In the months before I left for Ecuador as I scrambled to finish paperwork for my visa and raced from clinic to clinic to receive my travel vaccinations, I was always reminded that in very little time I would be living in another country. During this time there was a constant thought in the back of my head:
I am not ok.
When I’m stressed out, this becomes the only thought I have left. It’s all my brain focuses on and all I want to talk about. It feels like a huge burden, weighing me down, and all I want is for it to leave. In those times, I feel like I cannot learn, I cannot grow, all I can do is focus on that one thought:
I am not ok.
I want to share this with other people, I want them to know, even though I know they can’t help me. In fact, their trying to support me will just make me irritated. But sometimes I want to feel irritated; I want to feel like there is someone else to blame. I don’t want to deal with the problem.
ButÛ_topic change for a second.
When I came to Ecuador, and in the eight months that follow ÛÒ I was reborn. I learned that the hard times in life are just as beautiful as the good times. Eighteen years of people telling me what I couldn’t do were destroyed by eight months in a program and a support system that told me just how much I could. A mentality of constant self-hate was replaced with persistent positivity and an active attempt at growing up. For the first time in my life, I loved myself and began to realize just how much I am capable of.
My ideas and culture were pushed, challenged, and many changed ÛÒ all for the better.
Post-Ecuador Sam is so filled with love and joy. She is confident and feels ready to help in her community and hone her skills to change the world around her.
She is also completely, utterly, absolutely terrified of going home.
This is because post-Ecuador Sam was born in a small, quaint, very relaxed mountain pueblo, which is just a little bit different than the city of Milwaukee. And while she’s going back to see all of her friends again, they have all changed, as has she, and in some ways it will be like meeting them for the first time.
Post-Ecuador Sam is going to have a lot of responsibilities ÛÒ finding a summer job, balancing work and volunteering, preparing for college, and then, oh no, GOING to college.
But scariest of all is that post-Ecuador Sam is going to be in the same house, same situation, and same life as pre-Ecuador Sam. And what if suddenly she regresses into that person once more? The unknown of the future engulfs my vision with its absolute blackness, and then comes the gut feeling that Bad Times are Ahead.
This idea started to come up more and more as I realized I have less than a week before I leave my community and less than a month before I am back in my little red house with my dog and Iceman. I couldn’t explain exactly how I felt, but when a friend asked me a simple How are you?”