I look back at the valuable words my Teach for India mentor, Ananya, shared with me in a letter she gave me at the end of the year.
In this letter she shares with me lessons that she learned from me, and I know realize that they are almost word for word the lessons that I was learning throughout my time in country.
The first lesson she mentions is patience. I used to almost pride myself in the fact that I did not put up with b.s. in my life. What I failed to realize was that my strong backbone often was not just used for holding my ground, but sometimes I was hurting people with it. Almost everything in Pune, India was built for teaching patience for me. Transportation, my buses were almost never on time, or often never showed; haggling with rickshaw drivers for a fair price, or being refused a ride five times in a row. My host family and I did not speak the same language fluently, so as I adjusted there was miscommunication that sometimes left me frustrated. Even down to something as simple as showering, it grew my patience. As I turned on the water heater, waited for ten minutes for it to heat up to then fill the bucket, sometimes though that process was in vain as I turned the knob and then would hear my host mother say "Pani nahi". No water. Human error is everywhere, and I am not exempt. Things, everything takes time,
The second lesson is kindness does not go unawarded. There is never negative that can come from being kind. It is often the most difficult thing, to be kind through trauma and struggles, but that is the true test of character. Kindness is given back eventually in one form or another, and it is always worth it. No matter what, harsh words and hurtful actions are not a way to peace.
The third lesson, to laugh in the face of fear. I have always been scared. I was scared graduating high school, I was scared going to India, and now more than ever I am terrified being home. Yet, the one consistent thing that anyone has ever met me will know about me, is my laugh. A loud, often obnoxious noise that occurs much too often at inappropriate times. And you know what that's okay because nothing is ever that serious. Fear is typical, but one who can look at with a smile and push through, that's rare. While it may be rare, it is something that we are each capable of.
The fourth lesson is to be open about one's feelings at all times. Many times through my apprenticeship there were tasks I was uncomfortable doing, pain I was dealing with, and some days I just mentally could not go. It was incredibly important as I navigated my way through this fellowship that I was honest. Not only in my school, but with other fellows with relationships and friendships. I learned some of the hardest lessons about heartbreak, fighting, abandonment, and through it all, what I realized was it would all be healed and okay through honesty. I often forget to have faith in others, because I'm not the only one who can make good decisions. We have to believe in others and their capabilities to be human too.
The fifth and final lesson is to love unconditionally. I have been hurt, burned, and betrayed. I thought that this gave me a right to use my love as a weapon. Who I gave it too, when I gave it, if I gave it. This is not my role, I have come to find that I am merely a vessel that love is carried. I cannot decide who is worthy of it, it is a gift of the universe that I am to distribute. And the best part of love, it never runs out. There is always more love to give. I can attribute this lesson to my students, I did not know most of their home life situations, or why some of them behaved poorly in class. I did know thought that I could do one thing, and that was love. I quickly realized, we are all just little kids inside, yearning for one thing. Unconditional love.
There is always more love to give.
Do not be mistaken, I did not "find myself" on my gap year. That is an impossible task since I am already here. I did better myself though, and am starting to see a person in myself that I think can contribute something of worth to this existence and continue to grow and learn. Just as we all are here to do.
A special special thank you to my beloved mentor Ananya. You were essential to my year and my growth. You are an absolute AMAZING teacher, guider, strong woman, and friend. I know you will continue to be an influence in my life, and I cannot wait for what is to come. Thank you.