Something that’s been hard for me to understand. We are a pretty impatient generation. I forget that things don’t just happen overnight. When you pair that with an anxious heart, you have a very impatient human being. But there’s validity in the fact that what I may think I want right now is not what I need right now at all. And so, I wait.
for the simplicity life can offer.
for a quiet night in where I can learn how to knit.
for the opportunity to start a new show on Netflix.
for being able to go out for a drink with my friends.
for a car and a parking spot that’s not far.
for the fact I can sit in my room in peace.
for not having to fear being displaced from my home.
for not being in an area where war is happening.
for not having to worry about my next meal.
for making it through the semester without giving up.
for getting paid extra by doing very little.
for a mom who helps me out when I’m struggling financially.
I know how to be positive. I try to take the time and appreciate the small things in my life. I love celebrating little triumphs, even if it’s finding $5 or completing something on my to-do list. When life is good, I’m good. But there are those seasons when life isn’t so good. In tough circumstances, I am neglectful, reclusive, and negative. I give up so easily, I don’t ask for help, and I get pretty ticked at God for not doing what I asked or wanted.
There are always going to be bad times where smiling, laughing, and rejoicing won’t feel right. Life is not catered to us. It’s important to smile now, laugh now, rejoice now, in the joys and simplicity of life. Take a moment and be thankful for the good things around you, in whatever situation you’re in. I’m working on it too.
Now, I know you may be reading this title thinking what on earth did you learn from Gossip Girl? If you are not familiar with the television series, it is centered on teenagers living it up in Manhattan’s Upper East Side, where there’s masquerade balls, endless dinner martinis, and the most scandalous hookups. Shallow, but entertaining to say the least.
However, today’s episode (and by today’s episode I mean one of the several I’ve binge watched today) taught me a good chunk about life. It was an episode set on Thanksgiving Day, and focused on the drama happening within the show’s main families, with short flashbacks to each family’s Thanksgiving experience the year prior. A year ago, the relationship of Blair Waldorf’s parents seemed to be just fine. Nate’s father was in good standing with his career, moving up in his position. Serena’s mom had gotten over her past love, living a single life, and Dan’s dad was content in his marriage. Fast forward 1 year later and Blair’s father left his wife for a European man, Dan’s dad cheated on his wife with Serena’s mother, and Nate’s father was arrested for embezzlement, became addicted to prescription drugs, and attempted suicide. Obviously, these events were put in the plot for theatrical affect, but they are unfortunate situations people do get themselves into. And these characters were adults — like grown mothers and fathers who seem like they have mastered the game of life.
The teenagers showed a lot of resentment towards their parents. They were upset about not knowing, disappointed in their role models, and simply shameful of the things their parents had done to affect their families. But at the end of the episode, each parent in some way became vulnerable, admitting their fears and failures to themselves and to their kids. And the kids loved them regardless; showing them that they were important and adored.
We have to love them regardless. We have to give them grace. It reminded me of that awestruck feeling we all had when we were like 10, that our parents were these earthly grownup gods who were perfect and all-knowing. But they’re human, and that’s actually impossible. Just because they got married and had kids doesn’t mean their life is together and neatly wrapped in a bow. They are no longer kids, but they make mistakes, they have low self-esteem, their relationships are not easy, and they have insecurities. They know how to show confidence and assurance, when in reality there may be feelings of uncertainty and worry. And we have to love them regardless. We have to understand that they are still growing, developing, and learning in this life just as we are. We shouldn’t expect them to be perfect, because they’re not.
Another Gossip Girl lesson I picked up on was how much can actually change in one year. With my birthday coming up in 2 weeks, I’ve realized this year has been one of my favorites; filled with self discovery, blossoming friendships, and endless challenges. Every year, I underestimate how different things are. I think about my past a lot, but it’s usually just blended together with the rest of my past. I don’t often look at my life as certain periods and seasons put together. I see the bigger, vaguer picture. A sweet friend of mine has inspired me to write down all the important things that happened to me in my 21st year; good and bad, successful and unsuccessful, awesome and crazy. I hope to be observant and grateful of changes, expected and unexpected, because life would be bland without them.
I encourage anyone to just take a moment every now and then to think about where you are in your season of life, and why that is. And don’t forget to give the people around you grace when they screw up. They are still figuring out this whole life thing, too.
My first night in Ghana was spent in the city of Accra, and the next day, I took a 9-hour bus ride to my aunt’s house in Berekum. We waited to get on the bus for about an hour, but in the heat, it felt like several. We only stopped once on the bus ride, so naturally my bladder felt like it would explode at any moment. When I finally got to use the bathroom, it was hidden deep in a dark alley. It was so insanitary that I thought I’d quite possibly die if I touched anything surrounding it. Eventually, we arrived in Berekum, and my aunt took very good care of me. She always made sure I had a full plate of food, heated up my shower water, washed all my clothes, and even gave me her room to stay in. I met her convent sisters, and they were all so loving and generous; wanting to make sure I was as comfortable as possible and had huge smiles waiting for me when I arrived. Although I had been traveling for a total of 2 days, exhausted, dirty, and jet lagged, I was hopeful for the weeks to come because of they way they welcomed me. I was certain I would enjoy every moment here and thought to myself, “I can get used to this”. However, that night made an interesting start to my stay. I couldn’t sleep because of the heat, but became so exhausted at 2 am that I ended up closing my eyes. After less than an hour of sleep, the roosters and dogs that inhabit Ghana kept me up all night with every sound you can imagine. With their howling, barking, and cuckooing, I stared at the ceiling for hours, wide-eyed, praying I’d go back to sleep. But then, a congregation of Muslims, who began their prayers and worship daily at 4:30 am, kept to routine and shouted all morning directly outside of my window. So I just lied in bed, angry and frustrated. But my aunt reminded me I wouldn’t be staying with her for the remainder of the trip. Rather, I would be moving into a hostel connected to the hospital I was to volunteer at, so that transportation would be easier. I would also have the opportunity to connect with other internationals that came to work in the hospital, so I excited to say the least! As long as I didn’t have to sleep with the roosters, I was all about it. I woke up in a pool of sweat, but was excited for my first day at the hospital. After being shown around the facilities, shaking hands with nearly every doctor and administrator, and meeting my two roommates from Germany, I got settled into my room. My aunt hugged me, wished me luck, and then left.
I looked into my room, which resembled the old miniscule dorms at school, and sighed. There was no air condition, no fan, and a dim bulb that did everything but provide light. I went into the bathroom and learned the water was not running. Instead, there was a waste bin filled with water, with some mysterious particles floating inside. This was to be my bathing and tooth brushing water. The floor was wet and dirty, along with the toilet, and it definitely did not smell like roses. There were numerous little ants hanging out on the sink, and there was no soap or trashcan. I dipped my washcloth and soap in a bucket of water, and grabbed another bucket to rinse off. As I poured the cold water down my back, a small lizard fell out and into the shower. I ran to the other bathroom freaking out, only to see a non-flushable toilet and massive cockroach next to it. I quickly retreated to my room to get dressed and lay down for a little; just to be sweating profusely again, but was soon was greeted by my roommates from Germany. They came together a week prior, so they were already well acquainted. They warned me beforehand they were not trying to be rude when speaking German instead of English, but it’s hard for them to explain when they don’t know the words. So a lot of our conversations included me just looking around. Eventually, they said they were going to the market in town and asked if I wanted to join. I opted to stay inside because I wanted to maybe go online and chat with some friends or family, but alas, there was no Wi-Fi, let alone a network. Then the electricity cut off and the kids next door started to shout. Rather than taking a nap, I just cried. I cried a lot.
I felt lonely and isolated. I quickly began to make a plan to complete my clinical hours as soon as possible so I could return to my aunt’s place, and eventually home. I still couldn’t believe I was in a foreign country, and started to feel the immensity of being alone. I so strongly wished that I had come with someone, or that I was maybe on the other side of America rather than on a totally different continent. Everything was unfamiliar and hard to understand. I was slowly realizing how much of a contrast living here was compared to my life in Delaware, and had no desire to keep going. My homesickness was growing, so I called my mom. Her encouragement and presence helped me calm down a lot, but as soon as I hung up and was reminded of how far away she was, I became saddened again. In the hospital, I got a lot of stares – maybe because I was wearing Nike sneakers, or because I said “like” a lot. Or maybe because I can only speak English, and everyone else speaks Twi (their native language). I got teased because of words I said differently or embarrassed when I couldn’t understand people through their accent. I wasn’t sleeping partially because of the heat, but also because of the anxiety of how I’d make it for 3 weeks.
All week, I kept asking myself why did I come here? Why did I forgo a month off from school with friends who live next door to me to spend time in an underdeveloped country? Why did I subject myself to uncomfortable taxi rides, innumerable mosquitoes, and excessive heat? Why did I travel halfway across the world all by myself? I didn’t know any of these things would happen. Had I known things would go this way, I may have thought twice about coming. But that is the cool thing about uncertainty; not knowing what is going happen causes you to trust in something outside of yourself, and for me that has been my faith.
I wasn’t given a how-to manual on how to live here, I kind of just showed up and trusted God would take care of me. For a little while, I thought he forgot about me, because of the loneliness I was feeling. But I’ve made some sweet friends in the pediatric and surgical ward at the hospital, who want to know absolutely every detail of my life in America. They have beautiful smiles and big dreams; I wish I could bring them home with me. I’ve grown to know the ladies from Germany very well, feeling a lot more included in their conversations than before. They even invited me to sightsee with them in the city, along with their professor. We spent Saturday visiting museums, buying cultural items, and eating delicious food. They cared for me so well and it was nice to see outside of this small town. I’ve never missed a meal because the people here are fantastic cooks. I have a bed to sleep in, I have survived the 110 mph bumper to bumper taxi rides, I have drinking water, I haven’t been bitten by mosquitoes (yet), I was not harmed by that lizard or cockroach, I have been checked on every single day multiple times a day, I have not been forgotten.
I know God has me in Ghana because in America, we knowingly and unknowingly live in ignorance. We have more than we need, and that in abundance. So many things we have, we take for granted. When situations happen outside of our confines, especially in other countries, and they do not directly bother us, we don’t concern ourselves. And even when we do with curiosity, we would most likely choose not to experience it. It has been good for me to be out of my comfort zone, and to learn so much about the comfort zones of the people here. The people of Berekum, Ghana deal with on a regular basis what I consider struggling, and it is not foreign to them. I can only imagine how my mom might have felt moving from Sierra Leone to Brooklyn, New York by herself at a young age.
My eyes have been opened a lot here in the past 7 days. It’s been a challenging and interesting week, and I’m currently trying to rid off the ants that have found their way in my t-shirts… but with time, patience, and changing my perspective, I’m making the most out of my situations, and know things will only get better!
Disclaimer: shortly after writing this post, I got bit by a mosquito.
Today, I volunteered with the organization Lori’s Hands to assist a man with a chronic neurological disease. His name was Dave, and what he has is called spinocerebellar ataxia. It’s a condition characterized by the progressive problems with movement. It causes problems with one’s coordination and balance, and impairs their speech and swallowing ability. The muscles in the body cramp and stiffen, and the sensation in the hands and body decrease. It weakens eye movement, and reduces the ability to remember and process information. Over time, a person can develop numbness or tingling in the arms and legs, and progressive loss of vision.
My group arrived at Dave’s house, ready to throw down in the kitchen, because apparently that’s what he usually asks for. But instead, he asked us to help sort out his closet. He wanted us to separate his clothes into what he wanted, and what was going to Goodwill. So we went through the massive pile of clothes lying on the floor in his closet. There had to have been over 40 shirts, pants, belts, and hoodies. As we lifted each item up in a show-and-tell fashion, we patted off the collection of dust they all had, and pointed out the good things in each so Dave could keep more clothes. As we sorted through, he started to share his preferences. He only wanted shirts with pockets, so he wouldn’t lose his call bell. He didn’t like the over sized sweaters or shirts because he lost a lot of weight. The button down shirts weren’t appealing because they weren’t his style. He wanted to keep his marathon apparel because it was sentimental, and his dress pants for any possible special occasions, such as the Lori’s Hand’s banquet coming up. Soon, my eyes began to water.
Dave had a smile on his face the whole time. Gosh. No matter what he said, there was the sound of joy in his voice. Often times it was difficult to hear his full sentence, but he spoke so sweetly. He bumped into every wall nearly 10 times, because the remote to his mobile wheelchair was tough to control. But he thought it was funny. He enjoyed telling us the story behind all of the pictures in his house. He met Bill Nye the science guy, biked 30 miles in a race, and won a Senior Olympics award.
All we did was organize clothes. We didn’t give him pills or give him a bath or take his blood pressure. We sorted out clothes. And immediately I felt so small. I can’t really describe how I felt, but every time I was ever angry or jealous or ungrateful or pitiful about something in my life, it vanished in that moment. The time we got to spend with Dave felt so much bigger than life. Serving him didn’t feel like a job or task any more, it felt like what I was meant to be doing.
I have the ability to drive a car, walk down the street, and run up the stairs if I please. I have all five senses, and I wake up each morning with the privilege of being able to use them to their fullest abilities, and for these things, I’m grateful. But to be in the presence of someone who can no longer do half as much as I can, and to witness how much life still seeps through him, is inspiring.
Dave is writing a book about the intricacies of stem cell research, and is on his 4th chapter. He’s still living his life the best way he can, and hasn’t let his disease make him unstoppable. And for people like him, I’d be willing to do anything for.
I’ve always been the active listener, the good friend, the question-asker, the supporter, the advice giver. I’ve always been the one who will almost never interrupt or interject because to me that is rude, and the other person is important. I’ve always been a mystery to others, because I want to know so much about them and never offer the chance for them to hear about me. I’ve always been the girl who knows everything about everyone, but people know very few things about me.
And I never really thought of these traits as something to fix, or something to be proud of. I just accepted them as a part of me, knowing that’s just who I am and that it makes me unique.
But love has shown me other wise. Love has shown me that when people really care for you, they want to hear everything you have to say. Love has shown me that when you are a human, and you are a creation of God, you are worthy and valued. Love has shown me that my words carry weight, and should never be put on the back burner.
It’s been a common theme that in almost every relationship I’ve had, whether it be with a boss, co-worker, a close friend, or colleague, they want to hear more from me. They feel like they’re talking too much, and haven’t heard a word from me. They think that I look like I have something good to say, but I don’t say it. They think there’s so much more to me; that I’m a mystery. I use the excuse of being an introvert or reserved, and it’s usually understood. But personality is not black and white. We can’t be divided into introverts and extroverts because life would be all too boring, and humans are too complex to be one or the other.
The truth is that I’m not loving myself enough. I don’t think what I have to say is important all the time. I do think I’ve had plenty of exciting moments in my life, but I don’t think people will feel the same way. I say I think of others before I think of myself, which is such a selfless thing to do, so of course I pat myself on the back. But the truth is, I don’t think of myself first enough. I don’t see myself the way God sees me, and that just sucks.
And I feel bad. I feel like I’ve sold people short. I hated high school because the popular people were the only ones who really mattered. People were mean and would come at the easiest target: someone who is quiet and most likely will not argue back. But had I loved myself more I might’ve had a different experience.
I have a 13 year old sister who is in high school now, & she means the world to me. I see myself in her every single day. She has picked up so many of my traits and gosh. I would hate for the awesomeness she has to offer to not be shown. It is so draining to only love others and not yourself. So I sent her this note:
“I just want to let know that you should really love yourself for who you are. You are worthy and beautiful not because of the number of likes or comments you might get on Instagram or any network, but you are worthy and beautiful because you are Arielle and because God handmade you. And the words that you say have a lot of meaning. They matter, and so when you talk to someone and there’s an awkward silence or a break, don’t ask a question about themselves (unless you really want to know), because you don’t think they want to hear what you have to say. Talk about yourself. Share a funny story. Talk about something you love talking about, whether it’s about a character in a book or this awesome dancer on So You Think You Can Dance or Justin Bieber or this new outfit you bought. Don’t ever think that what you say isn’t important, because the people who care about & love you would not carry a conversation with you if they didn’t want to hear what you have to say. Don’t become too wrapped up in being a great listener or asking good questions. You’re an interesting person and have so much to offer and are so wise for someone your age and you have great opinions and ideas and I think you should embrace that. There will always be someone who’s faster, or prettier, or smarter, but there will never ever ever be another you, and you should love yourself for that.”
Although that was for my sister, I think it was very much for me too. And so in future conversations if I kindly interrupt, or go on a random tangent, or talk a lot more than I usually do, know that I’m just on the trail of trying to love myself better.
August 11th, 2014. Top 5 worst days of my life. My parents are away in Georgia, I’m moving back into college after living at home for a year, and the reality of my good friend Phil being killed in a car accident the day before decided to finally hit me.
Rewind to August 9th, 2014. Had such a fun time at our friend Denzel’s baby shower. His sister happens to be one of my best friends from high school. She goes to school over an hour away from us, so it was great seeing her and her family. The food was so SO good and Denzel was being his usual hilarious, ratchet self, and we got to catch up with high school friends. Phil, his best friend, shows up and immediately we all start cracking up. He looked high, which he probably was, but we didn’t care, we missed him so much! Haven’t got the chance to hang out since after high school graduation, so getting to catch up with him and his comedy was the best thing ever.
Fast forward back to August 11th, 2014. I’d been crying all morning. I didn’t want to leave my family. If anything, I needed them at that time. I didn’t want to live on campus. I didn’t want to train for a job, because I knew I would be surrounded by people that I didn’t know. How is it that someone I was just cracking jokes with could no longer be here? He wasn’t even driving, he didn’t do anything to deserve this. Are you kidding me, God? He’s seriously gone? I saw him two days ago HOW IS HE GONE. Just crying, sobbing, screaming. My siblings hugging and caressing me from all directions, trying to console me as I drive us to iHop for breakfast. I’m sure it was delicious, but I don’t remember, I lost my appetite.
Super fast forward to the 2nd week of school, September 8th, 2014. Ate something contaminated a few days prior and cannot sleep because the pain in my stomach is so bad. Mom was working so I spent the night in the student health center (if you go to the University of Delaware, you know it’s a useless place). I had never in my life felt pain as bad as I did that night. Constantly wrenching in the bed, on the floor, in the bathroom. God knows what coming out of my body on both ends. I thought I was going to die. I thought that every ounce of liquid that was in me would leave my body and dehydrate me. I was so frustrated that I didn’t know what was wrong. I couldn’t sleep, I wasn’t allowed to eat, and no one there knew what to do with me. Even with the nurses best care and presence, I had never felt more confused and alone.
Couple of days later, my mom takes me to the hospital after my pain only gets worse. All the drugs I learn about in my pharmacology course actually became real, as my pain subsided and drowsiness came over me. Turns out I had an E. Coli infection that inflamed most of my digestive system, causing colitis. Lasted for 8 days, and took about a week for me to recover and get back to normal college student speed.
A couple days later, I read an article about a kindergartener who died that day because of an E. coli infection via her turkey sandwich.
And I’m alive?
Fast forward to now, December 11th, 2014. Just took my last final and can officially begin my real junior courses next semester! Lost my way last year and unfortunately had to withdraw from one of the hardest nursing classes here, and was asked to leave an internship I got. But after several hot cocoas, long days, missed events, and cramped hands, I re-took the class and gracefully passed. I even get to return to my internship! Finished my 1st semester as a resident assistant also, which is such an accomplishment for someone as worry some as myself. Being handed this job was such a blessing, but it can be stressful at times. Having to be the head honcho on a floor of college students, when you really just want them to understand you are exactly like them, creates a lot of pressure. Pressure to be a good role model, pressure to be likable, but also pressure to do what needs to be done!
All of this reflection, just to say that I am truly grateful to be blessed in the way that I am. This was just a small glimpse into my semester, but now that it’s come to an end I can’t believe I made it. The fact that I made it out of the hospital, the fact that despite my friend’s death, I still found joy in the relationships I have, the fact that all pain I’ve ever felt has been temporary, and that regardless of what happens in my life, God is still good. There was bitterness and negligence towards Him for awhile because I thought He had forgotten about me. I thought everything I’d been through was my own doing. But God seriously loves me more in a
second moment than any one could ever in a lifetime. It took a rough semester for me to finally understand that, but I’m going to hold on tightly to that truth and carry it with me as I continue on!