At this moment I have less than two weeks left at work, three weeks till I start travelling, and eight weeks before I am home – which then begins a whole other list. These timelines have been weighing on my mind recently and I have been living increasingly in the future as these numbers become smaller. These dates signify the first wave of transitions about to hit my life and they offer both excitement and fear/sadness/stress/worry etc. It is unfathomable to believe my time here is almost at an end, and because I have been having a difficult time processing this I have chosen to write about it in hopes of untangling the web weaving throughout my brain. The idea of leaving here has been challenging to think about because any time I start to think about it I am overcome with an incredible sense of sadness and my mind immediately shuts down (I basically go into a coma). However, I know it must be done in order to have a healthy and meaningful departure that does not involve me in fetal position and crying (for too long).
My Refuge House, the shelter I have worked at for two years, has been my everything here. They have been my friends, my siblings, my parents, my mentors, my guides, my interpreters, and more. Because they have been my everything I will miss them with everything in me. For the staff I will miss their friendship, conversations, hospitality, adventures, and love. For the girls I will miss their hugs, their laughter, the funny questions they ask me, their determination, and their hope. I will miss these relationships greatly and I already feel the loss of them growing in my heart. For two years they have taken care of me in small ways on a daily basis and I will never be able to thank them enough. I wouldn’t even know where to begin. The same goes for my host family; I probably don’t even know half of what they have done for me over the years. They are kind and patient. I love these people and I am forlorn to leave them. They have become an encompassing part of my life and I am afraid of how I will do when they no longer surround me.
As I think of all the people I will miss I am reminded of all the wonderful experiences I have had while being here. I have loved living by the ocean and the times I was able to be out on the water. Island hopping is one of my favorite activities; if the water is calm I could ride on a boat for hours in pure bliss. I loved enjoying outings with the girls and watching them swim in a pool for the first time. I went on adventurous hikes with my friends and we experimented with new recipes in the kitchen. We watch movies together, drank wine, and ate ice cream. I travelled to several islands with my host sister and with friends, riding in jeepneys for long stretches admiring the beautiful landscape. They have listened to me ramble about minimalism, plastic-free living, capsule wardrobes, and my tiny house. They celebrated with me when I was offered my next job and sympathized with me during difficult times. They traipsed through the market with me looking for the perfect items I wanted to take home and ate Indian food and pizza with me when I needed something other than fish and rice. I have done almost everything with these few people over the past two years. They are precious to me. What will I do without them?
(As a side note I would also like to mention a few things I will not miss. I will not miss the heat and trying to fall asleep while sweating at night. I will not miss year-round mosquitoes. I will not miss the pollution and dust. I will not miss being sick while enduring the blazing heat. I will not miss the threat of water born illnesses. There may be a few more things but in general the list is not too long.)
Given these experiences, and many more, over the past two years I believe I have grown in several ways, both personally and professionally. Personally, I have deepened my spiritual life and my relationship with God, which honestly makes the entire endeavour worth it, even if I had gained nothing else. I have also grown to know myself on a deeper level which is always enlightening – great quantities of alone time contributed to this development. I also have a greater sense of what it means to live in community, which I am always seeking after wherever I live. I have learned much from Filipinos, such as how to live a resilient life full of laughter, compassion, community, joy, and love – they are truly amazing people. My experience here, along with each new adventure I take, continues to shape how I view the world, and how I want to live in it, and this is priceless. Professionally, I have begun to finally acquire skill sets for the work force – after being in school for a while – and this is quite empowering. This process has shown me what I enjoy doing, what I am good at doing, and what I should avoid at all cost. I have taken a deeper look at my own strengths, passions, and dreams (again, plenty of free time alone helps with this) and it is helping me to live a much more intentional life, adding to my joy and happiness.
I could go on and on but there is too much to tell. I will close here with the knowledge that even though leaving in several weeks will be extremely difficult, this pain can be attributed to a full and prosperous service. An experience I will always be grateful for. An adventure that has shaped my life by consistently showing me how to be a better global citizen, a better Christian, and a better friend.