How it gets easier

Isabel Najjar - Senegal


February 27, 2017

Not that I should’ve expected anything different, but the beginning of this year was hard. I spend a lot of time feeling lost (literally and figuratively,) stupid, and most of all, anxious for things to get easier.

And they did, thank heavens. As months passed, variations on the assurance “it will get easier” became less and less frequent in my journal entries, eventually coming to a full halt. The easy answer for how it happened– how life here began to feel easy, and enjoyable, and somewhat normal– is time. But really, it’s all the little things that time brought.

For instance, taking so many bucket showers that your brain stops reminding you of your clean, indoor shower at home, and feels only gratitude for the well water that cools you off everyday.

Or, so many greetings exchanged with neighbors and friends and strangers that it stops feeling like textbook repetition, and instead as easy and natural as a wave or hello at home.

Time brings purpose too– something to commit yourself to everyday, and a tangible reason to be where you are. For me, it’s my family’s garden: keeping alive the countless beds of tomatoes, lettuce and cabbage that would otherwise die in the hot sun.

With time, you grow the confidence to ask questions in a language you didn’t know existed a year ago. You begin to recognize and be recognized by the people of your community, feeling less and less like a stranger with every month that passes. You relearn all the things that were simple at home, but felt impossible here: laundry, public transportation, going to the store.

So much time passes that all your worst, most lost moments from the beginning become some of your funniest. You get so close to the end that suddenly it feels silly to waste time on homesickness, and you can focus all your energy on being present.

And that’s how it happens. How you wake up, and realize there’s no pit of dread in your stomach for the day that awaits you. How you learn to be a person again. How it gets easier.

Isabel Najjar