Sometimes drastic changes are the most necessary ones required to alter our lives for the better. Although, making decisions that will indefinitely change your heart, future and mentality are never straightforward or for the faint of heart. They will not be effortless. They require sacrifice and courage. And they result in emotional growing pains and mental stretch marks.
When I was younger, it felt like my life was falling apart before it even began. I was working multiple jobs, dropping out of college, and watching my mother slowly kill herself.
I was living in my boyfriend’s basement and confused about every aspect of who I was and what I needed out of this planet. Feeling predominantly exhausted, drained, and on the verge of hopelessness, in a constant search for more fulfillment than the everyday rat race of first world life; I chose to leave. It had always been a dream in the back of my mind to visit Nepal.
Most people harbor a romantic, nomadic vision of withering away in the Himalayas. Many years ago a close family friend of mine had began building a school with two other men out in a remote village of the western Nepali region.
He would visit home sporadically, always with an open heart and a mouth dripping stories. His passion and liveliness left a deep spiritual imprint upon me. Could I ever attain that sense of bliss? I wanted to know what it felt like to be this uninhibited and free. So I ran away. I bought a ticket to Kathmandu, Nepal and I ended up never looking back.
The first few days entering this petite, mystical land were challenging, to put it lightly. I had never in my life visited a third world country. On a large scale, there were highly evident issues. The lack of infrastructure. The crumbling roads. The overpacked buses. The homelessness, helplessness, and children running rampant throughout the street. No mothers, fathers, food or care.
Culture shock had set in, and my mind was doing backflips. And on a small scale, there were more problems than numbers I knew. Between the lack of feminine approval, lack of choice in clothing and overall respect, I was disenchanted.
It was difficult for a young, open minded individual such as myself to see this much change and find a reasoning behind it. I felt so naive. I had signed up for a volunteering program at my friend’s school, Maya Universe Academy, which was located six hours away from the capital.
And although my brain was bursting with frightening realizations, I couldn’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of compassion from the people around me. Every Nepali person who helped me reach my destination was extroverted, smiling, and full of questions.
They helped me with every fiber of their being, and wanted not a single grain of sand in return. It was a personality I had found so rarely in my own country, and I immediately fawned for this giving mentality.
After a six hour bus ride and another twenty five minute bus ride up into the village, I had finally reached my new home. The school was located in the hills, covered by jungle brush and beautiful terraced landscapes.
There were never ending mountainous views surrounding every inch of land, and the air was misty every morning. It was winter time and I was awestruck with everything possible.
The first few weeks were nothing but adjustment. Learning how to eat with my hands, go to the bathroom squatting and accepting the fact that cold showers were the norm.
Carrying water from the nearby tap became a meditative practice, and learning how to work with children was my daily adventure.
I had never taught before. But teaching gave me a sense of usefulness that I hadn’t encountered in my life. And as I became a better teacher, I became an even better friend to the children I was working with.
As the months went on, I became close with the students that boarded at the school. We ate three meals a day together, went swimming on the weekends and planned daily games and activities.
And once the trust set in, they began to tell me about their lives. I could spend hours and books describing the horrors, pains and indescribable struggle a majority of them had faced.
The truth is though, none of them identify with their issues. All of the children I lived with considered themselves individuals that had persevered throughout their challenges.
And this sense of responsibility, strength, and maturity struck my heart. I was supposed to stay for three months. That is, what I had paid for and signed up for. But on the week leading up to my departure, I decided against it. Ditching my flight and beginning a new chapter was the turning point in my story.
There was more to be done. These children deserve the world and beyond. Maybe I wasn’t the perfect person, and maybe I wasn’t the perfect teacher, but I was willing to give up everything.
Their stories and ambitions had evolved my insides. I wanted nothing but to help them with everything I had the capability of accomplishing.
They had confided in me from the start that they had wanted to attain a sense of structure. They wanted a teacher who would be committed for the long term.
Understandably sick of the broken promises and disappointment, I decided to stay for the long run. I told the children my plan, and although I knew they didn’t believe me, I couldn’t wait to prove them wrong.
Five months of being home and working on a farm was certainly no cake walk, but the memories and internal photographs eating at my heart kept me lively. I thought about all of the people I had met from all over the world during my first travel.
I thought about our adventures together through my favorite country. I remembered all of the laughs and nights spent dancing with my students. They befriended me in such a natural manner that it felt as though I was home from the beginning.
My birth home was where I came to be most of my life, but my new home was the place where I was becoming. I longed for the sense of constant flourishing stimulation. I was lonely, but I was full of an untouchable love. And once the time had come, ecstatic was an understatement for my sentiment.
Coming home again to Nepal was another adjustment, but not for the same reasons. It was the shedding of a painful past. It was the settling of self. And it was the seed that was beginning to feel rain. But the moment I saw my students again, I knew I had made the right decision. They were thrilled that I had meant what I had said.
Now that I have no agenda of leaving, our days together feel infinite. We never have pressure in regards of what we need to accomplish within a given time frame. So the time spent together is both successful and silly. We’re always sure to be doing something, whether it be making art, music or taking care of the environment.
Together we have created three after school clubs, all which focus on separate subjects. Art Club focuses on learning how to draw. We practice portraits, landscapes, and color theory.
In Music Class I’m teaching the children who want to learn guitar basic chords and scales, and showing them how to learn their favorite songs as well.
In Green Team we focus on collecting nearby garbage and turning it into reusable materials. Our latest business venture is creating sandals and sitting mats out of plastic waste. When we finish, the children will build a raft out of water bottles and play with it in the nearby river.
I never wanted to leave my friends and family, but I did want to attain a pure sense of happiness. And in this extreme trade off, I have found a love so indescribable that no matter what happens to me, will rock me to my core.
I know the world is a big place, but once you leave home, it becomes microscopic. Planes start to feel like trains and buses start to feel like a walk down the road. The hugs you miss melt right into your skin when you find them again, and the years seem like days.
Catching up with the ones you adore isn’t bitter, in fact, most times it feels like you haven’t missed a beat. I want to challenge the notion that running away from your problems is never the solution.
Running away from your problems is, during drastic moments of life’s bitter turmoil, the healthiest option. Running away from your problems allows you to become utterly hopeless and naive.
It forces challenge and adaptability, which can be difficult to find in a familiar abode. Finding a new den is sometimes akin to finding a new classroom, and the roots and lessons you attain will help you bloom indefinitely.
Written by Matisse.
Thanks for reading!
Erik Christian Johnson is a full-time blogger, self-development advocate, and full-time network marketing Entrepreneur.
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