Not Rocking the Boat
or Staying True to Yourself?
“We’ve all heard those horror stories. The one where the fellow is completely outcasted from their family and community based on their answer to a single question. “Oh, the past fellow in this one placement was talked about by the whole town and was never viewed the same!” Due to this fear some fellows decide to lie about or hide a part of themselves from their new family and life. They cover up and feel ashamed about a part of who they are. I had already decided before my year started that I would be honest. That when the time came I would tell the truth and my new community would have to live with it.
Then I met my family. I walked into their living room the first day and saw the dozen statues and paintings on the wall. Surely, I had my answer about what type of family they were and that I was going to be an outcast. Yet almost a month passed and they hadn’t asked the question. Maybe they wouldn’t. However, one-night last week I was taking a five-minute car ride with my parents to go pick up a notebook for one of my younger siblings. We were just sitting in a comfortable silence as the car drove over the bumpy dirt road when my mother whispered the question to my father and then he repeated it louder to myself: “What religion are you” Here it had come, the moment that I began to think wouldn’t happen. And rather than stating the prepared statement I had in my head I panicked and gave the answer I thought they wanted. “Catolica” but not very strongly, I never go to church.
When they finally popped the question, I was struck with fear. The time in 4th grade when one of the popular boys came over with a friend pointed at me and said in the most disapproving and disgusted tone ever, “she doesn’t believe in god” pushed its way into my head. When a sophomore teacher had everyone go around the room and answer, only if you wanted to which meant you had to, and there was an awkward silence after my answer. The only thing going through my head was everything negative that had occurred due to being honest. I had never seen my new family pray before or go to church. They used the lords name in vain and the statues and paintings seemed to be for show. Yet I still held the fear that they would judge me just like others did in the past. Even though I knew they were vetted by GCY and I had come to learn that they are great people I still held this fear. And so, I lied.
What could a little lie mean in a situation like this if it kept the social norm? What could this lie mean if it helps me fit into my new society better? What could this lie mean if it makes things easier? Sometimes it’s best to not rock the boat, sometimes it’s better to do your best to adapt, and sometimes it’s best to lie. Right? I’ve learned that this lie means panicking a little more each time that question comes up again. I’ve learned that this lie turns me into something I’m not. I’ve learned that this lie means not being true to myself. So, while there are instances where it’s best to just try and fit in and follow the social norm there are also instances where rocking the boat is acceptable if it means representing yourself honestly, completely, and strongly.
I believe I have already made the biggest regret of my year in Ecuador and that it’s too late to turn back now.”
The Good that can
Come from Regret
The above portion was written for a piece to share at the southern hubs closing seminar on October 12th. We were supposed to share something about our experience thus far and this is what I came up with within thirty minutes prior to the gala.
Rather than take the two minutes and ten seconds to read this blog post has I had practiced it took me about five minutes to get through it. I wasn’t even done reading the title before I began to break down crying. During the four short paragraphs I was absolutely bawling, which was also absolutely embarrassing.
There were a few reasons for my break down: I have stage fright, it was difficult sharing a personal part of my life with 30+ others, the piece contains painful memories, I had just written the piece and felt it wasn’t well written, and my phone kept ringing with calls from wrong numbers during the presentation. However, the biggest part was that I had not expected this reaction from myself. I had believed I would be the strong person I’ve always been and be honest. The hardest part about reading this wasn’t the fact that I was sharing a personal experience with others, it was the fact that I hadn’t processed this defining moment of my year until I was sharing it with others.
There was good that came out of this though. Since I had finally been vulnerable with my peers I was able to grow closer to everyone in the room. I had also cried for the first time while in Ecuador. This may appear to be an insignificant fact but is actually very important. For over a month I had been hearing about people who would cry in their rooms at night or suddenly burst into tears when texting their parents. Everyone had cried so far, and often. Yet I hadn’t. The last time I had cried was during predeparture training when I broke my toe and cried out of frustration. Crying is a way to cleanse, to release all the built-up emotion and come away feeling more yourself. So, when I walked back to my seat feeling completely embarrassed after sharing, I also felt better.
While I do still feel shocked and regret about my unexpected reaction I am also thankful for the experience. Without this moment I would not have had the opportunity to be vulnerable with my peers and grow a stronger sense of community with them. This experience made me think deeper about who I am and who I want to be moving forward. I’ve now stopped worrying about what the right answer might be and simply answered everything truthfully to who I am and what I sincerely believe.
This experience was difficult to get through, but now, I’m feeling more myself than ever before.