It’s all a bit overwhelming, I would think.
I pick Dorah up at her dorm at the University of San Diego, a place she has called “home” for only three weeks. (She’s here as a Hansen Fellow for a Leadership Institute.)
It’s a typically bright, sunny day. We drive to a location not far away, maybe 15 minutes. On the way, my mom calls. We speak to her through Bluetooth, meaning her voice comes through the radio speakers of the car. This, too, is new to Dorah.
Our destination is the nice, but not lavish offices of a well-respected non-profit organization that serves victims of domestic violence. When we enter the front door, a host of smiley faces greets us—every eye on Dorah—for she is the subject of the photo-shoot and interview that have beckoned us. (She is one of a handful of women chosen for this very special video and photo project, called “My Sister’s Voice.”)
We are buzzed through the security door, and we emerge into a space where hugs and introductions are exchanged. Still, every eye is on Dorah. By her manner, I can tell that she senses it. Not with discomfort, but with that awkward feeling that comes from being the center of such attention.
Into makeup she goes. Unlike some of my daughters, Dorah doesn’t love makeup, but the artist explains that it’s more for the camera than it is for her, and if Dorah doesn’t like the makeup, they’ll change it.
Then into the studio. Bright lights. Again, every eye on her. And cameras, too.
And then the questions, presented with tremendous respect.
She’s nervous at first, but I think I’m the only one who noticed. I’m her dad. I have been in similar situations. I know (kind of).
And then a final question comes: “What advice do you have for others, for people watching this?”
Dorah looks directly into the camera and says, “Be patient with your life.”
And then a pause, and she repeats, “Be patient with your life. Every morning I must take medication because I am living with HIV. And every evening, I must take medication again. And I do it knowing that one day I will no longer have to do so because a cure will have been found. And I hope to be a part of that process once I have earned my degree in medicine. But that is in the future. Today, I am patient with my life.” Be present. Experience today while hoping for tomorrow.
Then still shots are taken in a studio across the hall, a long process of poses and hundreds of shots. Then we say our goodbyes, and return to my little car.
She puts on her sunglasses, rests one foot on the dash, and says, “Dad, let’s go out.”
And so we did.