This is the third time that I have tried to write a formal close to this blog. There is so much that I want to sum up, so many lessons that I have to share with anyone who graces across this page, that it is a challenge to know how to start.
When I left, Jillian and I wrote letters to each other that we didn’t read until I was sitting on the plane. Coincidentally, in both of our first paragraphs, we acknowledged how intimidating it was to write such a goodbye letter. How would we express the impact the other had made on us? How could I put in to words that none of this personal growth would have happened without her by my side?
And now, as I hope to write something similarly conclusive, I have realized several things. The first is that no matter how hard I try, there is nothing I can say in this entry that will “sum up” this experience. As I’ve learned with most things in life, the reality of it, and the impact it has made on me, will keep molding and changing—just as all things in life. I cannot conclude it any more than I could conclude the first chapter of a book—because that chapter will mean something different after I read the second, the third, the fourth, and the last. I cannot impart wisdom that will always be applicable. I can only be honest, as I have tried to do in every entry that I write.
As I look back over the entries, I do get a gut urge that screams DELETE IT, similar to how I felt when I read back over my middle school diary. I thought about writing a disclaimer to many of the entries—in part because some are so honest and so raw. It is a challenge to know that these personal thoughts are out there in the universe for people to read. Also challenging because I know that many of the thoughts I had then do not reflect how I see things now. But I guess that is the growth part, and that is the journey.
In my History of Memoir class we are reading the first memoir ever written: Confessions By Saint Augustine. My professor was examining the way that this historical text was written and made a comment that stuck with me: “He writes as he progresses and he progresses as he writes.” He is literally trying to make sense of everything on the page as he is writing, and the reader feels that struggle.
For many of these entries, and even this one, that is what I feel like I am doing: finding meaning as the words spill out. Perhaps this isn’t the way one should write because it is less cohesive. But when you’re 'in it', all you can do is tell your situation. Even if that just means events and reaction.
So I guess I will be writing this final entry for the rest of my life. I will describe this experience differently wherever I am, and that’s okay.
When I left I told Jillian that people can adapt but they can’t change. Sometimes I repeat this saying to myself, turn it around on its head and try to apply it differently. What is the difference between adaptation and change? I truly believe that humans can adapt to nearly any situation they are put in. For the people in the squatter camps, they were used to the way that they lived, and that was just life. It wasn’t pitied because there was little opportunity for comparison. You do what you have to do: you let yourself live; sometimes you make yourself.
I adapted to my world in Johannesburg, so much so that it became life. It was not a trip, it was not a vacation; I was not a traveler nor a reporter moving through, as I had envisioned: I had a family and experiences that brought me elatedness, sadness, joyfulness, and sometimes despair.
From South Africa I will take this: I have never been to a place where there was so much enthusiasm, energy, and hope put forth in to molding the country. Yes, people are suffering, and many of the places I went to were not happy places. I sought out to find “the South African identity” and realized that it was ever changing—not black, white, Indian, coloured, poor, rich, middle class, rural, urban, suburban—but all of these things at the same time. It was and is an enigma, and I have no right to try to define it.
From living in South Africa I will take this: I have learned that I can stand on my own wherever I am, that I can see extreme situations and keep my heart and my head. I will get by no matter what I do in life, no matter where I am. Because I simply have the human drive to live, and live as the best me that I can possibly be. And to my friends who are graduating or graduated and are terrified of what lies ahead I have learned this: we will get by.
I watched Conan’s goodbye show the other night and he said something like “but I have learned, if you do good, and are kind to people, amazing things will happen.” I have faith in the unknown that amazing things will happen in your life if you let them, welcome them, and approach them with the childlike glee that you had when you were little and easily excitable.
Try to achieve everything that you have always dreamed of simply because you can. Do not be afraid and cut yourself short. Because if you can imagine it, then the path leading you there will come.
Thank you to all of my faithful readers who stuck with me through breakdowns and revelations. I am so grateful to all of you for such wonderful comments. Sometimes I go back and read them over because I can hardly believe I’ve been so blessed with such wonderful people in my life. I love you all and there is a good chance that this isn’t goodbye.
“Find your purpose and fling your life out to it. Find a way, or make one. Try with all your might. Self made or never made.” OS Marden