Stuck between two monkey bars

Ayla Blair-Smith - India


September 23, 2017

Monkey bars were one of my favourite things
at park as a child. Swinging from one bar to another. Though occasionally I was
caught in between two bars, sweaty hands, slowly slipping, you know how it
goes. It was in these moments that I was afraid to let go of the bar behind me
and depend on the one sweaty hand to hold my entire body mass as I swung to the
next bar. Occasionally I made it, occasionally I fell. Though nothing truly
compared to that feeling of relieve when I did finally build up the courage to
let go of the bar behind me and successfully move forward.  I’ve learnt to think of life like monkey bars.
Weird metaphor, I know, but wait for.


Life can often be separated into parts, and
we often hold onto the good parts of life, and those parts often tend to hold
us back because we are constantly comparing our new experiences to our old
experiences. This is when we find ourselves stuck between two monkey bars,
afraid to let go of the one behind us and reaching out for the one in front of
us. However, it is when we have let go of the one behind us that we can jump to
the one in front of us full heartedly, metaphorically speaking we have to let
go of the past to experience a new part of the book we call “life”.


I first realised how relatable this
metaphor was to me when I thought I had jumped to the next monkey bar in life,
when the truth of the matter was that I was still holding onto the monkey bar
behind me, stuck between the two. I had yet to let go of many things and the
worse part of it all was that I myself didn’t know how to let go. Every time I
thought I had successfully swung over to the next bar, I always found myself on
the ground staring at my sweaty palms that had failed me once again. It wasn’t
until I was in India that everything that seemed relevant, had become irrelevant.
Okay, maybe that’s pushing it but you get my point.

Pretty much what I figured out was that you
can breathe the problem in – for me that was the fact that I had yet to let go
of things that were in the past – feel it, completely, but remember to breathe
it out. It’s not meant to suffocate you. Sure, it’s meant to be felt but you’re
so much more than your “problems”. And often people forget that, because they
get so caught up in the “breathing in” stage that they become incapable of letting
go. Myself included.


Though stepping into a classroom smaller
than my bedroom, stuffed with 40 plus children, running around, sweating from
poor air circulation, and screaming for an education that is hardly there, let’s
just say it put a lot of things into perceptive. Yes, this is the reality of children
attending public schools in India. And yes, this is my apprenticeship for the
next six months. It’s the reality that I, like many other of my fellows, walked
into and wanted to run straight out of. Not necessarily because of the
heartbreak felt but because for once in our lives we looked at “reality” in the
face and didn’t like what we saw. I was faced with a question I could not
answer; how can I, a 19 year old girl, help these children? Because at the end
of the day I’m only here for six months and then I get to go home, but for
these children this is 13 years of their lives.


And from this, I pondered and realised that
we have lost the desire to question the unquestionable out of fear. Not fear
that we have crossed the invisible line that separates respectful and
disrespectful, but fear that the answer we have foretold will be incorrect. We
have become incapable of being wrong, because we have been trained to seek
rightfulness in every situation. We have become incapable of not knowing. To
the point where one of the hardest things for us to admit and accept is not
knowing. It’s uncertainty above all that we fear most. The confusion that
arises when our beliefs and our version of “right and wrong” are challenged.


Margaret J.
Wheatley said;


We weren’t
trained to admit we don’t know. Most of us were taught to sound certain and
confident, to state our opinion as if it were true. We haven’t been rewarded
for being confused. Or for asking more questions rather than giving quick
answers. We’ve also spent many years listening to others mainly to determine
whether we agree with them or not. We don’t have time or interest to sit and
learn from those who think differently than we do.


It’s admitting that we don’t have all the
answers to all the questions that the world throws our way. It’s admitting that
my version of “right” is somebody else’s version of “wrong”. It’s the willingness
to be unconformable. And it’s the willingness to be confused. It’s these things
that have been mentioned that we lack, and therefore lack in learning from
another because classroom learning has somehow over ruled external learning.


So long story short, I hope that these
children can suffocate me with the reality that we choose to ignore. That I can
learn from them, just as much as I can teach them. Because again, this is
simply about people learning from people. It will be reminded to everyone
reading that this is my truth, this is my experience of India, and an
experience is never wrong, it’s simply subjective to an individual and how they
interpret the situation. So know that the way I understand everything that has
been thrown my way throughout the six months, will be different from the girl
sitting next to me in Hindi class.


Cheers, the Kiwi. 

Ayla Blair-Smith