Friday, August 23, 2013

What Ghana Means to Me


Some are learned from study, from the direction and paths of those before us; others are learned by doing, they happen once the books are shelved and feet start moving. What Ghana meant to me is the difference between studying and living. And while my life continues, while my experiences never truly end, I find myself leaving Ghana and starting anew. (If there were ever a time for retrospection, I guess this is it.)

Peace Corps is a tough gig. We join to change the world, to make it a better place, to leave something  behind worthy of remembrance. Once we realize it’s not that easy (or quantifiable), we spend two years chasing lofty, pre-Peace Corps dreams. Nothing is enough, there's always something more to be done, that should be done. It isn't until we're leaving that we realize just how successful we actually were and that maybe we did enough. 

The Peace Corps gave me the opportunity to legitimately change people’s lives. And not in the ‘random acts of kindness’  way, but with purpose and clarity. Whether it be successful projects or personal relationships, the fact that I directly affected positive change in anyone’s life is quite possibly the most amazing, humbling thing I've ever experienced. That kind of responsibility, coupled with that kind of trust, changes a person; it changed me. 

I’m stronger; I learned about sacrifice and hardship. There were days when I wanted to pack it in, settle into a comfortable loneliness and question why I ever became a volunteer in the first place. I found courage. I found adventure and I found pride; in myself, in my intentions, and in the heart I was willing to put into the work I wanted to do. I learned to trust and I learned to forgive when that trust was broken. I learned the difference between empathy and sympathy, the truth behind respecting and loving others as I love myself.

I learned to love myself. I allowed myself to be an inspiration, found the balance between believing in myself and accepting failure without losing that belief. And as I opened my heart I found it easier to accept the people around me. I began to experience the world like a child. I found the root of life and I climbed its tree. I found laughter. I found soul. I experienced an incredible opportunity to live the life I wanted, to experience another culture intimately, to ask questions and discover motivations, to include myself in the conversation and make a tiny, Emma-sized difference in the world. I found a life I could be proud of.

At the close, I'm the kind of happy found in purpose and fulfillment. This means, of course, that I am also forever doomed. It’s like an itch that can’t be scratched - a nagging need for movement and adventure; a need for the satisfaction found out there in the world. I found my passion. I’m flexible and I’m resilient and I love. The Peace Corps taught me to learn; Ghana taught me to be happy.

Who I am today is grateful. I met the most amazing people and earned the privilege to call them friends. I found my voice, I found my vision and I gained much more than I gave. All of these things will always be with me, permanently inked on muscle and tendon and vein, and I wouldn't change it for the world.

Ayekoo, Ghana. We've done well.