I feel like a different person. I believe I am one.
A lot can happen in six months. That’s always true, everywhere.
But when what happens is completely new and foreign and more intense than anything you’ve known before, the scope, the importance, the affect are all magnified.
I have now been in Mokhotlong for slightly more than six months. Half a year. Roughly 180 days. A period of time that seems to have gone by in the blink of an eye, but one I can also sift through endlessly, recalling more deeply-imprinted memories, more wrenching emotions, than I ever could have imagined prior.
I tend to analyze periods of time in my life the same way I analyze everything else – scoring them, comparing them, holding them up against my expectations. But that doesn’t really work with these last six months. They are different, almost illusory.
How do these past months score? The adjectives I would use to describe them seem contradictory in my head. They have been amazing, disturbing, shocking, uplifting, frustrating and remarkable. How will I respond to those who ask me about my time here? Yes, it was an amazing experience, but then there were also babies dying, and disease, and poverty, and terrible injustice…10 out of 10 on the amazing scale…15 out of 10 on the sadness scale…
How do these past months compare? They don’t. They are in a league of their own. My life here seems detached from the rest of my life. Parallel. I worry when I return it will be like they never existed. A short stint in Never Never Land. A dream to lurch out of, awake and sweating, the visions fleeting and rapidly being lost despite a furrowed brow to remember in the dark.
How do these past months hold up against my expectations? They neither match them nor exceed them. All expectations on coming to a place like this are simply misguided. The immensity of the experience just isn’t something you can predict. You see a line into the future, and then you make an abrupt turn into reality…
I wonder how this experience will shape who I am the rest of my life.
I will never think of death the same way. I will never think of life the same way either. I don’t think I will ever feel sorry for myself again, but who knows?
I’ve definitely grown here. I think I am a bit less impetuous and a bit calmer. You can’t hold a dead infant in your arms and remain the same, or think you are impervious to pain, or think your youth is invincible, or think it doesn’t matter if you help other people or not.
In the blink of an eye I feel years older. My entire worldview has changed. I feel a deep sense of privilege for having been afforded the opportunity, relatively early in my life, to have this experience. I wonder what I will do with it moving forward.
Here’s to another six months.
The TTLF Fellow is a representative of the North American organisation The Tiny Lives Foundation. Based for one year in Mokhotlong, Lesotho, the TTLF Fellow serves in an administrative support capacity for the Basotho charity TTL.