Friday July 23, 2010
I am sitting at the airport wondering how this day came so quickly and searching for the right words to describe my time here. Words are failing me, especially in a country like Ethiopia, in a place as special as Africa. Right now, as I prepare to depart I want a word that explains that something has happened to change me. But the word needs to encompass more than change. Something much bigger has happened. From this point on my life will have a before and after, a was and a will be and I will never again be the same person. But in the end words alone mean very little, as Maya Angelou tells us, “it takes the human voice to infuse them with shades of deeper meaning.” And so, for perhaps the last time, I will give as much of my genuine voice to this final chapter as I can.
It’s too soon to really understand what my time here has meant, nor am I ready to try to explain. Instead I will turn to a favorite quote from a favorite book of mine, The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolover, that has been a sustaining thought as I have grappled with many confusing emotions over the past few months.
“To live is to be marked. To live is to change, to acquire the words of a story, and that is the only celebration we mortals really know…One has only a life of one’s own.”
As most of you know I was never destined for a “normal” path. And while I wouldn’t expect anyone to understand why I needed to do this, all of us make choices in our lives that require us to sacrifice at least a piece of what we cling to. If nothing else explains these past months, maybe that does.
The past few weeks have not only been a whirlwind of activity, but have been deeply emotional and exhausting. I have accomplished more than I ever thought capable of myself. But my initial goals really rather simple. First, I had the hope of giving my time and talents for those who never had the same ample opportunities as I, and second, perhaps more selfishly, to open my perspective to include other cultures in the world. Mission accomplished? With time, I may know one day.
At one point I compared this adventure to falling in love, already knowing that my heart will be broken. Now I have to say that comparison isn’t entirely fair. It isn’t so much of a breaking as a constant longing. I got to know Ethiopia for its beauty and ugliness, it’s good and bad. But more importantly I discovered my beauty and ugliness, my good and bad, what I liked and disliked about me, here, as I was tested over and over again. Ethiopia and I, we experienced life together, what our life would be like together.
So as I prepare to depart, literally, they are boarding my flight, I am still completely at a loss for the right word to encompass this experience. I guess the closest I can come right now is: gratitude. Thank you for the emotional support. I have received countless wonderful e-mails and good thoughts that have helped sustain me through some of the more difficult times. I truly carry all of your love with me, and mostly likely if you are reading this, you are one of those people who has loved me and encouraged the confidence that I needed to undertake this adventure. I feel blessed to have been able to embark upon this journey, and I hope that my experiences have been a blessing to you as a result. Thank you for taking the time to be a part of my life. I hope that when I return our lives will continue to encourage one another.