“I seek to cure what’s deep inside, frightened of this thing that I’ve become.” -Toto
I had many expectations about moving to South Africa for the summer going into my senior year, mainly involving travel and meeting new people. I knew at some point I would have a life-changing day where everything started to make sense about these last few years.
What I didn’t expect were these “life-changing” events to happen almost on a daily basis.
It’s a very strange feeling knowing that you are becoming the person you have always wanted to become. It is also scary to realize just how much you have lost sight of who you are.
There have been a few life altering events in my life that have shaped who I am, particularly those where I take a risk and do something that seriously removes myself from my comfort zone.
Being in Africa has shown me who I am and who I want to continue becoming. My self-doubt was left back in Ann Arbor and I am the strong, confident, and (most importantly) the brilliant young woman I was raised to become. A few weeks ago at dinner, I was joking about being an idiot and one of my new friends from across the table said, “Keenan never have I once looked at you and thought you weren’t smart.” Hearing those words, along with my boss’s continual words of encouragement about my work ethic and expertise on issues I have not been taught yet, I find myself no longer afraid to speak up. Here, I put myself into the conversation and voice my opinion to people with decades of experience. My work here has been recognized by the international NGO I work for an I am currently writing a policy proposal that will help list a species on CITES. To be able to say that I feel significant and smart enough to be able to do things better than others in my work place is something quite special for me—someone who has always been a born leader yet never really expects much from herself.
I am also happy again. You never fully see how unhappy you have become until you wake up every morning excited for the day, even if you’re just going to an office to sit at a desk for seven hours. I have seen improvement in myself in terms of my internalized anger, something that I would have not recognized for a long time had I not come this far to find myself again.
Self-hate is also a flaw I never thought I had until I came here. I constantly put myself down and am my biggest barriers holding me back from success. It is hard to hate yourself in a country that has given you so much in such a short amount of time. I look at myself in pictures and see a real “Keenan” smile—a face I have not seen in a very long time.
And I am becoming the woman a much younger me would be proud of. I think if my younger self-met me three months ago I would be very disappointed. The past few years have made me someone I would never be proud of, despite the surface “me” that everyone sees. I have become so angry with the world and myself. . . an issue I have agreed with myself to finally address. Who am I angry at? Why am I angry? I can assume the answer but I think it’s much more about me than anyone else. Yes, I love my school, I love my major, I think I love my friends, so why am I still so unhappy? Is it because I have seriously lost sight of who I am and wanted to become?
I have three weeks left in South Africa and I don’t expect to solve all these questions. I will take each day by storm like I have for the past six weeks. I expect to become happier and healthier with each passing day as I take in everything this beautiful country has to offer, from its culture to its mountains. I am very humble of this opportunity many people have given me and I am more than proud of myself for taking full advantage of this life I am beginning to love again.