Monkey Bars and Onions

Over the past week, we took part in Pre-Departure Training. We began at Alliance Redwoods Conference Grounds in Occidental, California, among some of the country’s largest and beautiful trees, and ended the training on the well known Stanford University campus.

During PDT, we have had the privilege to hear from some of the most amazing speakers; one of which was Global Citizen Year’s CEO and Founder, Abby Falik. Abby began her talk by asking us to close our eyes and just breathe. At first, I thought she was crazy. I don’t think I can remember the last time I stop what I was doing to just breathe. I had no idea why she was making us do this exercise, but of course I participated; I mean she is THE Abby Falik. About five minutes in, we were then asked to open our eyes. To my surprise, I felt a huge sense of peace and calmness all over my body.

There is one thing you should know about Abby; she loves to use images to get her point across. She challenged us to imagine this bridge year as a dangling from a set of monkey bars. You start out with both hands on the bar, comfortable and confident, yet it takes letting go with one hand and grabbing hold of the next bar with the other to move forward. I think this is very applicable to the coming year. Monkey bars, for me at least, are very challenging. I am going to be challenged more this year than I ever have before in my 18 year old life. There will be times when I am alone and scared, feeling much like a dangling person in between bars. There will be other times when I am comfortable, holding on with both hands. In April, I can look back on my year, seeing all of the “bars” and hurdles I had to overcome and being proud of my accomplishments.

The last night of Pre-Departure Training, Abby gave us another image to think about. She compared us to an onion, having many layers to peel back. I have been peeling another layer of myself every day this week, discovering more and more about myself that I never knew existed. Throughout the year, more of my layers will be peeled as I experience the unique nature of Ecuadorian culture. If your take this metaphor a little further you can think about how an onion brings flavor to food while it is cooked. I hope that during this year I can bring my own “flavor” to my community while they are “cooking” and transforming me. Lastly, an onion can make you cry. I don’t want to think of it as me making others cry, but rather the tears of both sadness and joy which will fall during this bridge year.

These images might be a bit “far-fetched” but they allow me to have a visual of myself and the next eight months. I am thrilled to finally begin my journey in a new country that I will soon call home. I challenge each of you reading this to stop, breathe, and rest in that feeling. I also encourage you to not be fearful of letting go of the “bar” and to embrace the challenges that are ahead. Lastly, I ask you to imagine yourself as an onion, peeling back each layer as you go about your life. We must all keep in mind that although the days may be long, the years are short—savor every moment of every day.