The following post was written by Global Gap Year Fellow Simone McFarlane. Simone is spending the first part of her gap year in Mexico.
I feel like I’m way more interesting on paper than in real life. When I say this to my friends, they tell me, “Simone, you’re crazy! You’re 18 in another country doing advocacy work! That’s so rare!”
I suppose that’s true, but at the same time, that description illuminates my point exactly. Yes, I’m in Mexico. Yes, I’m working on health care and violence prevention. Yes, I’m only 18 years old. But at the same time, I’m still binge-watching Avatar The Last Airbender from the comfort of my bed. The only difference is that I’m in my tiny twin size bed in my messy room here in Mexico, instead of my American bed in my even messier American room.
Honestly, day to day I don’t think I’m doing the life-changing work that everyone seems to think I’m doing. I’m not a psychologist, I’m not a health care specialist, and I’m certainly not fluent in Spanish, so I’m not exactly doing awe-inspiring work. The majority of the time I’m watching others work, doing background tasks, or being a second opinion. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t bored at times.
I’ve been feeling kind of stuck for the last couple of weeks for this reason. I’m finding it hard to have the motivation to do anything because it’s hard to see the importance of what I do for this organization. “Why did I come all the way to Mexico to be doing this?” is a question I often ask myself.
My friend Cole told me something interesting when I vented about this to him. “The key to living a life full of happiness and fulfillment is by maintaining a childlike wonder.” As cheesy as that sounds, it made something click for me. Although I personally don’t think that what I’m doing is *that* fascinating, 5-year-old Simone would be so proud of me right now. I traveled alone to a country where I know no one. Not only that, I’m getting paid to travel by my university. Not only that, I made an active decision to leave my comfort zone to learn in a new environment.
That’s pretty cool. Above anything else, I’m learning so much here. I’m learning how NGOs work, improving my Spanish, and seeing different methodologies of advocacy. So yeah, day by day I don’t feel like I’m doing anything monumental. But when I step back from the immediate moment, I’m reminded of just how amazing this opportunity is. Everything about my life right now is unusual and valuable. It’s so important that I don’t forget that.