Sunday, January 22, 2012

The End or The Beginning?

You get off the train after a long journey and turn around to watch it slowly disappear along the tracks. A cold breeze finds its way through your bundled clothing and you think to yourself, “now what?”

Ok… it was three planes and a bus that brought me home from Mozambique at the end of my service last month, but I found the train metaphor more powerful. And that’s basically how I felt.

Now that the holidays are over and I’m staying in one place for a while, my brain isn’t spinning quite so fast and I’m trying to piece together what the last two years meant. I can feel that I’m the same person, but I’d like to think that I’ve refined my values, grown in maturity and gained a broad new perspective.

The other day I read a cheesy article in a yoga magazine that really stuck with me. It said that your inner self is constant and perfect, like a diamond, and that the diamond gets dirty and obscured by bad habits, social conditioning and misconceptions. So… perhaps in all of our efforts to better ourselves, what we’re really doing is shining up that diamond that has been there all along and letting our true selves shine.

The challenge now is not to slip back into the old habits and comfortable ignorance that tend to accompany a secure, middle-class lifestyle. There are plenty of temptations, plenty of excuses. It’s hard work to maintain that objective point of view when you’re back in your hometown.

Sometimes I feel like the last two years were a dream that I just woke up from. I recall feeling the inverse while I was overseas, that Mozambique was home and the United States was just a dream. It’s like the two worlds are so completely different that they can’t coexist in my mind.

One thing that makes me a bit uncomfortable is the creeping dissatisfaction that started to accompany the end of my service. I suppose you could call it “burnout.” I know that I did my best, but I couldn’t help feeling frustrated, tired and eager to go home. Still, I left Mozambique on a good note, with friendly goodbyes and fond memories, and overall I’m proud of my accomplishments.

As the train recedes into the distance, the weariness begins to dissipate and is replaced by a calm satisfaction. I’m ready to close that chapter of my life and begin the next, retaining all the valuable lessons that I learned.

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