I won’t drone on about how it’s been forever since the last time I posted on here because I would be lying to myself and anyone reading this if I said I was “too busy” or “completely forgot”. The truth is I wasn’t any busier than I was when I was in Tanzania posting every other week with limited internet connection, and I did in fact think about the disservice I was doing to this blog many times over the last 5 months. During early service training we talked so much about culture shock and how to properly experience and process those feelings, how to understand what it was that was making us feel the way we did and who to reach out to if the issue was beyond our control, but reverse culture shock and the loss of identity we didn’t cover enough or at all and that’s where things get really tricky. Since coming home, I have felt a disconnect in the life I lived in Tanzania and the one I came back to and again to the one I have since transitioned into since moving to New York. How do I do justice to such a significant time in my life? How do I accurately represent a period that I believe has provided me with the guidance in landing me where I am now in graduate school? How to I incorporate everything I did there and everything I’m trying to do now?
For those of you who are lost up until this point I’ll give you brief summary: In August of last year I took the GRE and began my journey in applying to graduate schools to pursue a master’s in public health. In December I finished those grad school applications and set forth on the loathsome path of waiting for replies. To my surprise not two weeks into the months of January I received an acceptance to the school that I assumed was a bit of a long shot but worth the try: Columbia Mailman School of Public Health. After received a rejection from University of Washington and an acceptance from Boston University (my original first choice) I ultimately ended up choosing Columbia and have thus found myself living in the city of New York, Upper Manhattan to be more precise, starting school in just a few short days.
With all that being said I hope this new journey leads me to figuring out how to merge the two worlds that I feel trapped between and somewhere along the way I hope I learn how to take what I’ve done so far and not just recall it, but intertwine it into what I hope to do in the future. Someone told me that instead of continuing on with this blog I should begin a new one, have a fresh start. But I don’t believe what I’m doing now is really a fresh start; no, instead I see it more as another piece to the puzzle, another stone in my path, all the things before this are connected to this now so why would I start as if what came before this did not effect where I am or where I’m going next?
My first year in Tanzania broke me, I cried everyday questioning whether or not it was the right decision for me to go and what it was that I was supposed to be getting from the experience. That first year I lost sleep, I lost friends, but most important I lost myself (if you can even call it that; looking back now I know the person I went into Peace Corps as couldn’t have been further from the person I perceived myself as). What confidence I did have going into the experience seemed to be diminishing by the day and I distinctly remember one individual expressing their concerns that me being there and feeling the way I did could be detrimental to my future confidence if I couldn’t get it figured out. Then, one day (or so I imagined it), things changed, and I began to enjoy and thrive in my life in Tanzania. I stepped outside myself and was uncomfortable, which ultimately led me to finding the people and places that made me feel the safest and most comforted in my temporary home (ironic how that works?). I did and experienced things I would have never imagine for myself and then some. I realized that I had perceived things that were hard as harder because I felt alone, and while that may have been true in terms of proximity to other Americans, I forgot the most important reason we as humans can never truly be alone; I still had myself. I left Peace Corps with a new confidence that I had never known before, I left feeling successful not only in my service but in conquering myself. So I wonder, can I do it again? Can I board that confidence train that’s been docked since returning to the US and ride it with ease into this new adventure or will it be a steady uphill battle like Peace Corps? Will I be able to remember that I am enough and capable even if I perceive that others don’t believe the same. Will I trust myself enough to know that I have the answers to my own questions; that if I just give myself the chance, I may actually be able to get through this with even more confidence and personal success?
My hope for myself during this this new adventure is that I don’t give up on myself and that I remember that I am capable of doing hard things. I hope I can hold true to my beliefs and push myself only to be the best version of myself and not anyone else. I hope that I can do more than just make it through but instead find appreciation for both the failures and success I have along the way.
Since writing this I have lived here almost a week and a half. I’ve already been to the beach, had groceries delivered twice, ridden the subway by myself and experienced countless other things. I’m learning to appreciate the anonymity that comes with being surrounded by a million faces, but I’m also looking forward to the day I share a greeting with someone who recognizes me on the street. To say I’ve already dived head first into school would be an understatement, I picture my current school engagement to be more similar to the old videos of auto companies testing car airbags with crash dummies; a lot of force and immediate ricochets but I’m hoping one day the crash wall will lift and I will drive through with ease. Tomorrow is my first day of (virtual) classes so wish me luck!