Distances and Connections

Irie Ewers


July 31, 2014

 

“I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life –and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do.” –Georgia O’Keeffe

The funny thing about physical distances is that you would assume they make emotional distances greater.

Now that summer is winding down, most solitary moments really have me considering all the implications of this bridge year. This idea of distance comes up a lot when I think about all the unknowns that lay ahead. So many variables and so much excitement. Why even go on this adventure to begin with?

My passion for this bridge year comes from the fact I really consider myself blessed to have grown up in a “nomadic wonder” between Oklahoma, Kansas, Utah, and Louisiana. Every time I became a new kid, I felt that gap between wanting to fit in and knowing I would never truly understand a group of people bonded together since the beginning. It’s great though, because using an outsider perspective is perfect for traveling. That’s what happens when the entire world becomes your home and the cliché “home is where the heart is” cannot ring any truer.

The best part about living in so many places has been the ability to forge deep relationships with friends across boundaries. Even cultural connection in the US does that, so imagine broadening that to an international scale. Traveling does this. I have so many emotional attachments in all of the many different houses I grew up in that each different bond has sculpted my frame of mind. I feel as equally a part of Utah as I do with Louisiana even though time arrangements in either space were vastly different. And the friends I’ve made in all locations have different degrees of importance. If physical distances have the power to separate people, then they also have the power to bring them together. I can’t wait to let Ecuador seep into me as it becomes another home for my mix-matched lifestyle. I love growing close to people and continuing to hold them near to me even if I can’t physically be there. In particular, living with my mom in all of the various places makes physically departing from her as sad as I can be.

But here’s the kicker, I am a firm believer in our connection. These kids are all brave to take on this new challenge of leaving our home countries, but our generation is very lucky. Our technological abilities have so far surpassed any limits we can imagine. Now, we have the power to connect with people face to face all over the world through screens. This idea is so astounding to me. As “global citizens” we truly live in a new age where the idea that physical distances separate emotional distances is no longer as true. This is because we can instantly communicate with so many people in nano-seconds that the need for more cultural awareness is imperative. Just because I left people behind each time I moved didn’t remove them from my friend list. And in a very strange way, our generation could hypothetically never truly disconnect from anyone we could ever meet, both emotionally and physically due to technology. This idea is both scary and empowering. For me, as I leave this country and everything I’ve ever known as “home” in the US, this notion is comforting. As a future business leader, this idea is absolutely invigorating.

With all of this technology and ease of access, it really is our duty to start changing our paradigms as citizens. That is Global Citizen Year’s mission. We live in an age where work related skills coexist with compassion for international communities. Physical country boundaries can no longer separate the spread of information, ideas, and knowledge, so it is necessary to understand these concepts as they relate to the planet as a whole instead of one confined area. A bridge year abroad paves the way for this mindset. Just like the spread of innovation, science itself is composed of overlapping threads. Actions create reactions. Cycles. A new awareness for others creates a need for sustainability, defined as being able to maintain a certain rate or level. So yes, we need sustainability in terms of natural resource consumption. But as a planet, we also need to be able to maintain our separate cultures as ideas mix through this technology. We need to apply sustainability to our lifestyles, where the businesses we pour our money into can maintain their balances without impeding on others. Economic sustainability is the idea we can make the most of our resources efficiently and responsibly. All of these ideas have certain components in common; they demonstrate the interconnected maintenance of our newly globalized world. Now, more than ever before, the relationship between the producer and the consumer is highly valued. We want to know about the journey –the story- of a product and how that product is affecting all who touch it. There is so much power in the hands of each global citizen as we make decisions about what to buy, where to work, and what stories to share that we must broaden the scope of our actions. This is where a bridge year comes in for me because I want to open my eyes to these ideas from the perspective of my host family. I could not be more excited!

In conclusion, after this rambling blog post I hope you see a sliver of reason behind my passion for taking a bridge year. It is just as much about “giving back” in the sense of volunteerism as it is about humbling myself to a new way of life in hope of learning from it. That is my goal for the year. I want to embrace the Ecuadorian “threads” that tie together their way of life, from their specific religion, to the handmade jewelry, to the controversial relationship between petroleum and natural resource conservation in the Amazon. And just because I physically depart from any one place doesn’t mean the lasting effects will ever leave me.

 

Irie Ewers