In the words of Cori Shepherd Stern, “And so it is.” I am writing this as I wait in the airport to depart Monrovia, with Liberian dirt under my fingernails, plum in my teeth and probably a couple jiggers in my toes. The idea that I will soon be home is still so surreal. When I was preparing to come here, I felt as though all my stars were in line. I did not know very much about what waited for me in Liberia, but I knew in my heart that it was okay to jump feet first.
This journey changed me in a number of small small ways that are collectively very powerful. I honestly do not feel as though I had some grande epiphany or anything. My core is the same as when I left. Yes, my life has been changed forever by this experience, but not in a way that would make a good novel. It is all the little things…mostly the relationships formed that have not transformed my core, but filled it up to the top. And that in itself, will change a girl.
Top two things I didn’t expect to happen on this journey…
1. To feel so at home so quickly. I remember the first night I arrived at Strongheart. As we sat down to eat dinner, Donnett put Ben E. King’s Stand By Me on. Just a couple days before I left I had a random itch for that song, downloaded it, and listened to it as I crossed the ocean. Coincidence or not, I immediately felt at home and that feeling only deepened as time went on.
2. A complete circle. One day after class the fellows and I were talking about the wys in which people use art as a means of sorting through their personal history to come to a place of understanding. We starting talking about retrospect, and how difficult and frustrating it can be to understand why things happen until you are in a place where you can achieve retrospect. Gabriel asked me my opinion on how one can know when they have achieved true retrospect or true perspective. My response was that I like to think of life’s event’s as following a circular path, and that it is when–for whatever reason—a full circle is completed, that we can see why life has unfolded in such mysterious ways. After that, we start a new circle that surrounds the previous circle and we just keep going and working and learning and loving until we complete another. Fellows, Sis Essie, Regina, Foster, Emmanuel, and Old Boy Ogene-I wanted to say this on Saturday night at dinner but as you know, I am super awesome at holding back the tears (sike) and just couldn’t say this without totally losing it: it is because of your mighty spirits, your enthusiasm for life, your compassion, your courage to face your own demons (Lord knows we all have them) and the demons of others, your humor, your friendship and support, and every little piece of you that makes you who you are today, that has brought me to the end of my biggest full circle. In fact the circle is so big I can’t imagine I will complete another one that can surround it any time soon. I love and respect you guys BIG BIG and I cannot wait to watch your futures unfold. ALL OF YOU!
I have to get on the plane now. I am so sad to leave, but will take Strongheart and Robertsport with me in my heart forever. Until next time Liberia. Here we go…deep breath..feet first, eyes open.