What does define me in a context that is not made for me? MA

Miriam Abel - Senegal

November 8, 2018

I have been trying to answer this question over the past 2 months. I have not found an answer yet, but I would like to share some excerpts from my journal. My thoughts are lose and unorganised, but it is the most true expression of my personal transformation so far. So please, enjoy:

1. All the materialistic belongings and things I possessed back in Germany are not with me anymore. Back home, I was defined by what I cannot find here in Senegal.
So, how do I define myself then here?

2. I cannot, as I did back home, rely on my understanding of the cultural context or express myself in language. So, if I cannot verbally express who I am, do I then show who I am through actions?

3. Since I arrived here with barely any luggage, I cannot use materialistic things to define me. The most personal, materialistic possessions I have here in Senegal are my journal and my Ukulele.

4. I decided to define myself through the following “things” and actions:
a) being an artist
b) smiling and radiating happiness
c) being critical
d) complicating the narrative
e) spreading tolerance
f) not conforming to stereotypes or societal expectations
g) being honest with myself
h) activism
i) music, singing and choir
j) learning Wolof instead of French
k) understanding what it means to be a woman
l) rooftop evenings
m) journaling

I realised that I am defining myself in a new way – in a new context. So, I decide and do not let myself be influenced by expectations or societal context. Following these reflections I asked myself the following question:

Who can I be here that I could not be in my old context?

I am having the full time to focus on who I am without my prior definitions.

I can be honest with myself, recognise my flaws, acknowledge them and then decide to work on them. Hence, I can learn to fully fall in love with myself.

I can finally take the time to do nothing and be okay with it. I can transform the small moments into big ones. I can decide to prioritise and give importance to what I believe is important.

I can explore why it is so hard for me to do nothing and trying to practice mindfulness in just existing. I don’t need to have a routine in order to feel productive or that I did not waste this day.

I will practice patience. I could not do that back home. My life was defined by being busy and active each minute. Here, I will practice patience with
a) life
b) myself
c) the future
d) the past

This year I will learn patience. Next year, I will practice and use it.

Since I am outside of my own context, I canbe myself.

But what if the self I know was always defined by things I do not have here in Senegal?

“Then, you have to wait and get to know the woman you are becoming.”

Miriam Abel