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Friday, June 29, 2007

And if you should find, upon your return

And so it ends. Tomorrow morning, I will rise early, briefly clean my apartment one final time, enjoy a leisurely lunch with Liam and Steve, say goodbye to some friends and students, and take a cab to the airport around two o'clock.

Tomorrow, I'm going home. I almost don't believe it.

I begin typing the tired old sentence "this year has been ..." and I pause, the blank cursor staring at me in dead white space. How does that sentence end again?

There was no way I could have prepared for all I saw and learned and came to understand this past year. I remember being absolutely terrified before I came. I can remember clearly my panicked phone calls to Liam in Canada at the end of July, I can see vividly me arriving at Maryknoll at six in the morning back in August, to a house still asleep, locked out, wondering how I could have fucked up so badly to find myself here?

And now I know just how right my decision has been, because I now know how helpful and informative and amazing and difficult and enjoyable and taxing this year has been. But the only way you can do something like this, this beautiful and painful and wonderful eye-opening metamorphosis, is to jump in. Optimism and good faith and being surrounded by great people of course helps, but before you can even decide on you attitude or see who you'll be working with, you have to be brave enough, smart enough, dumb enough to take the initial leap. And I look back to those moments of doubt (and oh there were many) and just can't explain how glad I am that I followed through.

So, what have I learned? Well, how much time do you have? Really, a reflection of that kind comes in spurts, as your work your way through the return, as you look at things back home with new eyes. The things you have taught in class have paled in comparison to all that you have learned about yourself, the "things they have taught you," and as cliché as that sounds, it's true. I'll never be able to write coherently about this trip, like real life a discussion would branch into countless digressions, shifting topics. But one thing I think I have learned that I just need to say: you can do this.

It's something I said to myself quite a bit. You can do this, you are well-equipped to handle this situation, and when things get bogged down in bureaucracy or language barriers or just general bullshit, just remember that you can do this. I wanted to go to Cambodia, and beyond booking a flight, I didn't know what the hell I was getting myself into, but that's OK because I can do this. I wanted to get my exams done early so that I could go home at the end of June, and it was a lot of bullshit with the administration and more work in the short term, but I made up my mind and got it all to work because I can do this. Well, Nicki helped a lot with that last one.

So now I want to say it to you, dear reader: you can do this too. There is nothing special about me that allowed me to come here and do what I have done, to see what I have seen. Traveling, seeing the world outside the narrow confines of culture and country, experiencing another culture and way of life; all of these are things you can do too.

And I think they are things you should do. Things you should kick your own ass to do. Retired? Go teach English to poor students in Africa, China, Cambodia, Vietnam. Fresh out of college? Get on the plane, you're ready to go. Working, mid-career? Take a working holiday and see the world so you can better understand our privileged place within it. If you have a degree, you can do this. All you need is the desire.

Well, what was supposed to be a nice little bit of goodbye blogging turned into some retrospective soapboxing. Alas and alack.

It's two in the morning. In twelve hours, I'll be on the the last plane outta town.

I am indescribably happy.

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