Choosing to Begin Again- For the Fourth Time This Year

Delaney McKinley - Senegal


December 17, 2016

After realizing I’ve been sending my blogs to the wrong email address, I’ve decided to scratch those and start again, which ties itself beautifully into the topic of this blog. Here we go-

Last night, I chose to begin again.

This sounds like it should be some brilliant realization I had, but, if I’m being honest with all of you, it’s the fourth time I’ve had to promise myself that, within the past 3 months. Living anywhere in the world has its challenges, whether it be in your childhood home, a city on the other side of the state, or a village on the other side of the world. What I’ve found in the past couple months, though, is that living on the other side of the world, you’re more often reminded of the hardships you face. You can’t just call your best friend without having to worry about how much it will cost both of you. You can’t hop in your car, jam out to your favorite tunes, and drive to your favorite lookout. You can’t eat an entire gallon of ice cream by yourself, (but, maybe that one is for the better). A lot of the things that make the challenges more bearable are now plucked away from you, and all you have left is a mandala coloring book, a few iBooks on psychology, and yourself.

But, you make do. A page in your mandala coloring book now becomes a reward to yourself for being on time everywhere that day, and reading your books on psychology becomes your breather at the end of the day, after you turn your key and can think solely in English for the first or second time that day. And you learn how to make the best of it all, because you’re really grateful for how different, yet beautiful, life is.

Some days, though, the “different” is really obvious. And while different can be good, sometimes, it’s also really hard to swallow.

I went from working way too many hours in a week, to having so few things on my plate, I’m pretty sure I could draw what my mosquito net looks like hanging above my bed, with my eyes closed. (Clarification: I could draw it with my eyes closed, not draw what the inside of my eyelids look like!) I went from fluently speaking the language of everyone around me, to having to work to keep up with the 5-year-old across the street. I went from being early to everything, to having to force myself to roll out of bed even 5 minutes before I’m supposed to be somewhere. I went from being in love with the beach, to finding it a hassle to have to make the commute down. I went from being the bright-eyed girl who loves people, (who most people back home know me as), to an unmotivated foreigner, who sleeps a lot and doesn’t really know anything, (who, maybe, people in Mboro know me as; hopefully not, but I wouldn’t blame them if they said this).

In less than 3 months, it felt like I had made a complete 180 degree turn in the opposite direction of who I wanted to become this year. Really, maybe I should say 1,260 degree turn, because I had already lost myself and put myself back on track three times this year. Living abroad, at least in my experience, more so than living at home, it’s really easy to throw in the towel early every day and stop trying. It’s almost scary how easy we, (or, maybe, I), can slip into a “I’m not going to understand anyway”, or “I don’t want to be a hassle” mindset. So, I have to repeatedly remind myself of my goals and purpose for the year. It’s like having a reset button, I just hope to wake up the next day with a little more of the childlike wonder and thirst for experience that I had the first week in country. (Maybe the other three times were less effective because I didn’t write it down or have anybody to hold myself accountable, so, hopefully, this time will be more successful, but if not, I’ll promise myself to begin again when I need to. And life will continue in a better direction.)

Anyway, so, last night I chose to begin again.

What does that mean?

I made a promise to myself to always strive to grow in a positive direction this year, despite the challenges that throw themselves my way.

I made a promise to myself to spend a little more time, every day, doing something that makes me happy. (Singing, dancing, running, reading, braiding, coloring, etc.!)

I made a promise to myself to let myself buy phone credits, just to call Ria or Elise or Fernie or Meg or Jasen or Moose, or any of the other fellows, just to hear their voice and talk about our adventures. (I love my cohort so much.)

I made a promise to myself to let myself ask more questions. I have this really odd disliking for questions, but I figure there’s no better time to start asking than when people expect you to know nothing!

I made a promise to myself to wake up every morning with a little more of that childlike wonder and thirst for experience I mentioned earlier.

To put it simply, I made a promise to myself to not worry about everything so much, which is what I’ve been doing. I chose to refocus on the important things this year. I made a promise to begin again. Even though I’ve broken this promise to myself multiple times this year, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with letting yourself try to do better than yesterday.

That’s the beautiful thing about bridge years.
A main focus of the year is on growing as a person. Messing up is encouraged, because that means I put myself out there, and maybe I didn’t know what I was doing perfectly, but that’s okay!! We’re expected to have hard days, but on the flip side of that, we’re also expected to recognize the hard days and see how we can make the next day better. It’s all part of the process. And at this rate, by the end of the year, I will have had 12 different times that I had to recollect myself and take time to think about why I’m here this year. This far, every time has been a little different, so if I’ve had 12 different realizations as to why my existence, whether it be in Senegal or just in general, is important, then I’ll be coming back a confident, empowered, (even more) people-loving girl who knows she can overcome any challenge that comes her way. If that’s the only thing I get out of this year, I would still consider it a major success.

Is there a possibility that I’ll have to begin again in a week or two? Absolutely. Right now, though, I’m feeling refreshed, optimistic, and so incredibly blessed to be where I am.

So, not to make this an advice column, but, whether you’re restarting your diet for the 7th time this year, having to attempt to be nicer to your coworkers for the third time this week, or just having to focus on being more at peace with yourself in the hectic life that you may (or may not!) have, I hope you (and I, both) remember this:

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with letting yourself try to do better than yesterday.

Delaney McKinley