How Justin Bieber May Have Saved Me from Despondency

Rachel Teevens - Senegal


November 23, 2013

For the past six weeks I’ve been living in Tivaouane and its safe to say I’ve had some extreme ups and down. One minute I’m having fun with host family playing, dancing, laughing, then the next minute I’m standing face to face with an angry sheep who’s guarding the bathroom door & refusing to allow me entrance. Then the next thing I know I’m crying because I’m so moved by the touching, stirring, uplifting plot of the cinematic masterpiece, The Lorax. And I just go through cycles of emotions like this over and over.

With all these emotions comes a lot of self reflection as well. Self reflection can be sparked by a number of different things at almost any time. It could be when I’m observing a Muslim tradition or practice that I’m unfamiliar with. It could be from a kind gesture from a neighbor that considerably boosts my mood.  It could be when I’m in my room alone trying to block out the cacophony of kids crying, cats brawling, and my sisters cooking when I’m attempting to nap. It could be from a enlightening conversation with some of the English speakers I’ve met (my Wolof/French, although improving, is not adequate enough yet to discuss anything profound). But one of the more surprising things that caused me to ruminate my experience here was the lyrics of the one and only Justin Bieber.

I would not really consider myself to be a huge J. Biebs fan but my nieces here are your standard “Bielibers.” I’ve been hearing him play on repeat and even when his music isn’t playing audibly, the catchy tunes haunt my brain. Even though they are all songs I had heard before in the States, I’ve found myself really listening to them attentively for the first time. I cannot say whether it was a sign from some greater divine force or maybe just my ears desperately trying to discover some much needed motivation but I found some of the ideas that Mr. Bieber expressed were exactly the encouragement I needed.

During a rapping segment of his song “As Long as You Love Me” some unidentified vocalist rapidly utters the words,”The grass ain’t always greener on the other side. Its green where you water it.” And although in this particular song he’s referring to angsty teenage romance, I found I could easily apply this quote to my current situation. Its easy for one to envy others and to imagine better conditions that are unattainable but we also have the power to improve our own situation if we so choose. We have the option to watch the grass grow in the distance, yearning to retreat from your present lawn, or to nurture your own current grass, pick the weeds, and maybe even grow a garden.

Naturally since I’ve left the U.S.A I’ve had times where I want nothing more than to jump on the first plane that’ll take me back. There are of course plenty of products, customs, and people in America that I miss dearly. But right now I am here. The grass I’ve grown up in is “on the other side” of the Atlantic Ocean. And although some days I dream about my former green oasis some 6000 miles away, I am here. And here I have a field of grass in front of me and I have the opportunity to grow something amazing.

Some days can get terribly frustrating. I’m still not familiar with a large part of my town. I’m still adjusting to all the attention I get whenever I leave the house. And language is a constant struggle which interferes with practically all aspects of my daily activities. These are all weeds in my grass that will continue to grow unless I take the time and effort to pick them out. If I choose to remain idle these weeds will just multiply until they are too overwhelming to even pick. I can’t expect them to go away unless I get out there and exterminate them myself. Being neglectful and complaining doesn’t solve problems, working hard and remaining optimistic does.

Along with my struggles I’ve also had plenty of wonderful experiences too.

I’ve formed special relationships with so many people that I feel blessed to have met. They are the flowers that blossom in my garden, growing stronger with time and care, all beautiful and unique.

I’ve learned about Senegal, Africa, the world, and myself in more ways than I could have ever expected. The knowledge I’ve gained is the sun and water that brings life to my garden.

I’ve come to see how many wonderful people I already had in my life. I’m extremely grateful for all of my experiences here so far, good and bad, and I’m even more grateful for the support system I have here and back home. They are the nutrient rich soil, that without, there would be no garden.

I was a never a gardener before but I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone and tried something new. And so far my grass is growing strong and it has the potential to be flourish even more beautiful.

So thank you, Justin Bieber for being my inspiration for this extended garden metaphor and for encouraging me in my time of need. Some days I think ” I’m in pieces, baby fix me and just shake me ’til you wake me from this bad dream.” And I’m all like “baby, baby, baby, oh”. I dream of “chillin’ by the fire while eatin’ fondue” in my home back in Pembroke. But my family and friends remind me that “your world is my world and my fight is your fight my breath is your breath and your heart is my heart” and I remember I’m not in this alone. I’m gonna persevere through the tough times! “Cause there’s just no turning back when your hearts under attack. Gonna give everything I have cause it’s my destiny!” I’ll keep my head up and “never say never! I will fight till forever to make it right!” So I am going to enjoy my time here in Senegal! I have five months and “we gonna party like it’s 3012 tonight I wanna show you all the finer things in life so just forget about the world, we’re young tonight I’m coming for ya, I’m coming for ya”

…I think now it’s time to introduce the girls to some new singers…

Rachel Teevens