Walking onto the jetway at JFK to start the first leg of my journey to Rwanda, I had no desire to look behind me. I knew that I was moving forward and each step was taking me closer to my dream post-grad job. The first two months here have been everything I’ve wanted and more. I’ve been involved with so many inspiring projects and have had opportunities that I didn’t even know were possible. I’m at the point now where I know enough basic Kinyarwanda phrases to exchange pleasantries and negotiate with moto drivers, have decorated my room with a custom-made kitenge quilt, and have established myself as a regular at the country’s only gelato spot.
Each day I feel as though I learn a million new things. I fall asleep easily from the satisfying exhaustion that accompanies a day’s work here. I’m so busy that I cannot keep track of the days as the weeks fly by.
Today has been one of the first days I have been able to set time aside to write that wasn’t just a few minutes before bedtime. I’ve finally had a second to breathe and to spend the day in relative solidarity. It has provided me with time to reflect; which has enabled me to recognise that for the first time, I feel as though I am finally taking a moment to look over my shoulder as I walked on that jetway two months ago. I’m experiencing this perplexing state of nostalgia where I miss being present in my life back home despite knowing that this is where I want to be.
It is a bizarre feeling to watch from afar as your friends and families move through their lives without you. Sure, we keep in touch. But I watch their major life events occur from a distance. Friends have moved across the country, my brother has started university, and men that I had been seeing at one point or another have moved on. My life back home is happening without me as I observe through social media. I miss my expansive social network and the constant validation that being with my friends provides. I find myself cycling through the “what-ifs” in my head while simultaneously recognizing just how much that I, myself, have changed in just two months. I keep wondering at what cost moving abroad at such a transformative moment in my life comes at.
I try to recall to my past experiences with long term trips to reconcile my current feelings with those pulled from the past. What I realize is that the main difference between then and now is that this time around, I have made no effort to have something to keep me anchored to returning back to Arizona. In fact, its quite the opposite. While I have many wonderful friends living within the state, I have no commitment to return back to school there and no intention to spend my adult life within the state. My journey to Rwanda marked the beginning of an entirely new chapter of my life; one that I have no plans for beyond this year. For the first time, I get to embrace fully living with the moment with nothing but the fellowship I love to be tied to. Sure, separating myself from my life back home is hard, but I am beyond happy to be having the chance to learn how to make it work.