What’s Next

I’ve been a little distracted lately. Big things have been happening and I haven’t had the energy to turn those experiences into blog posts, so I will save time by simply bullet-pointing some highlights.

  • I helped plan a vocational retreat for Voices of Youth.
  • I was a judge for Colegio Peruano Japones’s school-wide singing competition. (Because I am clearly appropriate for such a position.)
  • I got into college.
  • I decided where to go to college.
  • Then proceeded to make goal map of where I want to go in life.

Essentially all of the things on that list were inspired by events that occurred during the vocational retreat. (Being a judge at CPJ’s singing competition was not on my newly procured goal map and I am fairly certain it shouldn’t be on anyone’s.) Earlier this month, the Building Dignity team organized a weekend retreat focused on vocational activities as well as first aid training, which was organized and led two medical students from UCLA.

The retreat was exclusively for the older group of participants (ages 15-18+). This weekend long event was a way of re-energizing the older group and to help them definite themselves from the younger kids who up until a few months ago, were the grand majority of consistent participants. It was a really fun weekend, filled with activities that creatively expressed personal interests via life roadmaps, we discussed identifying stereotypes that influence how we perceive our professional abilities, and everyone (even BD volunteers) participated in workshops that taught important emergency medical skills. Moreover, within the 48 hour retreat, new friendships were formed, old ones were strengthened and I believe that the group found a new and strong identity.

I think that the retreat was a great way of introducing how personal interests can be developed into potential career ideas. Obviously, all of the activities and workshops were designed to support the participants, but I can safely say that I came away with much more clarity about my own career and general life goals. I’ve been thinking very thoroughly about where my life is going after my time of working in Peru, especially while I was receiving responses from colleges. Although I know there is only so much one can do regarding long-term planning, I now feel like I have a very clear understanding of just how to get to the places I want to go, while also being aware that life can throw a myriad of changes my way in between any given event.

But while I can say I have a better handle on my long-term goals, the same cannot be said about what will happen in the interim. Here’s one sentence that pretty much sums up everything that sends my short-term goals into a tailspin: I have less than two months left of being in Peru.

To emphasize how affecting that sentence is, I’d like to share this screenshot of a handy-dandy spreadsheet that lets my Omprakash Grant Mentor know what’s up while I’m working with Building Dignity.

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Can we just take a moment to look at how many months that is???? (And not the way that my blogging frequency has also declined on my Omprakash blog…)

Just one more time. With arrows.

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Thinking about how long I’ve been here in my head is something entirely different to seeing a visual representation of just how my experience has played out.

With that being said, the train of thought related to my impending departure quickly raises some pedagogically complex questions about what it (meaning my time here) all means. For example: What am I doing here? What entitled me to think I had/have anything to offer? How does one foster programming with good intentions, without inflicting harmful unintended consequences? How sustainable is the work I personally contribute to the organization I work with? The list goes on. They are questions that I was cognizant of before coming here, but I didn’t have the context or experience to fully understand their weight and importance.

Although all of those weighty questions are somewhat overwhelming, I’m glad they are being asked of me at this time in my life. Instead of feeling weighed down by the complexities of these questions, I feel excited about them. The sheer element of intellectual engagement that is being asked of those questions is fueling a yearning to go back to school, to learn, find connections and build an foundation that will support my academic and professional pursuits for years to come.

I do know that in this moment, President Jed Bartlet, or otherwise known as the world’s best fictional US President, saying “What’s next?” comes to mind. Although the context may be somewhat off because when he says it, he’s really saying “[he’s] ready to move on the the next thing,” and I know that in a few days or a few weeks, I may not feel like I’m ready to move on. But I’ve realized that’s ok. I’ll be sad to say goodbye to the people I’ve come to love so much and it’ll be scary to start a new, unfamiliar part of my life. But in this moment, while writing this long, long blog post in an attempt to make up for earlier times, I can say that I’m ready for what’s next.

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Good Ol’ Horas Públicas

For three seconds, heading out of the community center to go home felt like it had the dozens of times I had done it during my first months here. That fleeting moment to feel like an entire period of time and it wasn’t the first time that’s happened lately. Nostalgia is in the air these days. At least for me.

Perhaps I’ve been feeling rather sentimental because we’ve begun a new program cycle – one that brings us back to programming with a greater educational focus. It is a similar beginning to the one that spring boarded my experiences with Building Dignity. Now that the kids are in school, Horas Públicas, an oldie but goodie, is back and tonight it came with full force. For many volunteers, it’s probably the least enjoyable and most stressful program, but for some reason (one that I am still trying to figure out) I’m somewhat fond of it.

Exactly 36 kids passed through the community center this afternoon to receive help with their school assignments and or, to have a space to work. With only four people, including myself as tutors for the afternoon, it was undoubtedly a big challenge.

I feel fortunate to be able to reflect on how I’ve grown since my first Horas Públicas seven months ago. Can we just take a moment to think about how that was seven months ago?  At that point, I was three days in and I still felt like I had just stepped off of the airplane, eyes red from little sleep and a mind that tired from racing to catch up to everything that was happening around me. Sure, engaging with the kids and putting in the elbow grease on balancing mathematical equations (as told by one of my first blog posts) turned out to be more transformative than originally thought, but in the moment it was pretty stressful.

Nonetheless, this afternoon didn’t feel overwhelming. Several months ago, I would have emphasized how challenging it was to have to work with such a myriad of homework levels that was scattered upon several different people. But tonight, the hardest part was trying to help three elementary school kids with their homework assignment that told them to draw human behavior. Horas Públicas can be somewhat hard to navigate (figuratively and sometimes literally – making ones way through a room of studying young people can be surprisingly difficult) but I’m proud to say that it isn’t as overwhelming for me as it once was. I think that’s something that can be said for many aspects of my life here.