Sunday, November 1, 2009

Islands

There are meaningul, life-changing experiences to be had wherever you reside. My volunteer experience in Cambodia, may be different or similar in ways to someone who went to an island somwhere. I know. I've heard them. But personally, when I was deciding upon where I wanted to go as an international volunteer, the islands were the first place I didn't want to go. I needed space and I wanted to experience a culture dramatically different from my own. Based on stories from my brother, who went to Palau, and other friends of mine, I decided I needed to go someplace different.

So as Jeremy and I talked this morning he asked, "How would your life be different if you had gone to an island?"

Hmmm...

If I had gone to the islands, my blogs would've read differently. More snorkeling and scuba diving. More suntanning and island hopping. Basically, more fun things to do outdoors.

I I had gone to the islands, I would have been surrounded by possibly 20 other college-aged Americans. I would've had an immediate community, instead of searching high and low for 5 months before I found someone, anyone else who was also far from home.

If I had gone to the islands, I would still be going to church. I would still be going through the motions, doing what was expected to be as a born and raised Seventh-day Adventist Christian.

If I had gone to the islands, I would either be over the eating disorder completely or worse than I am now. This one's tricky.

Let's consider: bulimia found in me in Cambodia. I had never struggled with binging and purging before I left. But bulimia found me because of hard times. It wasn't the country, it was my reaction to it. It could've been tough for me in the islands, but again, a certain place is not guaranteed to trigger an addiction, it's the person and their response.

After returning to the States and sitting down with my dietician, I basically said, "What the heck? How did I swing so dramatically from anorexia to bulimia? Am I going crazy?"

Essentially she said, "Well, we are talking mental illnesses....but, no." She told me that 90% of people with eating disorders will likely swing between anorexia and bulimia, sometimes for the rest of their lives, like a pendulum. But 1/3 of them settle happily somewhere in the middle, regaining their lives and practicing normal, healthy eating and exercise habits.

So, while I am not saying it has to be this way, maybe it did for me. Maybe I had to swing to bulimia, in order to experience the other extreme and create a hunger for the center: health. Maybe if I didn't experience bulimia in the islands, it just would've gone there later in my life.

I don't know what the current state of recovery would have been had I gone to the islands or to Cambodia. But I do know, if I had not gone through what I did, I wouldn't be talking publically about it. I wrote blogs for therapy. I was desperate. I needed help so badly, I knew I had to be honest about my situation. Being plopped into Cambodia forced the honesty out of me. It really felt like my only option and I believe I would've suffered more had I not vocalized the truth in my experience.

If I had gone to the islands, I wouldn't be as close to my parents.
If I had gone to the islands, I wouldn't be dating Jeremy.
If I had gone to the islands, I wouldn't be as close to most of the people I now call "friends."

Because it was through the sharing of our experiences--good, bad, ugly--that served as common ground for relationships to be built. I can't even begin to list the friendships I've made in the States because of my time in Cambodia, because we were able to see each other in a different light: as human.

So with that, if I had gone to the islands, I probably would not have written my book. In July that book will be sent out to readers. I can't control what they make of it or what they think of it. But I can be proud of the fact that I feel like I am addressing things that need to be said. Like:
-It's okay to struggle.
-It's okay to have doubts about God.
-It's okay to be honest about where you're at.
-It's okay to be human.

Above all, I want those messages to be sent out and I hope that they are well-received, not because of the country I went to, but because of the valuable lessons I learned there.

This blog is not at all saying that people who go as SM's to the islands are bound to have fun and merriment every day they are there. Our struggles and frustrations come with us. I know and respect the stories that I've heard from students who served there, but, while I NEVER thought I'd say this: In Cambodia I learned specific and valuable lessons that I doubt I would've learned somewhere else and I'm grateful.

(Ha, never thought I'd be writing that sentence two years ago. "Valuable"? Oh brother, I must be going crazy.)

3 comments:

Carley Brown said...

-It's okay to struggle.
-It's okay to have doubts about God.
-It's okay to be honest about where you're at.
-It's okay to be human.


I AGREE!!!!

I'm putting away laundry right now, and I hate it! haha. So I thought I'd read your blog instead. I like it. Always. Have a great Sunday Heather. Your awesome

Carley Brown said...

-It's okay to struggle.
-It's okay to have doubts about God.
-It's okay to be honest about where you're at.
-It's okay to be human.


I AGREE!!!!

I'm putting away laundry right now, and I hate it! haha. So I thought I'd read your blog instead. I like it. Always. Have a great Sunday Heather. Your awesome

Anonymous said...

smiling proudly