Sunday, May 21, 2017

4 years

4 years ago today(well technically yesterday, since I've stayed up so late), I arrived back on US soil. I was full of anticipation, hope and excitement for all that was to come. What I did not anticipate was the loneliness, darkness, grief, anxiety, and shock I would face over the next year.

I felt that I was no longer wanted by people who wanted to know everything while I was overseas, my friends had moved on(as they should've)- both literally and figuratively, and I was left with the ashes, expecting to create something beautiful and new out of dust, but it was impossible. I remembered last night that this day was here, and stumbled upon this blog post. I BURST into tears.

I've noticed... on Facebook, many respond to my happy, exciting posts, but few do anything with my challenging posts. I'm not putting this up for attention. I'm putting it here 1) to process a bit. and 2) because it HAPPENED and many of you had no idea.

I felt like I wasn't allowed to mourn my loss- and it was a LOSS, in SO many ways. I had SEVERAL people tell me 'Welcome back to the REAL world'. I still shake my head, let out a sigh, while my eyes fill with tears, thinking... wow.. if you only knew what the REAL world really looked like.

That's EXACTLY why I struggle with this anniversary. Because I DO know what they 'REAL' WORLD looks like, and I am haunted by its beauty, by those I've left behind and truly truly wished I could bring home with me, and not just the poverty I've seen with my own eyes, by those babies who will never be adopted because they are HIV positive, and the patients we lost to conditions that are 100% preventable and treatable, but also I was amazed by the fact that these people who had NOTHING.. and I mean NOTHING, were HAPPIER than I'd ever been in my entire life, and likely happier than I ever will be.

I struggle because I left my heart behind 4 years ago. I find pieces of it from time to time- in the eyes of my students, when I truly get to know someone and can call them 'friend'... but- it's certainly far from whole. My heart is in Sierra Leone, Togo, Benin, and Guinea. It is with each of my dear friends and their kids, who stood by me in some of the darkest days of my life, and never gave up. It is in the patients I saw die and my patients who I saw walk the gangway with a new lease on life.

4 years- it feels like it was just yesterday, and it feels like a lifetime ago.

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