Over five years ago, I made a decision that led me to the most exciting, challenging, and rewarding adventure I’d ever taken.
Thinking back on that time feels like remembering an old friend. She was young, shy, naïve, and courageous yet terrified. She had traveled before, but never that far. She’d been away from home, but never for such lengths. She simultaneously knew what to expect and had no clue what she was getting into.
She documented that adventure as her “next chapter” thinking her audience was the world. It’s funny to look back at the posts and realize I am just as much a stranger to that world of adventure as the blog followers who lived vicariously through me. A lot has changed in the last five years.
- Lived and worked in Uganda
- Moved back to the US
- Got a job in state government
- Became an Aunt
- Became a Godmother
- Moved to a new city
- Got married
- Got a cat, named her Dottie
Big things, lots of change.
Now I read these posts and think fondly of my former self. I would not have guessed that I’d be where I am, but reflecting on the steps I’ve taken, I see this is exactly where I was meant to go.
My next move? A reunion tour for old time’s sake. I’m returning to Uganda. Tomorrow.
It seemed appropriate that with my return I should dust off the old blog and open a new chapter.
This trip will be brief and it will be different in almost every way.
First, I’m a married woman now. Sure, I’m still with the same man from five years ago, but we have since stood in front of God and all our loved ones and vowed to be together forever. It feels different to travel abroad as a married woman.
This time, I have a real job. I didn’t raise money for travel. I actually used my own paycheck(s) to purchase my travel expenses! Also of note, the act of spending my own money and being financially independent brings me both joy and pride.
I’m older. A career, marriage, five years and a load of responsibility can do a lot to a person. My husband and I often catch ourselves doing something or making some decision and we’ll say, “Oh. It happened again. We’re being grownups!” For example, this fall we’ve actually been watching the presidential debates and then reading all the post-debate coverage and discussing our thoughts. The version of me last election skimmed the transcript of one debate then read a few headlines to gleam who “won.” I had less of a concept of what it means to act with a vote and no concept about the impact of local politics. Of course, I assume the transformation into adulthood will only be complete when we stop referring to ourselves as “grownups.”
I’m more cynical these days too. I question people’s motives. I hesitate before giving my trust. I’ve been burned and the naïve part of me was lost in that damage.
However, I now have a greater sense of self. This trip, I’m no longer seeking a better understanding of “who I am.” I just want to reconnect with friends I haven’t seen in four years. I’m not selfishly expecting them to “teach me” or show me humility. I will gladly spend the entire time sitting with a friend and drinking tea on a step while enjoying each other’s company.
Of course, I can’t just sit still. I plan on learning from my Ugandan colleagues about their current health program needs. After we determine their priorities, we will work together to develop a plan for how we can develop new sustainable programs. One of the things I can’t wait to explore is how I’ll be able to apply my new public health lens to our program development.
Keep in touch and I’ll keep you tuned in to my next chapter. This one will be exciting, over in a flash, and most likely emotional.