Sunday, August 10, 2014

Two Years.

Two years. 104 weeks. 730 days.

It's been two years since I first stepped on a plane to Honduras. Actually, that's not true. It's been two years since I've stepped on a plane to Honduras with the intention of moving there.

As I think back to myself at this time, two years ago, I can't even believe all of the changes that have taken places. All of the people I have met, all of the things I have experienced. All of the ways I've fallen in love.

Two years ago, I had no idea my world was about to be rocked in the most challenging, most rewarding ways possible.

Two years ago, I was scared. Scared I wasn't going to make friends. Scared I couldn't hack it as a teacher. Scared of speaking Spanish. Just plain scared.

Two years ago, I was excited. Excited to be setting out on a new journey all on my own. Excited to finally be a teacher after so many years dreaming about it. Excited to be returning to a country I had fallen in love with four years earlier.

Two years ago, I was devastated. Devastated to be leaving my family and friends. Devastated to be leaving American soil. Devastated to know I wouldn't see my cat or eat Taco Bell again until Christmas.

Two years ago, I was at peace. At peace with picking up and moving a couple thousand miles to a place where I knew no one.

There's so much that I know now that I wish I knew then. So many things I wish I could tell myself, two years ago. In honor of taking the leap two years ago-- a letter to my younger self.

Dear Caitlin circa 2012,

I know you. I know how you feel right now. I know you're staring out the airplane window mindlessly watching the clouds pass because anything else seems too overwhelming. I know you're walking through the airport desperately wanting to call your mom and hear her voice one more time from American soil. I know that at the same time you're wanting to be independent and do this without crying. I know that you're sitting at your gate silently debating whether or not you want to talk to the old lady next to you who keeps shooting you compassionate looks as tears roll down your cheeks. I know you're initially irritated with the seven year old chatterbox next to you on the plane because you just wanted one more cry in peace, but I also know that you've realized you haven't thought about how scared you are in the three hours you've been talking with him. Trust me, I know. I've been there.

What you're doing is about to change your life. It's going to be hard, it's going to be messy. And I know you don't believe me now, but you'll be crying harder than you are at this moment when you have to say goodbye to Honduras in just two short years.

Over the next two years, you will cry-- a lot. You'll miss home. You'll be ready to leave on the next plane. You'll lose friends. You'll miss events at home and hurt people who are close to you. You'll be given a class who pushes you, who defies anything you've ever learned. You'll be asked to do things that you think are completely ridiculous. You'll work hard and not be praised. Your values will be tested and you'll have to stand up for yourself. You'll be exhausted. You'll be mad at God. You'll get sick and not know why. You'll miss how convenient everything is in the States. You'll dig in your heels and resist falling in love with Honduras.

But guess what. You will anyways.

When you leave Honduras for the final time, you will be closer to God than you ever have been, you will have built deep and lasting friendships, you will be well on your way to becoming an incredible teacher, you'll have changed students' lives, and yes, you will have fallen in love with a country and a culture vastly different from the one in which you grew up.

It's not going to be easy. The most worthwhile things in life rarely are. Enjoy every day, every moment, you are given. Accept every hug that's given to you and try every food at least once. Never say no to a new opportunity. Step out of your comfort zone-- some of your best friends are waiting to meet you. Ask for help when you need it. Call home. Spend time with your students-- they're the reason you're there. Make mistakes. Understand you aren't perfect. Take a deep breath. Laugh. Watch the sunsets. Trust God. Pray.

It will all be okay.

How do I know?

I lived it.