Wait.. They invited the whole school?! When I made plans to present about my year abroad to my old elementary school I thought I would be presenting to my brother’s small Spanish Class. As it turns out, the whole school was invited.
In addition to that, I ended up walking into the classroom and realizing that the projector I had hoped to use to present my slides was nonexistent; in fact, it never had existed. I had forgotten that my old elementary stomping ground was just a little technology adverse (to say the least).
Well, here was my opportunity. All the improvisational skills and tactics that came from spending a year in Ecuador were preparing me for this moment. I would shift the focus of my presentation to make up for my small screen.
So I started to use one of the most important skills I learned during my time abroad: talking. Or, more specifically, storytelling. I stalked around the room feigning shock and fear as I acted out scenes from my trip to the Amazon; I gesticulated excitedly as I illustrated the dances I had created. And it worked out. My forced improvisation left the kids fist bumping and congratulating me. And I had a great time.
I think that could be the most important lesson I learned in Ecuador. Before I left, uncomfortable situations filled me with dread. I was so terrified to mess up and fail. But over the course of this past year (and through failing over and over again) I have learned to appreciate the beauty of these situations. Embrace them. Love them. And most of all have fun.
Thats what I was doing in front of my elementary school that day. Even when everything goes wrong, if there’s nothing you can do about it, why not enjoy your fantastic failure? Its kind of like how every motivation speaker ever says: “Its all about the way you look at it.” But it really is. If you view failing well as a success then, no matter what, you will walk out of any situation feeling satisfied.
Illustrating my year with stories showed me, once again, their importance. It would seem that lives are just a shmorgishborg of stories: stories about our adventures, our troubles, our friends, our enemies, and most of all ourselves. What more is the ego than a collection of stories where we are the main character?
The foundational nature of stories in the way we view the world makes you wonder why we don’t have better ones. We seem to all be in the game of making our stories as uninteresting as possible. We like to play it safe, avoiding even the calculated risks: the adventures that could spark the story of a lifetime. Instead we fill our heads with the stories of others, a mishmash of depressing news, bad sitcoms, and Facebook posts.
And yet, its so easy to spark a good story. Talk to someone new. Try something different. Do something strange. And see what happens. A “good life” while a blessing in its own way may be highly overrated. This is the end of my stories with Global Citizen Year, but you can bet I will creating plenty more. Feel free to join me.