Wednesday, May 7, 2014

"What do I do with my hands?"

During our ISJ period, my friend Fatima and I constantly had this saying. Whenever something awkward would occur, or we were just fed up with a situation and didn't know where to turn, we'd make a joke out of it by looking at each other and saying, "What do I do with my hands?"

Well, now ISJ is completely over. Rachel and I gave our presentation today, to many tearful reactions as well as plenty of heartfelt comments about our progress. And you can bet I was asking myself this question as soon as I sat back down in my seat. The work is done, my schedule is suddenly wide open, and I only have two days left in Morocco: what do I do with my hands?

My friend just informed me a little while ago that I can now consider myself a college senior. Right. So everything is really hitting me right now.

Today was just very heavily emotional. After a long night of very little sleep, I was up and going at 8:30 to get to school for our program evaluations and then the first round of presentations (the rest of our group will present on Friday, our last day here). It was nice to spend the day with the whole group, but seeing a number of people cry today was draining. Not only were we discussing really heavy subject matter, but we were all experiencing mixed feelings about the semester ending and having to go back home.

This week marks the end of something incredible. During this four-month stretch of time, I've grown more as a person than I have in my whole life. This past month I stopped referring to myself as a student and instead as a journalist. It's kind of like the first time someone describes you as a woman, rather than a girl. Like trying on shoes that are shwiya (a little) too big but you start walking in them anyway, and soon enough you forget they were big.

The truth is, this isn't over. This week marks the official end of ISJ and the program, but my classmates will agree with me when I say that we have all had bigger goals in mind from the outset. We're all going to continue working on edits and stay in touch with our advisors to get their advice about pitching our stories to media outlets. We're not stopping until we're published--with the work that we've put into these projects, it would be silly to stop now.

And as heartbroken as I am to be leaving this amazing country and the beautiful people I've met, I know it's time to take what I've learned here and go back to my "normal" life in America and apply it. I'm going to work hard to improve every facet of my life that I'm even remotely dissatisfied with. I've "done Morocco right," as another one of our sayings here goes, and it's given me the confidence to go after the things I want and to take more chances. Ultimately, even if I fail, my experiences are more rewarding.

Besides, something is telling me that Morocco hasn't seen the last of me. Someday, inshallah, I will come back. Just as Vermont became a second home for me 3(!) years ago, Morocco has become a third. I am forever grateful for that.

I'm having a really hard time formulating words about what this experience has meant to me. I find that the thing I fear the most about going home is constantly floundering to find the answer to "how was it?" I don't think I will ever be able to describe it in a way for others to understand. I won't be able to understand my friends' experiences, even though I will be able to relate to the frustration of describing them. So I ask all of my dear friends at home, please be patient with me. I know everyone will be excited to see me and hear about it, and I'm so excited to see you all too. But I am also incredibly overwhelmed, and unless you want to sit with me for hours so that I can adequately describe, "How was it?" then all you're probably going to get as a response is "Good." But with time, you'll hear plenty of anecdotes. Those little stories will come together to give you an idea of Morocco, or rather, my time in Morocco. This is My Mosaic.

I highly encourage you, if you ever get the chance, to make your own.