Eight Months Later
Eight months ago I wrote myself a letter.
Since then, the letter has been residing in Scotland while I was here in India, and so I've had no access to it since the night eight months ago when I sealed it up and handed it over. That was, until it was returned to me yesterday with a bottle of IrnBru.
I wrote the letter simply because I was advised to write it, and I would never have realised the value of writing to your future self otherwise. So often I craft letters to my younger self, full of lessons learned and mistakes to avoid and don't do this or thats. I failed to realise that perhaps my younger self might also be able to teach me a few things as well.
Honestly? This letter came at the perfect time. I've been a little overwhelmed by all I'm doing recently, and when a reminder came from the person whose intuition and advice I'm inclined to believe more than anyones - my own - telling me to keep my chin up and stop worrying and get back to it; I can't explain how much I needed to read that letter.
See, India is hard. Harder than I was anticipating, and amazing at the same time. I'm learning so much, growing so much, but in such a way that I'm left realising how much more I've got to learn, how much more growing I've still got to do. As you will read in the following excerpts from my letter to myself, I was very hopeful about this experience eight months ago. I knew so little about what the next eight months would hold.
Yet, when you begin doing charity work, you start to realise something that just about anyone who has ever volunteered will come to realise: it is never enough.
There is always more to do, or a more effective way of doing it. There is always a bigger issue or someone in more need or someone less selfish able to do the giving. The problems are always deeper than originally thought, much more complicated, and require huge thinking shifts to occur to be properly solved.
What can I do? Who am I to be helping? Is this good or is this just making the problem worse? You realise that you are so small compared to the problems of the world. You grapple with the social responsibility of your actions. You wonder if what you are doing is worth it.
I’m nearly halfway through the year I promised to spend here. That sentence alone will bring me praise. Someone will read this and write to me and tell me how amazing the work I’m doing is, and I won’t pretend that it doesn’t make me feel good. I get letters from little children saying I inspire them and my family are never tired of telling me how proud they are.
I have struggled on this trip, more than before, with the question of if what I am doing is truly helping others, or if it is self-serving. I know that it is both, logically, as most actions we partake in are. What are the long-term effects? Are there meant to be long-term effects? I am not solving the world hunger issue, or helping fight climate change or poverty. I am trying to heal with the love and self-awareness I have.Part of my struggle is learning how much deeper the problem is. What needs to happen is checks and balances, a true and honest look into the work we, and I, do to try and make the world better.
It is too easy to see all of the problems and say that there is nothing we can do, or nothing effective enough, or nothing long-lasting enough. I called my best friend when I was feeling really sad about India and all the people who still need help and I said: “Maybe I should just come home. Maybe I’m not doing enough good here.” She told me what I already knew in my heart. She told me that all I can do is try, and that trying is so much more than what too many do, which is to turn a blind eye.
Today I will spend my day teaching English, something that when people find out my age, 18, they question if I'm qualified to be doing. It's true, I left high school last year and I have never worked in this capacity before. Sometimes I am nervous. I am nervous that I won’t say anything useful, that I won’t be a good teacher, that my students will be uninterested and learn nothing. I am scared. I am hesitant. But this is what I have learned:
1. You can never know the impact you have on someone, so you might as well try.
2. You can never know how lives will be changed because of your actions, so just go for it.
3. You can never know how the inspiration of what you are doing can inspire others to try.
These past eight months have been months of trying my best, of adopting a new culture, of finding friends in foreign cities, of calling India my home. Eight months of restlessness, of burning my lips in the morning on chai, of finding my way, of early rises and late nights. Eight months of growing, of being more than I ever thought I could be. Eight months of being the hero of my own story. Eight months of being entirely honest, at least a little bit - I’m still so deeply in love with my little stories that I might never fully recover.
Eight months of testing my confidence, of living in tragedies and wishing for a happy end. Eight months of searching for meaning and finding something entirely else. Eight months of accepting that being messy and raw and complicated is nothing to be ashamed of.
Eight months of leaving and coming back home with a bursting heart full of happiness in my chest and making so many memories to be nostalgic about someday. Eight months of achieving childhood dreams, of preferring simplicity over complexity and accepting that being loved and being understood aren’t contradictory. Eight months of being courageous and scared at the same time, of learning new languages, of an overwhelming hunger for beauty and knowledge and truth.
Eight months of accepting that the world offers many questions, but sometimes, there’s just no answer. Eight months of living on my own and learning to let other people breathe and live and become. Eight months of laughing away dark and gloomy days and walking hand in hand with happiness on bright summer days in Hyderabad, in Goa, in India. Eight months of going bare faced and seeing irony and losing faith in mankind more than once. Eight months of playing head or tail with my future. Eight months of sentimental goodbyes at the airport and waiting all alone at train stations for people who won’t come back.Eight months of falling asleep in no one else's arms and feeling okay for the first time in a long while.
The cycle is a beautiful one. All we can do is try. All we can do is find our unique gift and give it freely. I'm young, certainly, but I am also good at English and pretty good at teaching it. It might not help everyone. It might not solve the world’s problems. I may not be able to stop world hunger or help all of those in need. I may not have a gift that everyone needs to receive. But I will still give it. I will still give it. No, the actions we take are rarely enough. I will continue to question these experiences. It will never be enough, but it is something and I would take something over nothing any day.