There are a few times of year where introspection seems to creep up a bit more overtly than others. Making its way from the back of my ever playing mental tape to the forefront. Commanding solitude and time dedicated simply to reflection, introspection and thought as the main event. September, marked for years as a fresh start, a new school year, new challenges and new beginnings. And December marked by cold and crisp icy mornings, the ability to see your breath as the street crunches beneath your feet and you gather with friends and family to welcome a new year and say goodbye to the past.
So here I am, being introspective and reflecting on the year I’ve had. The year we’ve all had. I’ve heard from friends, from family, from strangers that 2014 was a particularly rough year. An unhealthy and unsupportive work environment saw me change jobs and enter a new field in May, to be followed by a stressful and all time consuming municipal campaign to which I devoted my every waking moment and squeezed every last drop of energy into. Coming off the campaign to an unstable political environment saw me forced to assume a new position in a new part of the province that will test my skills, patience and perseverance. The sudden unexpected death of my great-uncle, my partner’s brother being diagnosed with cancer, addictions issues effecting family members added to the stress of an already heavy and stressful years full of change. Buying a house with my siblings and the help of my late grandfather who left us money to invest, moving in with my brothers and my partner, getting a dog (Mikko), and feeling torn between where I am now and where I want and need to go.
This year has been heavy, and its been hard. But in heavy moments where it feels as though I’ll be crushed by the sheer weight of it I often feel the most strength because (even though I must remind myself) I have yet to be buried alive. Time and time again, I step up with the weight on my shoulders and figure out how to take steps to reducing the weight, and I continue to take steps (sometimes tiny steps) until it feels less heavy and I can see that it’s going to be okay, and that I’ve proven myself again to be perseverant, determined, and that nothing can crush my will for too long.
My little sister, Sierra (18), is currently in France working as an au pair for a family that lives on a ski hill and runs the restaurant. She left last week but is having a tough time dealing with homesickness, missing family, and battling with thoughts that she is not strong enough to tackle the challenge she has chosen for herself. I see a lot of myself in her. She took a chance (as I often do) to thrust herself abruptly into the unknown. Got swept up in the excitement of the change, the challenge, the adventure and barrelled on ahead full speed. Now, in quiet moments, she finds herself wondering “what the hell am I doing?”
I can’t help but remember feeling the same way when I was on the last flight into Tegucigalpa for in 2010. It sunk in as to what I was about to do. Live in a foreign place where I didn’t speak the language, a place I was told was dangerous, and work with an NGO that I knew nothing about and knew no one. I would have to learn a language, find a place to live, develop relationships, make friends, conduct research, and do it completely alone. Surely I must be out of my mind, or have seriously overestimated my own abilities. I felt suspended in freefall. My breath catching in my throat and forming a lump in the bottom of my stomach. But we know how it worked out. I learned Spanish. I found a place to live with a family I grew to love. I made friends, developed relationships, completed research and helped the NGO develop a program to engage youth which I then delivered. I went out on my own and took buses, and ferries, and hoped on the back of mopeds and saw the country. I visited friends in El Salvador and tried my hand at surfing. In fact, 4 years ago today I was on a bus headed to Santa Rosa de Copan to see a new part of the country, welcomed by a new friend and her family.
Some days, it feels as though the “Delaney” who had the guts and the confidence to embark on that type of adventure is a different person. That if tasked with the same thing today I would be unable to deliver. But I know that’s untrue. I know that whatever the obstacle, the challenge, the upset, or the adventure I will approach it the same way. Figuring out what I need to do, what needs to get done, taking it apart, and making sure it happens. By playing to my strengths, by giving myself time and allowing myself to feel weak and sad, but reminding myself of my proven track record of strength, determination and courage.
I know my sister will figure out, in her own way in her own time, how to do just that because I see that in her as well, even if she doesn’t. Learning about ourselves, being honest with ourselves, and pushing ourselves to do better and be better is one of the best gifts we can give ourselves. A gift that sometimes hurts more than we’d like it to as it can only be found in moments of discomfort and isolation, but a gift that we should cherish none the less.