In November of 2016, I returned home from 5 months abroad in South Africa. This Thanksgiving, it will be two full years of giving thanks to such an incredible and transformational experience. It’s funny how two years had to pass for this to happen but I think it’s all finally come full circle. Let me explain what I mean…
South Africa was an experience that truly challenged who I was. I learned real empathy, discovered the true value of gratitude, and developed compassion for others. I finally realized my own worth, put myself first, and celebrated with new friends. I lived more, worried less, and loved everyone I met. After spending years previous stuck in negativity and immaturity, I finally found true happiness. The meaning of life (as crazy as that seems) was clear to me. It was a great party, an incredible celebration of life, and a true test of presence. I strived for nothing but gained everything. I loved every minute of it (Click here to read more and see pictures: WORTH IT).
Although South Africa changed me, it was also an escape from
many (read: all) of the problems I had at home (more here). I ran away. Literally. But in a way widely accepted by people in the United States. In fact, I’m pretty sure it’s a talking point. “MY KID STUDIED ABROAD, DID YOURS? BLAH BLAH BLAH.” No shade, family. You’re not like this at all. But seriously, if you are an American looking for a way to run away for a while, think about enrolling in college and signing up to study abroad immediately. It might set you back thousands and thousands of dollars you have to pay back AFTER you graduate but #WORTHIT. Nothing like reality to ruin a good thing, huh?
I guess that’s the purpose of this post. I came home scared to death of how I was going to maintain this serenity and bliss among people who hadn’t changed. For a while, I did. People even complimented me on how I had grown and matured. I found someone to share it with and celebrated my “New Life in America.” I continued feeling gratitude among people who couldn’t see their lives clearly enough to know how lucky they were to be alive and have a place to live. Shortly after, reality set in and life went downhill.
I started thinking the way I used to. I started fights, I complained about my life, I criticized people. I started seeing wealth and materialism as a savior. I took things personally. I let people’s drama affect me. I took offense when someone close to me called me fat and ugly to someone even closer to me. Harsh. Honestly, I was like Cady from Mean Girls for a hot second.
Everything I could blow out of proportion, I did. I guess the luxury of living in stability and relative prosperity is getting to complain about things that don’t matter and fuel fights that go nowhere. I fed into the toxic merry go-round I rescued myself from months before. The stupid and fucking frustrating thing about life on this merry go-round is that everyone wants to point fingers back at you when you finally speak up. You get on and feed into it, you relate to them superficially so you feel close to people, and when you finally have something to say about it, they want to know why you’re so emotional and mean and angry. How could you do this to THEM? OH. MY. GOD.
That’s where my full circle comes in. I am no longer subscribing to this narrative, even here in the United States. I guess maintaining serenity and bliss was all about staying off the merry go-round in the first place. I’m at a point in my life where I no longer have the energy for negative and toxic people, even in a culture that supports it. I’m losing a lot right now but I’m gaining so much more. I’m back in my room in South Africa, wondering what my worth is and learning how to be alone. I’m investing in people who have time for gratitude, compassion, and empathy. I’m investing in myself. For a while, I thought South Africa was the only place I could feel this way but I was wrong. It was in me all along.
So you can keep your gossip; I’m not buying it anymore.
P.S. – Just to keep it extra, “look what you made me do!”