I realized this morning that the past year has been an experience not unlike Robin Williams’ portrayal of Peter Pan in Hook. If you haven’t seen it (you need to RIGHT AWAY!) or don’t remember it…. He basically forgets he is Peter Pan and when put to the test, he must do some hard and fast soul-searching to find the Peter that once was. Unfortunately, it took me a little more than the two hours to catch a glimpse of myself- I suppose that is because my life is not a box office smash hit!
But it hit me because, often times, I feel as though I am in a rut or riding an extremely tumultuous emotional roller coaster. This coaster takes me from place to place without giving me a flick of a second to realize what is going on before it dives right into a muddy rut! Moments of happiness and joy along with feelings of content are just as fleeting as those frustrating and overwhelming moments- so as you can see attempting to find oneself again is difficult among all of the twists and turns.
Although much of what happens in our daily life contributes to this craziness, it is the inability to express myself completely that I feel contributes to it most. The absence of fluent language as well as the cultural understanding that provides a brick wall for me to run into when I try to speak or express myself. All of this also comes with a feeling of dishonesty or secrecy. Because of the cultural implications- there are just certain things here that are not acceptable to talk about with people nor is it acceptable for me to fully express myself with what I wear. This translates to hiding part of who I am and on some levels, feeling defensive about some things. Some volunteers even feel with a new Moroccan name, comes a completely new persona. For awhile, I felt like “Iman” (my Moroccan name) and Amber were completely s e p a r a t e people.
I started to see glimpses of my old self the more Peace Corps volunteers that we were able to get to know….moments of wittiness and intelligible conversations would happen, who knew!!! Tyler and I have one another- which makes me more grateful than words can say- but one thing we have learned about here is that both of us thrive on having all sorts of relationships with other people. In a lot of ways, it brings a certain richness into our own relationship.
Other situations where I would experience brief moments of comfort and solace were when I was teaching and working out in my women’s class. Working out with the women requires little to no verbal language- we are all there as a unified group with the goal of becoming healthy and coming out of the class without too much pain! In the almost 6 months that I have been going to the class, I have had only 2-3 actual conversations with my fellow ladies but I feel an intense bond with them, nonetheless.
Teaching gives me moments where I can attempt to be funny or even have a tiny bit of control over something. Most of this journey has been about relinquishing any control and being positive in moments of complete hopelessness. It starts with living with a host family and then trying to find work in your final site, sometimes one might know what is happening but most of the time it is “inshallah” ( if God wills it).
In remembering myself in these special moments has taught me that even with all of this change, I am who I am…..and even in absence of the ability to effectively communicate, some aspects do not change:
-I like to be in control.
-I, like most people, can pretty particular about things
-Most of the time, I like to be right (I mean, who doesn’t?)
– I have little to no patience with a lot of situations
– I feel like I have an insatiable thirst for any kind of knowledge ( this includes to Tyler’s disdain, gossip)
– Being physically active is a must not a want
– I enjoy laughing and jokes more than any other activity
The latter can be especially difficult because humor is so different here. But in many of my favorite moments here have been joining in with the laughter, it becomes a special moment that makes me feel truly apart of something. In my journey over the past year of feeling lost, out of control, thinking that I am falling in love with Morocco- to only realize that it might only have been lust, to learning how to find and keep ” my happy thoughts” – I realize that this is just the growth process. That this dissonance that I am feeling will only continue to be more difficult if I continue to resist and blame those around me for any discontent. The clearest version of myself came this morning when I remembered this quote:
“our lives are not determined by what happens to us, but how we react to what happens, not by what life brings us but by what attitude we bring to life.”
As I continue to search, I will keep this in mind and hopefully I will catch more than a fleeting glimpse of Amber.