As I stand on the edge of my childhood, I teeter from the breezes of the influential voices all around me. From behind, the voices of my teachers, my high school friends, my parents, and all of those who have helped me along the way. Their messages are loud and clear and I know that they will always be behind me. From in front of me, however, the voices are still impossible to decipher. With the comfort of my hometown at my back, it is easy to mistake the anonymity of the voices as silence. They speak in a confused jumble and in a language I don’t quite understand. These voices, once translated, will define my future. They are not yet determined or named. Rather they are a concept: a nameless family, a hypothetical town, and an unknown adventure waiting to be had. The voices are calling me into my future, and I am unbelievably excited to answer.
When I first came across Global Citizen Year, I knew that I was looking for something different after high school, I just wasn’t quite sure what that was. Unlike a lot of other people my age, I am fairly confident about what I want with my future. I have committed to the University of Massachusetts Amherst to study nursing starting in the fall of 2019. I am confident that nursing is a career that I can enjoy and thrive in. Therefore, when I tell people that I am delaying the start of school to live in Ecuador for the year, they are fairly perplexed. Growing up going to public school, the light at the end of the metaphorical educational tunnel has always been college. Everyone I know has gone from high school, straight into four more years of education. For some people, this is the right path, but for plenty of others, it isn’t. These others however, are not always very well represented.
That’s why when I talk about my plans for the year people stare at me with a quizzical look on their face; a look that often turns to one of disbelief when I tell them that I don’t quite know who I’ll be living with, or where, and that no, I don’t speak Spanish fluently (yet). Even in the progressive bubble of Massachusetts, people are surprisingly stuck in their ways and question why I would take time off from formal education when I already have a plan for what I want to do. In answering them and explaining my unequivocal desire to understand the world from different perspectives, and answer even just a few of the burning questions I have about life, I cannot help but think of a quote from Maya Angelou, a woman whose life was the embodiment of following one’s own path. Angelou once said, “I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn.” If I could say anything about my education up to this point, it would be this. There is so much left for me to learn. This year may not be about becoming formally “educated” but there is so much that I can absorb about the world, about other cultures, and simply about myself.
The voices of my past have instilled a love of learning in me, teaching me to seek out the influential people in my future. I am not afraid to admit that I know relatively nothing. I recognize that it is better to know nothing at all and seek out new opportunities than to believe that I know everything and never try to experience something new.
My answer therefore, when people ask me why, is why not. There is no such thing as a bad learning experience. From hard times, from stepping out of my comfort zone, and from being completely out of my element can only come a new understanding, laughter, some knowledge and most importantly, seeds of wisdom.