Firstly, I hope you read the title of this post while singing along to Elton John’s classic I’m Still Standing.
Secondly, it’s been a while (95 days to be exact) since I’ve posted on this blog. You might have heard from me more recently in my newsletter (if you want to receive my future newsletters which come out every 2 months, send me an email at email@example.com), but on the whole I’ve been a bit absent from the internet. This isn’t exactly a new thing for me, but being a YAGM has forced me to reconsider a lot of things about my life, including my aversion to posting things.
This, of course, doesn’t mean I haven’t been keeping up with everyone. I check in on Facebook whenever I have the WiFi, and I’ve also been reading (stalking) my fellow YAGM’s blogs and newsletters. In fact, it was because of a blog post by my friend Annika, who is serving as a YAGM in Madagascar right now, that I felt moved to write this post.
Part of the reason I’ve resisted posting anything (to this blog, to Facebook, social media in general) is that it’s hard to talk about how I’m doing, and that’s the most popular question for people to ask. What I’m doing is pretty easy to cover in my newsletters, but “how” is a much trickier question in general. As Annika put it, you have “lots and lots of types of days” as a YAGM (or maybe as a human), and it’s an incredible challenge to try and sum up the lived experience of being a YAGM.
The easy answers to “how are you” (or rather, “howzit”), or “how is Africa/South Africa/Atteridgeville?” are always along the lines of “fine/nice/good”, which doesn’t really answer the question. Although I am fine (don’t worry Mom), and Atteridgeville is a interesting, and South Africa is pretty alright, and Africa seems like a really large continent that I’ve seen relatively little of, those kind of words are an escape route. Anytime we ask each other how it’s going, we expect one of two types of answers; it’s either the social pleasantry that is mostly true (maybe we don’t disclose having the stomach flu to everyone, and instead say fine! or better!), or it’s the start of a conversation about life choices, emotions, hopes, plans, etc. etc. (Of course maybe there is a happy medium somewhere, but I’ve yet to find it.)
Nowadays, when someone asks me how I’m doing or how it’s going, I think a lot longer about what type of response I’m going to give.
Maybe that’s an advantage to the whole blog thing; I get to write out the entire spiel, then edit it, possibly delete it all, write some more, and then post it. It’s like getting to have that long conversation without worrying about the time or where you are- we both get to choose to interact.
Tangent aside, the truth is that life is indeed full of lots and lots of kinds of days. And it totally depends on the day, and the hour, and the minute that you ask me how I am actually doing. Sometimes I’m overjoyed, conducting the veterans choir in singing a hymn from home. Sometimes I’m annoyed, when I realize I’ve walked to work without my umbrella and the African sun will take no prisoners. Sometimes I’m at peace, when I get to go for a hike in the great outdoors and reconnect with nature. Sometimes I’m a bit harried, after a taxi ride to the shops (taxis in SA are an experience).
I get frustrated and angry, homesick and sad. I get sick (I wasn’t joking about the stomach flu), and then I feel better.
I feel blessed, privileged, loved and cared for.
The truth is that the long story of how I am is really the long story of who I am, and the short answer to both is that I’m changing, that it’s complicated and messy and beautiful.
Maybe this post won’t have a satisfying conclusion (at least to me), because I feel like the question is still unanswered, but as my friend Marissa likes to say, trust ambiguity, and as YAGM is teaching me, the place we feel the tension and frustration of uncertainty, is also the place where we grow and learn.
Peace and Blessings,