The second part of my inclination to spend a year in Guyana was feeling like I wanted, and needed, to remove myself from the close group of people who had surrounded me and carried me through my life thus far. My family: mom, dad, three brothers, one sister-in-law, two living grandparents, and a handful of family-friends who don’t need to be called “friends”. And, my greatest friends: my best friend since elementary school and my two best friends from college.
Yes–I am publicly saying I intentionally distanced myself from the people who I love the most, who love me the most, and who have made every single step of my life possible. Quite the gal I am, huh? This is a hard one to articulate, because it truly doesn’t make sense. I have found strength, respect, comfort, confidence, pride, intelligence, and acceptance from these people. This net of security has given me everything–at least this was how I was seeing it.
In reality, they weren’t giving me all of these things. Instead, they were simply walking along with me as I discovered them for myself. My very best friend didn’t GIVE me confidence by laughing at every single one of my jokes and being unashamedly herself and in turn helping me to do the same. My brothers didn’t GIVE me comfort by loving me even when I was the annoying, bratty little sister taking away all the fun from their lives. My parents didn’t GIVE me strength by telling me “yes you can” and by encouraging me to continue even when I just knew(I was a REALLY smart teenager…) that it wouldn’t work out for me. No. They surely did all of those things, but they didn’t actually give me anything.
Their love, support, belief and encouragement lead me to encourage, believe in, support and love myself. And then amazing things happened. I was happy with who I was; I excelled in swimming; I got good grades; I became a leader; I had the best of friendships. I knew I could do anything because my friends and family taught me that I could.
So here we have the ideal loving family support system, all is well, life is perfect. Yet I still want to leave them? I sound like an ungrateful crazy person…
As I was deciding what my next step after college was, I knew the repercussions of my decision would stumble far into my support system. Where I went, when I went, what I did. Everyone would have an opinion and everyone would have a reason to either support or disapprove of whatever I chose. That’s just how life is; that’s what happens when people care about you.
All of the sudden Guyana is sitting on a plate in front of me and all I have to do is decide if I want to eat it. I do, I want to eat it! But my family doesn’t want me to. My friends (though encouraging) have reservations. Honestly, I have reservations. Unfortunately I was mistaking these disapprovals and attempts at resistance as “they don’t believe in me” and “they don’t want to let ME make my own decision”. It didn’t take me too long to look back and see how foolish this was. Belief in my capabilities and independence were never lacking from my friends and family, it was lacking from me. The opposition I experienced in relation to Guyana was never “you couldn’t do that!” or “HA like you could survive a year without us!”. It was “wowowow how will we talk to you we won’t see you will you be safe what if something happens this is scary”. Duh. But I decided to, instead, hear “How will you do this without talking to US? How will YOU survive without the people who make you you? If something happens NO WAY could you handle it!!! Are you enough of a person to do this on your own? Do you even think you can do it?!” Wrongo, Annie. It’s not what they were saying, just what I was hearing.
I didn’t believe I could do it without my friends and family. They had carried me, as close to “literally” without being “literal”, throughout everything. How could I possibly do something like this, THIS, without them near me? Once I recognized I lacked some extent of belief in myself, I felt like I needed to figure it out for real: was I as strong as other people sometimes say I am, or are they just saying those things to be nice? By leaving the people who were “my people”, I was forcing myself to discover my OWN strength and self, as well as challenging myself–could I actually do this?
Yeah, I see the flaws in this, you guys. First, this lack of self-confidence is sad to look back on. Second, I had such a struggle identifying myself without identifying with the people who I love. And that’s a problem; maybe I’ve found a few solutions to it now, but it’s still a struggle to look at myself as an individual and part of a whole, rather than to look at myself as only part of a whole.
Looking back on all of this is a whole new story. I didn’t believe in myself, I didn’t know if I was capable of doing something so independent and courageous. Or so I thought. I did believe in myself, I knew I could “do” Guyana. But I needed the extra “push” of uncertainty and self-doubt to get me going. You know when someone tells Michael Phelps he can’t win eight gold medals in one Olympics, and then he does it? That’s kind of what I forced to happen with my decision to go to Guyana. And now Michael Phelps and I are both international superstars and household names.
No, this one doesn’t make sense like the other reasons do. I should have believed in myself. I could have believed in myself. I shouldn’t have blamed the love and support I had for clouding my own self-identity. I was way wrong in using THIS as a reason to pursue Guyana. But, the benefits I reaped were worth it. Self-efficacy? Got it. Confidence? Got it. Serious independence? Got it. Self-awareness at a whole new level? Boom. I got it. Would I have gotten these things from a vast array of other experiences? Probably. But the Guyana-version of this self-awakening is my favorite version.