Peace, Art, and Purpose

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It’s hard to believe as this incredible part of my life ends and the next begins how very far I’ve come. Just two years ago, I was returning from a very weary stint abroad in Liberia praying I would find my way, that there even was a way. Now, two years later, I’ve graduated from one of the best peace programs in the U.S. with a Master’s in Peace and Justice, and I’m moving to Kenya.

Getting Here

Getting here was one whorl wind journey. I never imagined when I moved to California after Liberia that in such a short time I would be here. It’s been an unbelievable journey, and while not all of it has been positive, I’ve found the positive from it all. Struggling with graduate school. Watching someone you love fight through cancer. Losing people on this journey to my best self. All of these things had the chance to build me or break me. And, if only to show that you can, I say I did – I made them an opportunity for growth. Through this I’ve learned one radical lesson (and perhaps my most valuable):

Everyday is an opportunity to decide I deserve a joyous, fullfilled, purposeful life.

Radical. Because until a few months ago, I still struggled with believing my worth wasn’t attached to the words people used to describe me in that moment. That it isn’t defined by other people’s vision of who I am.

I am worthy of a beautiful, incredible life.

Now’s the time you say it aloud for yourself. Shout it if you need to. Whisper, if at first it sounds too radical. Chances are if it sounds radical, untrue, or just uncomfortable you have a ways to go too (and that’s okay!)

Peace & Art

My life has come to be founded in two things I never imagined.

Peacebuilding, not only who I am and aim to be, but now the only solution I see to the brokenness in the world today. Peacebuilding is the foundation, it is the toolbox, it is the how we stop breaking and start healing.

Art is the second half. Art is the piece of me that awoke when I started turning my broken excuses into recovery, healing, and solutions. Art is the voice. It is the understanding. Art is the path to truly seeing people. There is no peace without first seeing. And I have become incredibly comfortable with seeing – myself, the world, and my role in it.

I am an artist. I am a peacebuilder. I am a changemaker. I am worthy.


Realizing I deserve a fulfilled life and what that means for me was the first step to making my first really crazy decision:

I am moving to Nairobi with little more than two suitcases, what’s left of my savings account, and the intrinsic belief that I have to follow my purpose. I deserve it.

I’m moving to Nairobi to continue working with the communities I fell in love with only six months ago.

As of now, I’m working independently with an organization on research analysis and coding, which can be done anywhere. After that is finished, I can’t say I know what I’ll be doing for paid work, but I know every spare minute will be spent doing what I love.

Right now, that’s enough.

So What’s Next?

I have finalized housing, finished my visa application, bought my plane ticket, and now I begin the process of selling what I can’t carry in two suitcases and saying goodbye to the incredible people I’ve come to know and love here in San Diego. To the rest of my family and friends, I’ve already said a temporary goodbye. As for San Diego, we have three incredible weeks left, let’s make it an adventure.

Next, I reconnect with my colleagues in Nairobi and begin discussing plans and opportunities for art-based peace work. I delve into the place in my soul that craves knowledge and learning to better understand what my role in this massive field should be. And how I ensure I follow the cardinal rule of peace studies “do no harm.”


The next several weeks will be exciting, busy, and probably stressful. I’ll be updating you along the way about where I’m at with my crazy move across the world and what my art/peace work will look like! If you’re interested in staying updated, please follow my blog, Twitter @jciccarelli09, or the recovery poet Facebook page. Stay tuned for more information on the the changes my blog will be undergoing (in addition to my normal blogging, I’m going to start blogging on my travels and I’m most excited about beginning to write on “Politics, Society, and Art in Kenya”). Until next time, I hope you have a fabulous week!

Asante Sana!

Jessica Ciccarelli, the recovery poet


2 thoughts on “Peace, Art, and Purpose

  1. Art is so important and calming for children. In a busy school day, i can’t imagine an elementary school child who will not tell you that art is their favorite subject. It allows for true freedom
    of thought and expression. Like everything else that happens as we grow up, interference from others about ‘technique’ and ‘form’ tend to stifle growth and development. I truly believe in what you are doing and think it can change the world. Keep going Jessica, and we’ll be here if you fall or fly, it really makes no difference to how proud we are of you to have the courage to pursue the unknown.


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