Up for the Challenge
While at university, most of my friends were international students. They always told me how challenging it was living in a completely different country to all their friends and family. Apparently it’s an amazing learning experience because you get to learn a lot about yourself.
It was always something I wanted to try to do just because I wanted to know if I had what it took to survive alone and I wanted “ to learn more about myself”. I was curious to know what it was I was going to learn about myself. After living alone in Tanzania for 2 months I can fully agree to the fact that it is has truly been a memorable learning experience.
I think the most intriguing part of this trip has not been the places I’ve visited or the people I’ve met but the journey within. I’ve realized many things about myself that I do not think would have come out as prominently as they have over here.
Out of Touch
One of the most important realizations I’ve made is that I can do more than I though I could. On my first night here, I did not think I would last here for more than a week. I sat in my empty apartment literally waiting for someone to knock at my door and there was no one. I stared at my phone in which there was no SIM card and so really no way of anyone contacting me. This was the same phone that I was inseparable from back home and which was constantly ringing or buzzing with text messages. Free minutes after 7, weekends, 50 text messages, I had all the packages and made full use of them. And here I was, needing that phone more than ever and sitting alone with no way to call the people who kept me company on normal days.
Today I hardly use my phone as a means to keep in constant touch with people. Everyone I need to talk to works with me and I talk to my friends and family through Internet in the evenings. Yet the Internet is never that stable nor is it as instant as text messaging in the sense that it takes days for people to reply to emails. So I have become more patient with my means of communication and being slightly out of touch.
I am also constantly surrounded by people in Toronto. I have been blessed with many cousins, different circles of friends and a loving family. There really does not go an hour of my day that I am completely alone. It was possibly something I did subconsciously because I am generally a social person and don’t really enjoy being alone. When I came here, because of the odd timing there were no other volunteers and so those who were here were employees and had their own families or their own lives and I had to establish my own life and my own schedule. When I would come back home at about 8/9 after dinner, I did not know what to do with that time. I was used to sleeping at 1 am and so would try and watch a movie (which I only had 3 of and would soon out) but really had all this time to myself.
Today, I look forward to my alone time. It gives me time to reflect on the day and really take in everything that has happened. I value the time I come home and take my shower and sit in my room and do whatever it is I decide to do whether it is read a book or write about my day or just simply sit around. It is one of my favorite parts of my day.
One Step in Front of the Other
And then there are days when you feel lonely and miss your life back home. You miss that person you would call for no reason and just to pass time, you miss the safety net.
Those are generally Friday nights for me. There’s something about the start of the weekend and this expectation to be doing something out of the ordinary. Yet, somehow you get through every Friday night. When living alone you have to put one foot in front of the other and keep moving. Sitting around and feeling sorry for yourself is no real solution, it never really was but it’s more of a reality now. It’s a pit less hole and at the end of the day you’ll just have to climb out of it alone.
I always found that lingering in my sadness just made things worse and so push myself to go sit with the kids, read with them or somehow occupy my mind because once my mind is free then it starts thinking up all kinds of rubbish.
So one foot in front of the other and you keep on moving forward, somehow.
Leaning on God
What used to be a necessity back there has become more of a luxury here. My friends were a necessity. If ever I felt down or something came up I always knew I had a few people to call who would comfort or console me. Yet, these friends now live in different time zones and are not simply a call away anymore. They wake up as my day ends.
Therefore by putting yourself into this situation you become a lot more self-reliant or reliant on God. If I had a bad day I could just call up a friend and ask them to go for a drive or go to their place but here I feel like I have to face the issue straight on. I have to deal with it myself and there is no one to lean but God and yourself. At first it seemed daunting but when I tried to be alone and turn to God for help, I found it liberating. Why? Because people sometimes let you down or sometimes they just can’t be there the way you want them to but when you ask God for help then you know you’re in the right hands and whatever response you get you are satisfied with it because he never disappoints you.
When alone, I find that there is very little standing between you and God now. All the things that you generally learn on (your friends, family, music, Television) are either too far or inaccessible and so you cling with dear life onto the rope that hangs from the heavens.
There is also an immense amount of strength that comes from within when you try to deal with your issue alone. Maybe knowing that you can only rely on yourself forces that strength on you but the more you look for that strength within, the stronger your get.
Another challenge I deal with is making decisions. I am really bad at making decision ( in the sense that I am highly indecisive) and sometimes just wish someone would make all my decisions for me. As much as possible I get my friends to choose where to eat or what movie to watch because I just don’t like taking accountability. When I would have to make a decision back home I would call up a friend and weigh out the pros and cons and then call up another friend, have the same conversation and eventually just make a decision. I would also probably do it at the very last second I could. I delay as much as I can. Yet here, I don’t have those phone calls with 5 different friends and need to make my decisions completely alone.
People always tell me to listen to my heart when making decisions yet I found that my heart doesn’t speak that loud! Regarding my lifestyle, I like to push my physical and emotional limits because I feel like that is what makes you grow but I have to still make sure that I am safe in what I’m doing so it’s a constant push and pull within my system.
When I am completely alone I opt for safe over sorry and when I have company I tend to be a bit more adventurous because there are others to look out for me but always take calculated risks and without fail I can always hear the voices of my parents over everything. I also try to see if the step I am taking is bringing me closer to where I want to be in the future or taking me away from it. Most of the time small decisions lead up to more small decisions and in the bigger picture you took a massive decision. However cheesy this may sound I also try to evaluate if I am doing the right thing. If I am intending to do the right thing then I will never regret this decision. Also, generally when you are trying to do the right thing, chances are it’s not going to lead you to a dark dodgy alley where you might be risking your safety
“You have to risk going too far to discover how far you can really go.”- T.S Eliot
Do Not Underestimate Yourself
These are the 5 most prominent discoveries I have made about myself while flying solo. I am not saying you can’t make these discoveries when you are not alone but here you are forced to make them if you haven’t already. When living alone you can either soar to great heights or sink to great depths. But that’s your decision to make. Always remember that you are stronger than you think, much stronger. Try not to settle for anything less than the best of yourself.
Your remedy is within you – but you do not sense it.
Your sickness is within you – but you do not perceive it.
You presume that you are a small entity – whereas within you is concealed the vast world.
You are indeed that magnificent book – by whose alphabet the hidden becomes evident.
Therefore you have no needs beyond yourself.
Your essence and secrets are in you – if only you can reflect.
Imam Ali( a.s)