01 October 2013

no seriously, why are you doing this?

It has been so much more difficult telling family, friends, and co-workers our news (that we are moving to Africa) than I thought it would be. The majority of people have had overwhelmingly amazing responses to it. Most of my favorite interactions have been from people we barely know. The difficulty lies in the questions and reactions that come after the initial announcement by either Michael or myself, consisting of something along the lines of, "Hey, we're leaving our jobs and moving to Africa."

We have received every type of comment across the spectrum, from "That's incredible!" to "You're leaving good paying jobs to go to Africa?" Here's just a sampling of the responses we've heard:

- "Are you going to be like, missionaries, or something?"

- "Hey, I have a friend in Kazakhstan right now! She loves it!"*

- "So you're like, leaving leaving?"

- "Wow, that is so noble."

- "Is this a church thing?"

- "I have a missionary friend in Indonesia. Here's her contact information."*

*Note: Indonesia and Kazakhstan are nowhere near Tanzania yet we know people are incredibly well-intentioned, and just want to help in whatever way possible. And if hooking us up with their friend who does completely different work on another continent is help, we'll take it.

Still no sign of Indonesia or Kazakhstan.

Looking back, I was naive as to what people's responses would be. In other words, I thought they would completely understand me upon making my announcement. I thought all of the mental puzzle pieces would fall together in their brains and I wouldn't have to explain myself further. Kind of like when I tell fellow Boston College alumni that I am pining for White Mountain Creamery - they get it. Or when I let friends in Dallas know I just won't drive out to the suburbs - their faces show complete comprehension. 

The magic of White Mountain Creamery.
But with this? This has been So. Much. Explanation.

And the problem? I really don't have an explanation. I mean, I do have an explanation but it's long and complicated and might sound boring to someone who's not Michael or my mom. It's not an easy explanation that wraps itself up with pretty paper and a nice little bow.

Yet in thinking about this situation, I've been wondering, does anyone have a simple explanation to a very personal decision in their life? I ask you, dear reader, to consider your explanation if I were to ask you, "Why are you doing what you're doing right now? Why have you chosen this path on which you currently walk?" Your answer would likely not be straightforward, no? It would be a mix of times, events, and relationships, difficult to boil down into one succinct message. It might be something like, "Hmm, well, when I was growing up, we had a family friend who did this type of work that I always admired. So I chose the same school as my family friend. But then, about two years in to my education, I realized that the type of work wasn't suited to me, and I was going through a weird phase and dating a guy totally not good for me. So I ended up with this random degree. And when I graduated, I didn't want to do that work either. Feeling frustrated, I took a road trip with some college friends and met this guy at a cafe who told me I could be whoever I wanted to be! So I moved to Austin and I now own a food truck."

Best name ever.

Or something like that. And even that wouldn't cover it!

What I'm trying to say is, Michael and I are the same. We're the same as you. (Well, obviously, I'm speaking a bit here for Michael but I'll make sure he proofreads this post.) We don't have one moment where the heavens opened up and Someone shone down on us and said, "YOU WILL GO TO AFRICA." I didn't grow up drawing pictures of being out in the Serengeti with elephants. (I actually drew pictures of wanting to be a teacher. But I think that was just because I was a bossy child and the idea of having a career in which I bossed others around was attractive to me.) The reasons we are going to Africa are varied and nuanced and are not something we can wrap up in a 30-second sound bite.

Our new grown-up job location.

A few things I do know: We are not noble. I am not brave. This is not something we decided to do on a spur-of-the-moment fling. And it's not an idea that came out of boredom or dissatisfaction with life in America or a desire to get away from society. All I can tell you is that in my heart of hearts, in the very fiber of my being, I know I am on the right path. I feel I am being pushed towards this change with a strong momentum, a momentum which I've only felt a couple of times in my life, when I knew I was afraid of what was coming and yet, I didn't want to stop it, even when it was in my power to do so. We feel so at peace with this, whatever "this" is.

And seriously, I'm sure we have no idea what "this" is.

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