My Perfect Year

Sarai Patterson - Ecuador


August 29, 2013

When people ask where I’m from, I’m not exactly sure what to say
because I feel like I’m from so many places and people and experiences. I am
from sweet California lemons, rusty swing sets, and mudcastles, but I am just
as much a part of the harsh Utah desert. I am from sharp red rocks and
blistering, aching heat. I am from the dusty desert rain and those hidden
canyon places where water falls into clear pools that are so unforgivingly
frigid that it’s exhausting just to imagine swimming in them. I am from the
dirty, sticky hands and unkempt hair of kids who have very few qualms about
germs or danger or the possibility that playing on a train bridge or starting a
fire in a dry, half-burnt-down forest might not be the best ideas. I am from a
beautiful, strong, tired mother with so many children and so little time. A
mother who would do absolutely anything for us and who lives to love
unconditionally and forgive instantly.

I had a fairly unique childhood. My family has been through a
lot together, and even though it broke us apart for a while, we’ve learned that
we truly hold each other up in the end. Every single one of my eight siblings
is beautiful, successful, intelligent, and in my eyes, perfect. This puts a lot
of pressure on all of us, and we all have our own stupid inadequacy complexes.
We all hate the idea of perfection, but being compulsive people pleasers and
perfectionists, we try for it so hard anyway. I think I achieved in school as
much as I possibly could have, and still the tiniest setback sent me swirling
into despair because if I wasn’t perfect at every turn I was a failure.

My desperate need to achieve meant that my high school years
were filled with a lot of praise but even more stress, and by the end I was far
too exhausted to start college right away. About a year ago I heard about
Global Citizen Year, and I knew it was exactly right. It combined every aspect
of what I wanted after high school. I wouldn’t lose my scholarships or hinder
my success in college, but I would be able to take a year off to experience
more of the world and be immersed in a totally unfamiliar culture. I would
learn a language and do service and use my own knowledge and abilities to maybe
have an impact on other people’s lives.

I am about to go on the craziest adventure of my life thus far,
and it is most certainly not going to be perfect; it’s going to be messy and
uncomfortable and even dangerous at times. I will be without all the people I
love, the people who have always held me up, and the emotional lows have
already proven to be brutal. I don’t know who I’ll be living with or what I’ll
be doing or where I’ll be. I won’t be able to communicate at all for a while,
and I will never perfectly master the Spanish language.

Who knew so much uncertainty could be so liberating?

It’s a fantastic feeling to take a step forward and not know
where it’s going to land. I’m confident that this is the best place for me to
be right now, and over the next eight months, all the imperfections and doubts
and scary situations will be the most memorable pieces of this adventure. Every
experience will just be part of what I know I’ll look back on as a truly
perfect year.

Sarai Patterson