Something has changed. I am not sure exactly when it happened, and only in looking back can I see that it did. But there is no arguing it; things are different now than when I boarded that first plane to Port Au Prince. Back then I was young, naive, and full of adventure. I was all fired up – and ready to take on the needs of the people in one of the poorest nations, even if it meant that I had to sacrifice anything and everything of my own. I had just given up the majority of my life and possessions back in Canada, and nothing had ever felt more right. I had never been so sure of anything before.
That was three years ago.
It's been three years of power outages, bucket showers, sweaty nights, bad roads, no money, cockroaches, dirty diapers, screaming children, missing my family and friends, water shortages, mystery illnesses, security issues, too many deaths, and countless cultural frustrations that have brought me to my knees on a daily basis.
Living abroad is an amazing adventure, but it does comes with some baggage. And sometimes, the baggage fees are hidden. I began to realize that my life choice of being a humanitarian is a blessing... but it can also be a curse. No matter where I am in this world I will always be missing one of my families. I will always be longing for someone or something, and there will be many things I will have to miss out on and give up.
During my time here I have had friends and family pass away and I was unable to get to say that last, fully present, goodbye. I was unable to attend funerals, unable to get the closure I needed. Family members celebrate birthdays, or the whole family celebrates a holiday, and you’re not there because the ocean is really big, and you’re on the wrong side of it.
And you being to realize there are just some things facebook, texting, and skype cannot fix.
They say that living in developing nations such as Haiti can bring out the worst in people. I don't know if I fully agree with that, but let me tell you .. It is hard. It's not always rainbows and butterflies like some people assume back home. I don't have a luxurious life here that is spent every day on a beach and playing with my kids. It drives me absolutely insane when I have people telling me "I envy your life". No, no you do not. Take that back. If you only knew what came with it. It's much more than the happy smiling photos I post on facebook. It's much more than the beautiful beaches and mountains and waterfalls. Living here... It's indescribable. You are CONSTANTLY surrounded by suffering, poverty, disease, corruption. It doesn't go away. You can't just take a break from it. You fight every single day not to lose compassion. Not to go completely insane. The hurt becomes deep and it's hard to even meet people and learn their names as you become way too familiar with death and saying goodbye.
Yes, life in Haiti can bring out the dark side, it can be extremely difficult. But — what if that’s not such a bad thing? I mean, what if it doesn’t end there? What if all the stuff that surfaces is supposed to surface? What if the only way to know what’s inside your heart is for it to come out? And what if the lessons learned, and the difficulties faced forces you to dig deeper and see yourself in a new light and see life with a whole new perspective? What if you are forced to see what our media hides? Forced to learn about the WORLD in which YOU live in? Is that really so bad?
So maybe those multiple anxiety attacks, sleepless nights, grieving days, and breakdowns do actually have a purpose. Maybe knowing your weaknesses means you know yourself more intimately than you ever have before. Maybe these obstacles and frustrations will teach you lessons no professor or textbook ever could. Maybe you are exactly where you need to be, right at this moment. Maybe living overseas means becoming the person that you were created you to be.
Lately I have felt more burnt out than ever with having new kids and trying to transition them, having Shellson sick in the hospital and trying to pay that bill, having a newborn baby to love and provide for, figuring out how we are going to pay our rent, finishing up paperwork, and trying to fix things in the house that the kids have broken since I've been away. It's exhausting. I am constantly reminding myself- You followed that damn tug in your heart across oceans and continents, across countries and cultures. You knew this life wasn't going to be easy when you got into it. You came this far for a purpose, because you are meant to be here. And now that you are where you need to be, people are not going to leave you alone and without help. They never have. If your heart and passion brought you to this place, don’t you think it will continue to fight for what you came here for?
And maybe they’re right. Maybe living overseas will draw out all our bad stuff. There have definitely been days where it has drawn out the worst in me. But I no longer think that’s something to be afraid of — life with passion and purpose is not something to fear, it is something to embrace.
So today, if you find yourself at your breaking point, frustrated with the country you have chosen to be apart of, tired of the corruption and the lengthy delays of paperwork, transport, or literally trying to accomplish anything here. Remember that you were called to do this for a reason. Don't be afraid to seek help. Believe that you will find the strength to put yourself back together again. Because we are so much stronger than we believe. We are so much braver than we could ever imagine. And we are built to survive. You can do this.