The musings and misadventures of a girl unprepared

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Re-finding My Muchness

'You used to be much more... "muchier". You've lost your muchness' - Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Everyone has their own reasons and justifications for everything they do and want to achieve in the future. My brother, for example, hates travelling (I know, I don't understand either). He doesn't like to be away from home for more than 3/4 days at a time if he can help it, and is quite content to sit in his room for hours playing his guitar and working on graphicsy things on his computer. However, whilst this concept is completely alien to me, this for him, is his 'muchness'. I find it inspiring that at just 16 years old, he's already found something that he loves to do and willingly dedicates hours of his time towards, in order to better himself and his abilities. Now I'm not exactly sure what his plans for the future are, but the important thing is that he's achieving something everyday, just by working a his various skills and talents.

That's what travel is for me. It is so much more than escaping the normalities of average day to day living in the UK and getting to see some pretty sights along the way - though I'm not complaining about the added bonus. Travel is my way of fulfilling my desire to understand other people. I love people and if I am going to make any use of the time I have on this planet, I figure the best way is to be as understanding and loving towards anyone and everyone in anyway that I can.

The problem is, that I can't always be travelling as I have to be at university five days a week and I'm not a millionaire. So recently, unlike my brother, I've been feeling a bit low on 'muchness', my drive to really make use of myself and my time. Since last year when I dropped everything to travel the world and discovered all sorts of new magical and wonderful things, I seem to have forgotten what really makes me tick when I'm not jet setting across the Atlantic Ocean, looking over NY from the Top of the Rock or zip-lining 150m above the Amazon Jungle. So I've decided to delve deep this week and review how travel has not only inspired me, but how it can continue to do so in other ways, even if I have to be locked up in my room studying more often than I would really like at the moment. I'm hoping that whilst making myself feel 'much more "muchier"' once again, it might inspire anyone else who's reading to do the same :)

Since I can remember, I've always been interested in doing my bit for others; I did my first fundraiser when I was eight years old with a team of other ambitious kids, who were moved by the advert for the Blue Peter Water Appeal we'd seen on the CBBC. We raised about £40 and I can still remember the immense pride I'd felt, knowing that I'd done my bit. I've continued to bug friends and family ever since, shoving countless sponsor sheets under their noses and dragging them to various events (a special thanks to the parents should go in here, who not only bought the ingredients to make the cakes and helped us bake them, but then went on to buy them back. It's funny how you miss these small but incredible acts of kindness and encouragement until you look back.) All I knew in my childhood years was that other children and families didn't have enough water to drink and food to eat whilst I had plenty and that just wasn't fair.

Then in years 9/10, I took part in my first German exchange to Satrup, Schleswig-Holstein. I found myself incredibly frustrated at not being able to communicate fully with the exchange students in their language and as funny as misunderstandings and miscommunications can be, I couldn't stand the feeling of being isolated from a different culture, due to a simple language barrier. I'd never before considered how many people in the world I couldn't actually speak to and I suddenly felt the shame of my countries 'laziness in languages' label. This is where the determination to break down this stereotype began and the languages obsession was born. The realisation had hit me that I would never be able to converse with those who were in desperate need of aid and comfort; how was I to be there for someone if I couldn't even speak to them in a language they could understand? Or if they could understand, why should they bother to listen to what I had to say against corruption or injustice in the world if I couldn't even be bothered to learn about their language and culture?

This beautiful quote from my all time hero, Nelson Mandela, was on the wall in the languages department at college and used to inspire me everyday:

"If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart."

I began to find out that I would never be content with passivity. Although a bit of a geek in my own right, I've never been great at sitting down and revising from books for hours on end. I'm more an active learner, so I started to save up all the money I would earn from my Saturday job to pay for weekend trips so I could indulge myself in my love of foreign cultures and thirst for more insight into different ways of living. At this time I was also volunteering at a children's club every Friday, which were easily some of the best times of my life. It taught me to always look at the world through the eyes of a child. Everything is not only simpler that way, but more beautiful and devoid of hate and prejudice. Nothing is important to children but friendship and love: gender, skin colour, accent, height, weight, nationality, clothing, hairstyle, religion... it's not that they are insignificant, it's just that those children hadn't yet learned the animosities ingrained in our society. Beauty is inside every person and I will always insist it exists, even if it's sometimes difficult to find. I try to implement this way of thinking wherever I go with whoever I meet and it has caused me to make so many amazing friends over the years.

Of course my experiences over the last year have had a huge impact on discovering new things about what I want to do with my life and also reaffirming certain aspects that I was already sure of. I worked at my former high school as a German teaching assistant for around seven months and met some incredible staff and pupils. The young people I had the opportunity to work closely with taught me everyday the value of care, persistence and patience (some more than others :P) and how important it is to be flexible and accept that not everyone works in the same way. After two years of hard study at college, they helped me to rediscover my imagination and in turn my determination to really achieve something out of the ordinary. On the one day I worked in a Peruvian school in the Sacred Valley, it was also them that persuaded me not to lose hope that situations in developing countries can be overturned. Whist marking English work at the Peruvian school, I had to ask the teacher whether she wanted me to correct just their inaccuracies in English, or their work as a whole, as the 15 year olds didn't know the difference between capital and lower case letters, or how to use punctuation. I discovered there and then that equal opportunities in education on a global scale was something I felt deeply passionate about, though to this day I'm still not sure how to go about solving it. However from my experiences at All Hallows, I'd learned that crazier things have happened than able bodied, healthy kids overcoming the inability to write properly. From the bright ones who just need a little nudge in the right direction, to the ones who really struggled because of illness or otherwise, it is easy to see that with the right encouragement and enthusiasm, no child can fall behind.

Due to all these experiences, that have taught me the importance of travel in my life and different ways in which to view the world, I have decided that when I grow up - in body, not spirit of course - my broad aim/goal/dream/aspiration is to work with people and make a difference in the world. Really I have always known that, but both through travel and interactions with many, many unbelievable people I have come to discover what I personally feel most strongly about acting upon. I'd love to work for the United Nations or an international NGO in ground based operations, in the areas with those in desperate need of empowerment and support, whether it be war zone or school yard. I'd go mad sitting behind a desk all day. It's a rather ambitious dream, but I figure if I aim high, anything that comes close is still going to be pretty damn good.

I hope this has in some way been an interesting read, made you consider something about yourself or explained a bit about why I'm a little crazy. I also hope that I may have encouraged at least one person to get out there a travel a little more. I realise this is rather an intense post too, but that's just the way I'm feeling this week. Any suggestions for a slightly lighter topic choice for next week are welcome :)

Oh and there's this guy... I can't exactly remember how I came across this video but every time I watch it a longing swells up inside me. Travelling the world and uniting people through something as simple as dance? Beautiful.

1 comment:

  1. This video has a ridiculous name. Matt is in the video. In EVERY different location. Why is it called 'Where the hell is Matt?', can the person not see the stupid dance he is doing for four and a half straight minutes?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!!?!?!?!