Are you excited?
The question of the week to which I still struggle to articulate a proper response. In theory, I’d say I’m excited. I am about to depart for an entire year to Africa to pursue what can probably be described as my dream job (or, at least, the closest version I have of what my dream career could be with my very limited knowledge of my interests at the moment and what I will actually be doing at this job). But, at least at this point in my life, the idealized image I’ve gradually developed in my mind as the most appealing job I could imagine has consisted of:
1. Something in another country.
2. Working for a large NGO or government agency that does significant work to develop the capacity of impoverished populations
3. Something that deals with international relations or has collaboration across different organizations and/or countries
4. Doing something that has to do with writing/communications/creative stuff
5. Working in both an office environment and in the field
And, somehow, thanks to Princeton in Africa, I now have the opportunity to spend a year working for the world’s largest humanitarian agency while on the African continent doing exactly what I want to do. It even relates to communication studies!…who ever thought my random college major that essentially was about nothing and everything all at the same time would actually come in handy… (side note: for now, as hard as it is for me, I will try to avoid stating the name of the agency in my blog due to warnings from our program of past fellows’ blogs coming up in google searches about their organizations and getting into some trouble for random comments they made). But the point is, this is probably the greatest opportunity that has ever happened to me. And my mind is still slightly blown that it has.
After meeting the 45 other incredible fellows that will be working at different partner organizations all across Africa at orientation, my only thought was, how the heck am I here?…followed by extreme admiration for the passion and uniqueness of each person. There is something so amazing about being surrounded by 45 other like-minded people with the same curiosity about the world, open-mindedness toward other cultures, and sincere desire to contribute something meaningful to making the world a better place. I didn’t realize the extent to which these people affected me in those 3 short days until returning back to my final weeks of college with a completely refreshed outlook on everything. I think it is safe to say that senior year broke me down to the point where I felt completely incapable of anything and the mere thought of graduation made me shudder in fear. Something about meeting all of the fellows and thinking about our upcoming journeys revived the single most important thing that the stressfulness of senior year had slowly drained out of me: passion.
I still have absolutely no clue how I managed to get into this program and am convinced that I somehow deceived them of my abilities in my application, but my thoughts have gradually shifted away from my inabilities and more towards a general feeling of excitement for the mere fact that I at the very least get to attempt to pursue my passion. The simple thought that, no matter how good or bad I do at the job, the fact that I have the opportunity to live abroad while doing work aimed at both feeding and empowering people has given me a sense of fulfillment and joy I can barely even describe.
So overall, you could say I am excited. But, at the moment, a few days before I leave for Johannesburg, my actually feelings of excitement seem slightly muted by the thick air of mystery clouding my thoughts. By mystery, I mean I literally have no clue what to expect once I get there — no apartment, no phone, no car, no friends, no specific visuals I can even really conjure up of what the city will be like as a whole, not to mention no real clue of what I will actually end up doing as a fellow at my organization or how much they will expect of me as a fellow. There’s also the endless list of fears I have about what could happen when I get there…like that my supervisors will quickly realize they picked a fellow that, despite having a strong interest in international development and world affairs, has never really followed the news and could not even point out most of the countries on a map.
….or, my ultimate fear: that I will have to rent a car and learn to drive stick.
With all this in mind, my response to the “Are you excited?” question has generally been, “Yes, but I have no clue what I’m doing.” To which the common response has been,
“Well, it’ll be an adventure.”
…It’s kind of funny how the word adventure could be used to describe climbing Mount Kilimanjaro or going on a safari across Africa just as easily as it might be applied to simply having no idea what it is you’re doing. But I guess it’s true. And I’ve decided I kind of like that definition of adventure: being lost and confused but just continuing to do things anyways. Perhaps my goal for this year will simply be to remember to look at everything as one big adventure. So for now, I look forward to all the confusion, bad decisions, and failures I will inevitably have as I embark on this journey just as much as I look forward to the work I’ll be doing, the amazing people I’ll meet, and the places I will go. It will no doubt be an adventure.