On September 5, I celebrated the one-year anniversary of my arrival to Colombia. Looking back on the past year, I recognize the changes that I have undergone in the past year are significant and have left a lasting impression on my life.
Over a year ago, while I was in my training to become a Mission Intern, we were asked one day to reflect upon our hopes and fears entering into the process, as well as other aspects of our feelings. I saved the sheets from this activity, tucked away in my bible, and recently came across them again. Reflecting on this list recently has helped me process the ways that I really have changed over the course of my year here.
Personal transformation. My first hope on the list was personal transformation. While this one plays a strong role in my other hopes, I think that this is kind of the fundamental core of it all. I have changed. Plain and simple. The ways are many and often nuanced, but they are certainly a part of my life and manifest themselves in the way that I interact with others, the way that I move in this world, and the way that I understand myself.
Community transformation. This hope is more complicated. I included it in the list because it should always be a hope, though I recognize that it can’t always be an expectation. As I mentioned in my previous post, expecting community transformation to be the first and foremost outcome of international volunteering is foolish and poorly-used energy. We should instead focus on how we can be transformed both mutually with and by the communities in which we are serving. From that perspective, I certainly hope that the community has been transformed by my presence, as I have by its presence in my life.
Finding love in inconvenient ways. It’s always striking to me how people come into my life at what, from my perspective seems like the most inconvenient time possible, and yet which turns out to be just the right timing in the grander scheme of things. I have gotten close to some of my closest friends during these periods. That said, I feel like any closeness with anyone here is inconvenient for all involved, because I know that I’m leaving soon; my stay here is not permanent. However, in spite of that, or maybe because of it, I have found some beautiful relationships in the midst of a situation that might otherwise make it difficult to foster relationships, and for that, I am grateful.
Finally finding and being myself. I feel like this one is more of a constant search. However, I have found a place where I really feel comfortable and in-my-element. Sure, there are certain aspects of who I am that I don’t exercise as actively as I might in other contexts, but, simply put, I feel really good here, and I’ve really enjoyed my time here.
Opening my heart. In many ways, though I am a very loving and open person, I have closed off to many people. Be it for a lack of trust, a lack of self-confidence, or otherwise, I often just don’t feel ready to open my heart up to someone. However, I feel like this experience and various aspects of the past year have brought me to be more willing to open my heart to new people and new experiences.
Opening my mind. I tend to think of myself as a rather open-minded person, but certain circumstances arise in my life when I am forced to really stretch my ability to open my mind up to certain opinions or circumstances. This year has, to some effect, been a learning and growing experience with regards to this aspect, and I continue to learn and grow in this.
Finding beauty in pain. There are certain aspects of my experience which are inherently difficult – leaving home, family, and friends, establishing a new life, knowing that my new life can’t last forever (and, in fact, won’t last much longer). On the other hand, I’m having new experiences, I’m opening myself up in ways that I might never have imagined before, and I’m learning to take advantage of every moment, as I know time is so limited – and there’s a certain beauty in that.
Living the life that I am called to. Many times, my discernment process is rather intuitive; I recognize that my intuition is one of the mechanisms which God uses to lead me towards my calling. When I feel deep down that something is right, I know that I’m on the right track, and as I mentioned earlier, I feel very in-my-element here…so apparently I’m doing something right!
Finding joy in simplicity. When living in another country, you’ve got to enjoy the small things in life or else you go insane. Be it drinking a tinto (coffee) or aeromatica (herbal fruit tea) with a coworker to relax 15 minutes before returning to work or a conversation with a friend after work, I really do find joy in the simple things of life, and I find my experience to be all the more rich and full of life.
Finding a way to make it all work. Honestly, I can’t remember much about why I wrote this hope, but apparently I’ve succeeded…I’m alive, I’m healthy, I’m happy…what more could I ask for?