At the end of my YAV year, with two weeks left to go, my instincts are telling me to slowly filter out of people’s lives so that they hardly notice I’m gone.
I don’t want tearful goodbyes, sad encounters, or people telling me how much they’re going to miss me. Moments like those have always made me uncomfortable. Emotional vulnerability, whether it comes from sadness or fear or doubt, has always been hard to acknowledge and embrace.
But I would regret it for the rest of my life if I did not take the time to tell my host family how incredible they’ve been to me. I would think about it for months if I didn’t reconcile with the people who deserve my acknowledgement and apology. I would lose relationships if I didn’t spend time with the people who’ve become my friends during my last weeks.
I need to embrace the reality that being vulnerable with people during times of goodbye does not mean you are revealing weakness within yourself. You are showing a strength that not everyone has. You’re embracing the harsh truth that comes from making yourself a memorable part in people’s lives and then leaving to continue yours.
Another harsh truth is that I’ve been broken by this experience.
The deaths I’ve witnessed, the tragedies I’ve heard, and the lives I’ve become a part of will not be forgotten. Nor will the effects of living in an environment like Chaisa suddenly become less tangible. I’m going to have to face the fact that it’s going to take strength to leave this place just as it took strength to come to this place. The troubles and personal issues I’ve dealt with in Zambia are not going to magically disappear as soon as I get home. I won’t be healed from parts of this experience when my plane touches US soil.
But no matter how painful some of my experiences have been in Zambia and no matter how many mistakes I made during these past 11 months, this year has been meaningful to me in ways I could’ve ever imagined.
During YAV orientation, one of the YAV staff told our group “you will be forever changed.” This sentiment terrified me at the time, but this is the truth. I am forever changed. I might have changed more than I was prepared for but I’m so glad that I came to Zambia. I feel like I’ve lost my sense of identity in some ways, and my relationship with God will have to be healed. But there are also newly discovered parts of me that I am endlessly grateful for. This new Kim, the more whole Kim will not be overshadowed by the mistakes she’s made or the broken pieces she’ll have to acknowledge when she gets back home. This experience has made me feel truly blessed and forever grateful.
This will probably be my last blog post about my YAV year so I want to take this time to give thanks. The comments, thoughts, emails, messages, and prayers I have received have not only given me strength but also reminded me that people never go through journeys alone. Thank you to everyone who has followed my blog, encouraged me through this experience, given me infinite wisdom, and guided me when I needed it the most. I couldn’t have done it without you.