn’s hair. Afterwards, I approached Chi Chi and Priscilla to see if they could braid my hair at some point. They happily agreed and we planned to have them come to the convent the next day. 

As the girls arrived, I realized our timing was cutting it close as I had a plan to go to the market and the girls had to be home at 16 hours sharp. After sharing some snacks and taking some polaroid photos together, we settled on a plan for the two girls to come with Emily, Charlie, and me down to the market to see the seamstress, Jesse. As we made our way to the market we started shopping for chitenge. The girls led us through the market and we had the opportunity to stop at some local places that only they know best, like Priscilla’s aunt’s clothing store. As I walked down the small narrow roads filled with shops and people, two men at a store said something to us in Lunda or Luvale that alone, I would maybe brush off, put on a smile, in an attempt to not be singled out (which is impossible here as a new face). As I walked ahead I noticed Chi Chi and Priscilla had stopped to talk to some guys that said something to our group. With their bright eyes and big smiles looking down at us, Chi Chi shouted down the path to us, “They want to know how you are doing!” I think she knew that the three of us were a bit timid to walk down the streets and found ways to make us feel comfortable. 

The next day, the two girls came over to the convent to braid my and Jackson’s hair. I went first and prepared myself to feel that intense tug. Because of how long my hair is, I had all four of their hands working to ensure a tight and intricate braid. We listened to music and chatted about our lives. I learned about both of their families, Chi Chi’s mother, who owns a hair salon in the market next to one of the butcheries as well as Priscilla’s mother who sells vegetables at the market. I have learned what they like to do in their free time, both of the girls love netball and listening to music. And I have also learned what they want to be when they grow up, Chi Chi a police officer and Priscilla a nurse. Chi Chi and I also talked about language and how at home, because of the death of their father in 2019, they speak his language, Lunda, instead of her mother’s language, Bemba. Priscilla and Chi Chi have become such wonderful company on this journey in Zambia and were some of the first people I had the chance to connect with closer to eye level. I also just absolutely adored the moment my music came on and both of the girls and I all silently hummed and swayed in unison. 

I am continuing to explore the mystery of grace and love like The Suscipe mentions as I am here in Zambia. Like Dominic helps me remember “the journey is human life and life needs company.” I feel so deeply here that there is no beloved without a lover and no lover without a beloved — no one can exist without the other. 

To Mom, Dad, and George, Alex and all of my amazing friends, Soph and Gi and my 1018 Girls (love you x1000) I miss all of you more than you know and can not wait to share this experience with you all when we reunite. 

Lucia Doty, Class of 2025

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15 Responses to The Journey Inward

  1. Sophia Riva says:

    Lucia, what a beautiful post!! Thank you for sharing about the individuals have touched you in Zambia. Your deep introspection & reflection is beautiful to read & experience. Sending love to you and all of the Zags during the rest of your time in Zambia <3!

  2. Michelle Doty says:

    Oh, Lucia. These touch stones are so beautiful for me to read. I have NEVER braided Lucia’s hair but man have I enjoyed beholding some of her See God in All Things and “Center Moments.” I miss your laugh and listening to music with you – heard it a little during the braid 🙂

    To all of you: Thank you for letting Lucia be silly and solemn and everything in between and again for taking care of each other. Feel close to you.

    I love you, Loosh. Thank you for this beautiful reflection and description of your days with these amazing human beings.

  3. Kathleen H. says:

    Greetings to all of the Zags in Zambia from Phoenix, AZ!! We’ve so enjoyed all of your posts and hearing about your experiences and the lessons learned along the way. Thank you for keeping us close throughout your journey with your thoughtful words. Continue to take care of each other and continue to love the “journey of human life”.
    Lots of love to all of you. ❤️ Kathleen (Katie’s mom)
    (Katie, we miss you dearly and look forward to hearing more of your adventures when you return. As for us, lots of swimming on these hot, Phoenix days!)

  4. maddie wells says:

    Hi Looshy!!

    This post made me tear up a little bit, it sounds like you’re having an incredible, eye opening experience. Priscilla and Chi Chi are lucky to have met you, and I’m sure you feel lucky to have met them. It’s so awesome that you are getting to form relationships with the people around you, and it’s so nice hearing about the special moments you’ve shared with them.

    Love ya and miss you so much toosh. <3

  5. Jim Doty says:

    Hey Lucia, thank you for sharing your journey with such joy, insight and intimacy. Your willingness and ability to share touched me deeply, while also presenting me with a gift, as it spurred me to reflect on journeys we have taken together. It made me hungry to share more adventures with you when you return. ❤️

    Until then know that you are loved deeply and missed mightily. Dad

  6. Annie Fowle says:

    Lucia!! Wow what an honor to read. I just got home and have had a lot of catching up to do! Sounds like an amazing experience, and I never doubted that you and Em would thrive and have many many fruitful God chats 🙂 I miss you both sooooo much!! Can’t wait to debrief soon. Lots of love ❤️

  7. Trig says:

    I’m so happy it has been going well! Soak it all in for this second half of the trip. See you soon!

  8. Claire Menzia says:

    Hi Loosh!!! I’ve been thinking of you and I am so happy to see you are doing well. Priscilla, Chi Chi, and Dominic are so lucky to have met you. You approach people with a humble and loving heart and that is so admirable. Your energy is contagious, Lucia, keep spreading it! Excited to see you back on Sinto soon:)

  9. Gianna (smoosh) says:

    LOOOOSHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!! This was so beautiful to read and these photos make me so happy. Everyone you are meeting is extremely lucky to be in your presence. Keep spreading love and joy!! I miss you so much, I can’t wait to give you a squeeze and hear about all of these amazing memories

  10. Pam Wittman says:

    Lucia, I have not met you (yet!), but am a friend of Emilys — who thinks the world of you as you know. Your post is beautiful and like you, the Suscipe is such a powerfully meaningful and hard prayer to pray with open, honest hands. Yet, there you are! Holding the yoga pose with grace and attention. Thank you for sharing a bit of your “God- moments”. Sounds like you are standing on holy grouond.
    Give Ems my love.

  11. Levie Tarantino says:

    Dearest Lucia-Such a beautiful reflection of your time thus far. I can’t wait to hear more of your journey and the amazing people you are meeting! Continue to be the golden light and may it be multiplied by infinity and benefit all! Love you Lucia – Auntie Levie

  12. Maddie Bautista says:

    Hi looshie loosh!! You are amazing and I think of you everyday! Keep doing amazing things, love you!!!

  13. Chyah Weitzman says:

    Beautiful Lucia, Your post makes me so happy! It seems like yesterday, you were in my classroom as we started Pencils for Africa with Mr. Ajania. I blinked and you are now experiencing Zambia in your continuous search for the spiritual essence of humanity, and have found it with Dominic’s chats and the life you are living there. I’m overjoyed and so proud of you Lucia, can’t wait to hear more. Lots of love to you always,

  14. Cat Whitaker says:

    Lucia, I adore you. It’s so special reading this (except you forgot to shout me out :)) Your words describing this experience are truly inspiring. You are so lucky to meet such beautiful people and they are even luckier to meet you. I am thinking about you always and always am rooting you on. I love the phrase “the journey is human life and life needs company” and i am forever grateful that you are the company in my life. Love you so much and can’t wait to see you when you’re home.

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