A reality check

Sophia Alfaro - India


November 28, 2018

I came in like a sparkler: bright, fun, and shooting embers in every
direction.
Now, I’ve burnt out. I’ve been held mid-air, slowly disintegrating,
becoming smaller and less explosive. I am no longer reacting, no longer on
fire. With nothing left to spark, to light, I have been left behind on the
ground, a stick in the mud.

I noticed it. So slowly, yet surely. I’ve been aware of my light flickering
out.
To put it into words, it’s almost as if someone put a cover over my flame,
and I allowed them to.
I have been passive about my [mental] health and the responsibilities of
myself and my fellowship. I overwhelmed myself. I expected too much. I did
all of this without knowing, without caring. It’s been three out of seven
months at my no longer new apprenticeship, no longer new residence… and I
still feel as if I don’t have my life or time figured out here. And all I
seem to do is complain about this.

It feels like all that’s left of me is the smoke from my flame.

Here’s what my average day looks like (4 out of 7 days of the week):

*6 am:* wake up, shower within 30 minutes

*7:30 am:* finish preparing for my day outside of the house i.e. making
sure I have my laptop, notebooks for college work, pens, EARPHONES, as well
as my lunch made by my host mom. I’ve forgotten it twice in the past.

*8 am:* catch a piaggo (shared 6-seater rickshaw) off of the main road

*8:30 am:* arrive to school, say good morning to the students.

The next 7.5 hours are nothing even worth mentioning.
Lately, I have been hiding. I haven’t been reliable.
I go to school and do the bare minimum of what’s expected of me: show up
four days and be a resource for these kids to experience some global
exposure.
My first few weeks here I was on top. I made a plan for myself, I had
drive, I was focused. I held small group classes, was a teacher’s aid, and
volunteered to be a coach for the girl’s soccer teams. Now, I just wander
and try to start my small group classes again, usually failing. I’ve begun
to leave the “teacher” role and am picking up bring a true Didi (older
sister).

*3 pm:* Girls under 12 and 16 practice, where I enjoy myself the most. For
Global Citizen Year, India, we are offered second apprenticeships, and
after being here I knew I didn’t want to take up another. Then I realized I
already had. Coaching after school is provided by a program by the name of
Just for Kicks. They provide coaches in the morning, equipment, and a
curriculum. So far it hasn’t been a solid gig— attendance is low, most of
my players don’t have proper clothes to be playing in, and there’s only
games against their peers, but I enjoy the environment. There’s a different
kind of bond and connection created by being outside of an academic
mentality but with the people you know from your academics. Being able to
see the different sides of the kids I “teach” and interact with at school
as a coach after school makes me excited to see them the next day. It makes
me want to be their friend versus a colonizer and someone who has to yell
at them to get them to sort-of pay attention.

*3 pm or 5 pm*, depending on the day: begin to leave school. I either walk
an hour and a half, walk 15 minutes and piaggo (rickshaw) back, or walk to
a Starbucks about an hour away from my school to get some college work done.

*8 pm: *on weeknights I’ll be home before 8 pm. I’m trying to build better
habits. When I’m at my house placement, that’s usually what I’m doing. I’ll
try to read some, get through half a lesson for college, and sometimes
(very rarely) play my ukelele. The less time I spend on my phone, the
better I’m doing at building a stronger, more disciplined me.

*10 pm: *dinner time. I eat very little at home. I serve myself a small
amount, and it’s normally enough. Some nights it seems like too little;
however, so I grab some more.. but dinner is always served so late, that it
discourages me from doing so.

*12 am: *after dinner, I am usually thrown off from my productive period
(it’s pretty much from when I get home up until dinner). I begin to go on
my phone and the rest is history. These last few days I will be ready to
*pass* out after 12:30 am. Like, eyes shutting, brain: dead kind of tired.
This is new for me. I usually have to force myself to sleep most nights,
regardless of the time.

Up until now, I was on autopilot. I let my interests and passion take
control of me, and I lost myself in the process. I jumped into the deep
end, and must have cramped up halfway back to the shallow water. Now I’m
struggling and waiting for my cramp to go away on its own. These new and
beneficial habits feel like they will never come into fruition, as well as
my feeling of fulfillment at school because everything is beginning to
catch up to me, as it usually does. I’m so physically and mentally tired,
and I know I am, yet I don’t sleep enough and I don’t allow myself to
recharge properly. If I do, it’s not in a way that’s healthy or influential
for me. It’s just another minute, another hour, another day, gone.
I’m discombobulated, in a battle with what I expect from myself, and what’s
expected of me by others. I have been telling myself I came to India and to
this gap year with no expectations. I didn’t realize I had made some while
I was already in the country. Again, it’s all catching up to me. My flame
is reaching closer and closer to the handle of the sparkler, running away
from where it was the strongest and most lit, and becoming the exact
opposite.

I’m fortunate to say my Teach for India mentors believe in me. They have
seen and know my potential. They want me to take my fellowship here and
make it something I grow from and come out better due to it. If that means
coming to school, interacting with kids, and leaving (what I’m doing
now)… then they’re ok with that. If it means coming to school, manning my
own classes and picking up projects to add beauty, reformation, and more to
this school (what I want to do)… then they’re here for it. They haven’t
pushed me. They’ve always supported me. I can reach out to them if I need
to, and when I ask for help I receive genuine, honest answers. They’re
indirectly teaching me ownership, responsibility, and that my struggles and
accomplishments are what I make of them.
At first I thought the space I was receiving from them meant they didn’t
care. That it correlated with me not being needed.
I now know it means they believe in me. They see me as able. Able to create
my own schedule, able to make this fellowship valuable, and able to enjoy
my time here.

I’m describing this period as a “funk”. How long is will last, I don’t
know. Hopefully not for much longer. I’ve *been* sorting so much out… and
I’m being given the time and space to* do *that. It’s the act of simply
doing. Of getting started, and seeing where it takes you. Of allowing
yourself to face failure, rejection, the unknown. So what I’m doing now is
calling myself out on my mistakes, making it known that I’m not perfect,
and being a better fellow for myself and the people who are selflessly
helping me.

The cover is beginning to come off, my smoke escaping with each centimeter
that’s lifted. I was on fire before, but now I’ve become a part of my
surroundings. I’m everywhere, even if you can’t see me.

Sparklers are only temporary anyways.

Sophia Alfaro