Posted on December 16, 2013
“There will be a few times in your life when all your instincts will tell you to do something, something that defies logic, upsets your plans, and may seem crazy to others. When that happens, you do it. Listen to your instincts and ignore everything else. Ignore logic, ignore the odds, ignore the complications, and just go for it.”
Posted on November 22, 2013
For a long time, I’ve been meaning to write about the concept of “sensitivity” – yet I couldn’t quite formulate my words or ground my opinion for some reason. A friend sent me this article, which because of my serious inability (read: complete lack of self-control) to limit myself to reading only one, led me to this article: 8 ways to romance clarity in the midst of a cluttered & confusing world.
I’m a sensitive person and anyone who knows me will attest to this with, at the very least an excessive head nod, at most a laugh. I find myself at the extremes of a variety of emotions: crying with joy, sobbing from sadness, laughing from happiness. For some reason, though, the word sensitive carries with it the connotation of weak, of unable, of lacking control. Growing up, my sisters and I threw this word around like a careless insult, “stop being so sensitive” or “you’re only mad because you’re sensitive” – we made it something to work against, rather than capture as a beautiful and rare trait of observation.
Sensitivity is, in its simplicity, being reactive. It’s reacting to the actions of the world around you, be it with sadness, tears, anger, happiness or hope. And it is beautiful, and rare.
I would argue that in today’s ‘cluttered & confusing world’, our biggest enemy, our worst curse is our ability to desensitize ourself from the tragic, the sad, the emotionally overwhelming. We (and by we, I’m generally referring to the western world) so easily skim past the grim stories in the newspaper, flick the channel when our thoughts or emotional balance are challenged, scurry away from conversations that work against not only our beliefs but how we live our own day-to-day lives.
We grow up believing that our emotional strength and resilience in facing the challenges of everyday life speak to our character, but isn’t the worst possible response to sadness, to adversity, to catastrophe, to not respond at all, be that physically or emotionally?
Me and my emotions have a tumultuous relationship. I have always found myself attempting to empathize with those around me, not out of pity, but out of a desire to understand. I truly believe that the best possible way to understand someone is to put your hand forward and to share what they feel, the good and the bad. This has led to beautiful friendships with incredible people, it has led to creativity through writing about the world around me. It has also led me to react with my heart rather than my head, to express myself wholeheartedly in a way that can often be seen as excessive or overwhelming.
Living in Kampala has been both a learning experience and a challenge for me. In an effort to both hone my emotional response to the world around me and my ability to handle and manage everything I was feeling, I was forced to find a balance.
At the beginning of the week, I met with a lady named Madame Hadima, a school management committee member at one of the preschools we work at, with a passion for education so fierce and persistent, our short conversation moved me. She told me of the difficulties of moving toward quality, the ever present challenge of corruption, but she also asked me to look around at the classroom I sat in, she asked me if I had ever seen anything better than a room full of children happy to learn, encouraged to succeed. The emotion I felt was staggering and instead of working to suppress it, I let it encourage me and motivate me into understanding, into action.
I found a balance – a balance between my emotional reaction and my desire to use this emotion as a starting point.
The truth is, sensitivity coupled with an ability to find clarity in your emotions is a stunning, beautiful aspect of being human and maybe, if all of us as a whole worked a little less on suppressing our reactions to the world around us, we’d start to question. We’d ask why we’re feeling this way – sad, appalled, angry, happy, hopeful, energetic – and we would use it as capital, we’d let it mobilize us to capture the parts of the world that make us happy and challenge those that make us angry.
Posted on November 8, 2013
I met this beautiful little girl while visiting preschools in a rural area in Uganda. The preschool she currently attends is in a makeshift mud room as the actual classroom was condemned due to parts of the ceiling collapsing while the children were inside. Despite an incredulous language barrier, she was perfectly willing to pose for photos as long as I gave her a slide show afterwards.
Posted on November 3, 2013
People move away from home for a lot of reasons: school, job opportunities, the need to escape what can feel like four walls enclosing in on you, a sense of adventure, even all of the above. Everyday, people just pick up what they’ve got and move. Certain things happen when you move alone though, sure, you’re physically displaced, a nomad in a new place, but emotionally, mentally, you change.
Moving to a developing country, alone, after four years of undergrad (which in retrospect, by the way, seems like a hand-held walk through the park), was (and still is) shocking, but it also brought about a lot of change (varying from good to bad to ugly) that I continue experiencing, which I wouldn’t trade for anything.
When you move you learn the fundamental difference between a house and a home. When you settle in a new place, you say home easily about where you live, letting it roll off your tongue effortlessly, but it is vastly different than talking about your real home. The home, that when talked about, rings nostalgia and yearning through you so loud, it’s deafening. Home is where we feel we belong, for even when we wander far, a little part of our heart feels like the equivalent of a homing device, precisely aware of where we’re from, where those we love most are.
When you move you’re ability to adapt is uprooted and challenged. Problems you found unbelievably difficult at home are now small relative to the overwhelming challenges you face on a day-to-day basis completing what were once menial tasks. And these challenges, they don’t go away. They persist until you find the courage and ability to maneuver with them rather then against them.
When you move you find another culture. There is such a paramount difference between traveling and moving. When you tour through somewhere with the intent to travel, to visit, you learn enough to get by, you taste and you observe and you leave. When you move, you immerse yourself in a culture, finding your way and your place in foreign etiquette, food and surroundings. You don’t just taste and observe, you create and partake and move past the superficial aspects that can cover a place like a blurry film and find intrinsic beauty in its imperfections.
When you move you redefine your relationships. Leaving means saying goodbye and without maintaining a consistency of communication, people you once considers pillars of your existence, the forever kind of people, slip away. The relationships of convenience are challenged to the point of extinction. And then there are those that pull through, the relationships that know no limits, including distance and you begin to recognize the importance of quality over quantity.
When you move away you move closer to your family, you find solace in people who, despite distance, will answer phone calls ridden with tears or overwhelmed by happiness, who will support your decisions despite not always understanding them. Calling home, which was once lined by purpose can now occur without reason other then an in-depth catch-up.
When you move you meet others who hold your interests, who ignite your intellect and challenge your belief systems. You find yourself making new friends who maybe you never would have met and who offer to you a large expanse of knowledge and experience.
When you move you understand the importance of a daily routine for your overall sanity. You go from a wide-eyed newcomer, lost and disoriented, to someone who confidently manages public transportation (in whatever way it happens to manifest itself), you frequent favourite coffee shops and know which grocery stores carry the best comfort foods from home (you’re only human, after all) and your nervous demeanour transforms into something far more sure, far more comfortable.
When you move you learn. You learn more than you could ever imagine. You learn about where you are but more importantly you learn about who you are. There is no better form of introspection then to find yourself utterly alone in a place you’ve never been. Sure, you can text, call, e-mail, snapchat, instagram, you have every method of communication you could ever desire at your fingertips, but when you fall to the extremes of any emotion, be that sadness, happiness, anger, anything, you alone can pull yourself out, you alone can regain balance. There is no dependence in moving away. You gain strength in knowing that while being alone is difficult and isolating, it is also an incredible growing opportunity that many never afford to themselves.
When you move you accept that in every place there are commonalities between people, between populations that initially seem so inherently incomparable. You find that the kindness of a stranger or the love of a family or the warmth of a home cooked meal are universal and you learn that despite its overwhelming disparities, the world can feel quite interconnected.
Posted on October 11, 2013
Working in a country, any country, that is different from the place you spent the majority of your time growing up is difficult in a variety of ways. Barriers impose themselves in the strangest of fashions, meticulously working into routines you once knew so well.
At times, I find myself continuously hitting these barriers with the ineffectiveness of someone ramming into a cement wall. I try, I change, I alter and yet… somehow, there is an inconsistency that is not necessarily obvious, but always present.
That’s not to say any culture, any way of doing something is right or wrong. It’s to say that people as a whole, while strung together through basic similarities, are vastly different.
I’ve noticed something while working in Uganda, which is the unparalleled emphasis on human connection. A meeting may take three hours longer than initially planned due to the necessity to introduce, meet, evaluate, make friends with those who you share your work hours. A party with those you don’t know quickly transforms into a gathering with fast friends. Even when far behind schedule, tea breaks are a necessity – in the morning and afternoon, a welcome break from endless work. If a family member of a coworker dies, the entire program attends the funeral because here, where you find your coworkers, you find your second family.
And People say hi to you. All of the time. They literally cross the street to wish you hello.
I love interacting with others. And while I boast an incredulous amount of incurable awkwardness, listening to people talk, especially those who I have developed close ties with, is something I could do for hours. Part of the reason I chose to work in this field is how incredible the simple act of connecting with another human can be.
At home in Canada, I was lucky, I worked with a great group of hard workers in a small program where meetings were interactive and all input was considered valuable. That’s a rarity, I’ve found. A majority of people I have met and worked with throughout university, not that I enjoy generalizing, have propelled forward on their own principles, seeing the world around them as stepping stones to a final goal.
The problem with calculating every meeting, every person, every piece of work as a piece of a puzzle limits you to an image that is inflexible and when one piece falls to the wayside, what you had crafted as the perfect image of your life remains incomplete.
What I’ve learned is that the people that surround you and the interactions you have with them are immensely important. What people and their life experiences, their skills and their presence can teach you far outweighs anything you can read in a book or study in a classroom. The reality is, no one person knows everything and to attempt to succeed without learning from others is to miss a vital part of the equation to success.
Maybe taking the time to listen, to communicate results in a slower rate of achievement, but I would think what it offers is an end result that is far more representative of a whole group of people and not a select individual.
Let the people you meet impact you. Human connection while messy, insane and chaotic can simultaneously be phenomenal, intriguing, a lesson learned.
“We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow [humans]; and among those fibers, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects.”
Posted on October 10, 2013
“No matter what else you might feel or think, it’s working, flawlessly, magically, and without exception. Your thoughts, beliefs, and expectations are the sole cause of the effects of your life. And while this may give you pause and have you wondering why you’ve not yet met with some of the successes you’ve sought, let it also empower you as you remember that the floodgates must fly open and be revealed at the precise moment you release whatever else you might have felt or thought about it not working.”
Posted on October 1, 2013
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. No, our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us most. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, exceptional? Actually, who are you not to be? Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine. We were born to make manifest the glory that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our light shine, we unconsciously give other people the permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”