I was thinking the other day about high school yearbooks. I was particularly thinking about the part that says “Future Plans:______________”
I wrote “digging wells in some foreign country” — and I can tell you now, that I haven’t even dug one well. I think what my inexperienced 18 year old self was trying to say, was that I pictured my future living abroad, working somehow for a non-profit, most likely in an impoverished country.
And then I went to university…and I learned a lot. A whole lot. By the end of my four year undergraduate degree I wasn’t even sure how I felt about the idea of international development. I had learned to ask a lot of questions. Including, ” What makes US think that we could go THERE and help THEM?”
Something that had seemed so simple at 18, was incredibly complex by 22. I learned about colonialism, oppression, ethnocentrism, and that people like me from the western world thought we knew pretty much everything about everything. Perhaps even more so, I realized that I, as only one person, would probably never create the “change in the world” that my 18 year-old self had anticipated. Do you know what I mean?
What I’m trying to get at here, is how funny (weird? scary? awesome?) it is that life takes us on this journey, always moving, always changing, and we almost NEVER end up where we thought we’d be.
If I could go back in time, I would give my 18 year-old self a pat on the back and say a few words of encouragement for having a “dream” or a “plan”– I wouldn’t change that plan…it was held loosely and it gave me direction. That plan, that I think (but heck, what do I know) will never happen was a part in leading me to where I am today.
So I probably won’t be working in a poor country digging wells. I have volunteered in poor countries and I received a LOT more that I gave, that I know for sure. But I no longer have dreams of working for some big humanitarian NGO…although I guess part of what I am trying to say is, never say never, right?
I wonder what I will look back and think when I remember my 26 year-old self. I hope that it’s the same, a fond remembrance for the person I was and peace about the things that came to be and the other things that never came to be.
Where we are is almost never where we thought we would be. I think life is generally pretty good that way. It seems that life is always 100 times better and more beautiful and more difficult and more wonderful and more mundane than we ever could have imagined.
But if we hold our plans loosely in our palms and let the winds of change blow, I’m pretty sure we’re all going to be ok…maybe even better than ok.
I’m pretty sure it’s going to be one hell of a ride.