Monday, April 14, 2014

The Fear of Moving Forward

"Something that is difficult is not necessarily something to be afraid of or worried about—it is usually out of the difficult moments in our lives that we learn the lessons that matter most." 
                                                                - A Few Minor Adjustments (Peace Corps Guide for Volunteers)

There are a lot of changes happening in my life right now.

  • My second year of AmeriCorps is coming to an end.
  • I'm moving away from a state that has (while not always my most favorite place in the world) become home for the past two years. 
  • The adventure of a lifetime awaits me in 4 months as I embrace the prospect of living in a foreign country for 2+ years. 
  • New relationships are flourishing while old ones are floundering. 
It's definitely enough to make one go mad and stress out. Change is one thing that many people have trouble with. Human beings like things to be consistent and the same. We like routines. We like predictability. We like to be in control. When any of those constants are threatened, the easiest thing to do is run in the other direction and hide in the corner. These feelings finally caught up to me recently and it really forced me to stop and evaluate where things are at currently in my life and where they are headed in the near future.

Currently, I am a member of an amazing organization that works to improve the literacy and well-being of under-valued and under-appreciated populations in South Florida, including the homeless, immigrants, and "problem students". While the work is tiring and sometimes seems fruitless, it is something that I have come to enjoy day in and day out. I have established a close-knit circle of friends that I would do anything for and hope for the same in return. I have met various families from all walks of life through my tutoring that have taught me just as much as I hope I am teaching their children.

In the upcoming months, I will be completing my second round of over 1700 volunteer hours in Palm Beach County, moving out of Florida, making my way back to Iowa (by way of Houston, TX with one of my best friends to see another one of my best friends), and getting ready to leave all that I know behind for over two years. It's a scary endeavor. Don't get me wrong - the chance to live in another culture that is not my own is something that I jump at the opportunity to do. But at the same time, I'm getting to that point in my life where it's almost time to start thinking about settling down, getting a "real" job, and growing up. Obviously, I'm not quite ready to tick off that box yet...

As my time in Florida winds down, I am challenging myself to face my fears. While the prospect of teaching and learning in another country thrills me to no end, I'm also scared out of mind. Scared of what my host family will be like. Scared that I won't like the food. Scared of not being able to instruct my students. Scared of being isolated. All of these fears are natural reactions to new, unknown premises. They're the way that our minds cope with being exposed to new stimuli and situations. Being scared is nothing to be ashamed of; it's an opportunity to push yourself out of your comfort zone and discover a new part of yourself. Being scared challenges the mind and body to push past external barriers.

With Colombia looming on the horizon, I could easily cower in the corner and try to keep everything the same. But what would I gain from that? Comfort and a lifetime of "what if's." Thanks to some great friendly advice from those close by, I'm determined to make the most of the here and now and not put too much pressure on myself to figure out my future. The cards will fall as they may - time to shuffle the deck...