It's funny how the thing you want most in the world can also be what terrifies you most.
And it's funny because it's been this way since I was 12, and you'd think I would be used to it by now. I've desperately want to move to Africa since I was 12 and I've dreaded it every second. The downside of knowing that I wanted to move across the world was living with a bunch of goodbyes over my head, looming on the horizon. I fly out to study abroad in Cameroon in 12 days; I'm not ready for the goodbye. And for a girl in love with her family, who wants nothing more than to bake cookies with her mom and stay right here, four months on a different continent is a long time. But relatively, it's a little taste-test to see if this, Africa, is really truly it. After my two week trip to Mali when I was sixteen, I'm still hungry for red dirt, barefoot soccer and the beauty of people who laugh in the face of hellish poverty and suffering. Mali broke my heart and stole it too, and I'm hungry for that again, but frankly I'm terrified too.
Part of the nerves are familiar from before Mali- I've wanted it for so long, that one of the biggest fears is getting there and realizing it isn't for me, that I was wrong about my life calling. Being known as the social justice girl who's obsessed with Africa is sort of like an overly showy relationship--what if it doesn't work out? There's a certain social expectation entailed by being openly in love, before you've really proved the relationship. I was terrified that it wasn't the "real deal" before going to Mali, and in answer just fell in love with the country and the people. But Cameroon's for a lot longer, and this time I won't be with family. I didn't really experience culture shock when I went to Mali, I loved every second of it (my culture shock coming back to the U.S. was much worse). Having my dad travel to Mali with me was a big part of that, I wasn't homesick because Dad brought home with him, I was safe.
But this time, the goodbye is a lot more real, and the real taste-test of (hopefully) the rest of my life in Africa, away from my family, is about to begin.
I don't really know how to live without these people. I count myself lucky that I have great friends and people who like me at college, only an hour away from home, because I have yet to fully figure out how to be myself without my family, without kitchen floor conversations about feminism and our souls, perpetual eating, bedtime stories with the littles, Sabbath dinners and challah dough between my hands. I'm only me when I'm with you at the top of my lungs dancing with my sisters in our living room, and it's our song because it's quite simply truth.
I guess I am praying that I will forgive myself for leaving, not just for this four months, but another two after that (another story), and eventually for as much of my life as God decides and clues me in on.
I'm praying that everything my family is, security, anger at injustice, passion and hope and dog-eared Bibles and a burning desire to love people and love God, that these people and these things that have shaped me are so well and truly in me that I will carry them with me as I hurtle into my future.