Hello and WELCOME! You are currently reading the inaugural blog post of a period of my life that is sure to be an adventure. As you most likely know, given that you have somehow found your way here, I am going to be spending the next year, August 2010-August 2011, serving as a Young Adult Volunteer in Kerala, India. I hope that you will periodically grace this page with your presence, experience this journey with me vicariously, and offer your thoughts, advice, comments, support, etc. along the way.
I’d like to begin by posing a question, the very same one that is asked in a well-known song from one of my favorite musicals, Rent: “How do you measure a year?”
A year’s a long time, you know. To me, at least. Although I guess as we get older, what’s considered a ‘big’ amount of time gradually increases. I recall my freshman year at FSU, when I was preparing to study abroad in Panama for a semester. In that four-years-younger mind of mine, a semester, 4 months, was a huge amount of time to be away. In the weeks prior to my departure, I would worriedly exclaim, ‘I’m leaving soon, for 4 months! That’s a third of a YEAR!! Do you know how long that is??? A YEAR, divided by THREE!” And yet, both of my semesters in Panama—those ‘third-of-a-year!’s—flew by.
I think of adult friends who, upon reflecting on their lives, have been able to speak of experiences using phrases like ‘in my thirties and forties’, or, ‘I spent about 15 years working…’. What can I refer to in my life using that language, in terms of decades? What have I done for the past fifteen years? Fifteen years ago I was 7 and probably still wondering how something so pretty as a dandelion could be considered a weed.
Perhaps this upcoming year of service will one day seem like it transpired in the blink of an eye. I expect that the days and weeks will at times race by, although I also know there will be times they will drag. Truthfully, I don’t know what to expect at all. What I do know, however, is that my time in India will forever change me; my outlook on and goals in life; the lens through which I view all people and things. I am incredibly sad to say goodbye to friends and family, and to my beautiful person-dog, Kiba, but I am heartened by Frederick Buchener’s words: “You can kiss your family and friends goodbye and put miles between you, but at the same time you carry them with you in your heart, your mind, your stomach, because you do not just live in a world but a world lives in you.”
I could waste time being sad about the things I will miss out on this year: Janey’s 18th birthday and high school graduation, Jessica’s wedding, the birth of Katie’s baby girl, and a host of other moments in the lives of my loved ones, both tangible and intangible, big and small. But I think the word that transforms my sadness into something totally opposite—something that can only be described as great happiness and excitement—is gratitude. Gratitude for the love of the friends and family I’m leaving behind; gratitude for the people I will meet and serve along the way; gratitude for this opportunity and all those who have helped make it a reality.
How do you measure a year?
Measure in love.