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What's on YOUR mind?

“Be at least as interested in what goes on inside you as what happens outside. If you get the inside right, the outside will fall into place.” – Eckhart Tolle

Tomorrow is the day. The big day. All of the excitement, all of the anxiety and all of the eagerness that comes with doing something so incredibly new is flowing through my whole body. Do you know what it is like when you are on the brink of something you anticipate could be life-changing? Well I’m shaking.

All of the risks that come with such an endeavour seem so secondary to what good this experience will bring out in me. I have been on Earth for 20 years and while I have come close to it before, I fear that I may not have truly lived a day in my life. And this irks me.

Searching for purpose in your life is one of the most challenging and frustrating things you can do. It has brought me to terrible lows before. I have been so close to giving up everything. The emptiness of not knowing what your life is for has been apparent to me many times in the past. In some ways it still haunts me. I have seen the darkness of a misguided existence.

But for some reason I think this chance to participate in the world and see things I have never seen before, meet people who know things I’ve never even thought about before… it is just so liberating. There is liberation in hope. Hope for a life well lived, hope for a meaningful existence. I don’t know if we really live forever. But I think that truly living just once, instead of merely existing, is necessary.

I’m not a hero. If I was a hero I would know by now. I’m a small person in the web of the universe. But in the scope of this entire experience, it does not seem far-fetched to say this is a chance for me to accomplish part of what I believe I have been put on Earth to achieve. I am cautious of this prospect. I am nervous and overwhelmed of the unknown that lies ahead. But do you know what? This cautiousness, this nervousness and overwhelmedness that I feel… it reminds me that I am human and I am alive. It hints to me that this is something I was meant to do.

I was hardly the most well suited for this opportunity. I obtain several imperfections, several flaws and undesirable qualities that are just so human. While I won’t discuss destiny or fate, I will touch on coincidence. 

I applied for Alternative Spring Break on the last day possible. My parents were in  Italy for a wedding at the time and I had to long distance call them to tell them that I was considering applying for a trip that could bring me to Central America. I did not expect them to be as supportive as they were. This was the first event.

I hastily wrote my cover letter and resume and before I submitted my application, I went into a bathroom stall on the fourth floor in Tory Building, alone. I locked the door and sat on the closed toilet seat. With my face in my hands I questioned my aptitude and whether this was right for me. I’m an inexperienced traveller. I have only thought from a North American point of view. I was brought up in an extremely sheltered environment. I have participated in community service initiatives in my own community but never in such an unusual setting as Guatemala. 

The more I thought about it, the more I came to believe that I should tear up my application and move on. Then I got a text from my mom. She asked me if I had given my application yet and that she really thought this  was a great thing for me to do. In that bathroom stall she gave me hope. She always does that to me.

I looked at the application again in that bathroom stall and my way of thinking changed. Sure, I would be putting myself into a culture that is outside of my comfort zone, with people I am still in the process of getting to know. But I have always been a curious type.The reasons I had just finished thinking about why I would not be picked for ASB suddenly seemed so inadequate… And after all, what did I have to lose by applying? Right now I can only say this: There is so much to gain that I am thankful that I did. This hope was the second event.

Much to my delight, I got invited to a group interview. The other people there were so supportive. I think they all would have made great teammates. It is a shame they could not all participate. When I found out I was selected, I was ecstatic. It signalled to me that there is some quality in me that is admirable. This was the third event.

I am now here, on the night before the trip, sitting in my room writing this and wondering about the experience that awaits me and my team. What parts of me will I realize? I am nervous and excited to discover parts of myself that have never been tapped into. What parts of me will I let go of? Will I still see the world the same way? The global inequality that exists, the misery that is all too often acknowledged in the world… how will this time spent away from home affect how I see these things? 

To everyone who has supported me, I can’t thank you enough. You have played a bigger role in my decision to participate in the world and to do something with my life than you know. You are what gives me hope to still be here. To borrow a quote from The Buried Life: “Tomorrow is the first day of the rest of my life.” And I am going to make it count.

I have been told to go into this experience not expecting to take any particular things from it, and rather to be open minded and open hearted and that I will find everything will fall into place. This is easier said than done. And perhaps I am so stubborn that I can’t help but mention three things I hope to live in this trip: I hope to see that there is an inherent human will to do good, that people want to live in harmony with one another, and that love for life and the things that sustain it are characteristic of all humans. I do not know how this realization will manifest itself. I can only hope that I am able to recognize it. Maybe being human is not so undesirable after all.

That realization would give me true hope.


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