For the duration of July and a portion of August, I traveled to Tanzania meaning that the last time I blogged was in June. So enjoy another rambling installment direct to you from my mind –
Imagination Vs. Logic: Tanzania
I have lived a life categorized by lines and neatness. For as long as I can remember, I have felt calmer when my bedroom was clean and I have tackled any problem in a linear fashion. Identify the problem, weigh the options, choose a course of action. Yet as my teenage years faded into a hazy sunset and my twenties rose into a horizon of colours I had never before seen, the lines of my life got shorter. To my absolute dissent, I lost my health, and my ability to occupy myself with the organisation of my life. I no longer had energy to think from one week to the next, or even one day to the next. Each moment became entirely void of any purpose other than surviving life. I began to resent everything that came past the age of sixteen.
But like all horizons, this lengthy patch of pain passed. It is still ebbing from my life with each day taking me a step further from who I was forced to become. And as all those limitations left, I was filled with a sense of possibility that overwhelmed my thoughts and disrupted my dreams.
In June of 2016 my friend traveled to Tanzania for five weeks. Barely a week after his return, I pulled myself from the depths of my brain fog to see him and hear all he had experienced. Later that same evening I told my parents of his experiences and they commented on how phenomenal it would be to see Africa at such a young age, through an organisation with such positive aims. When I said that I wished I could go, my relentlessly supportive mom told me that perhaps my path to Africa was not going to be as direct and maybe I would see the continent later in my life, if my health gave me some reprieve. For some inexplicable and quite illogical reason, I felt particularly miffed at this. Despite having to sleep for hours after simply meeting a friend for coffee, despite the pajamas that were my uniform and despite the cement in bones and fog in my mind, I mentally demanded an answer to the question of why my path had to be different.
One year later, on the last day of June 2017 armed with two of my best friends, I sat on the first of three planes that would take me to Tanzania. The thirty-six hour trip to the Olive Branch for Children’s Zion Home, did not exhaust me more than the average person. Just one year on, and I was filled to the brim with being gloriously average – a feat that made me feel like pounding my chest about and screaming about to the arrivals of Mbeya airport.
Over the course of the next five weeks, every aspect of my personality was challenged. Yet what was challenged the most was the labels which I had given myself my whole life. As a race, we self-assess on a near constant basis. Physically, we have mirrors to hone in on those aspects of our bodies we like or dislike. Emotionally, we watch our reactions to situations and judge ourselves either sufficiently decent or lacking. However, what we don’t account for is the filter which we use to assess our gifts and shortcomings.
Indeed we have logic. We can see when we succeed or fail. But we also have an imagination which is specific to each of us. Dependent upon what we have experienced, our perceptions of ourselves are altered. Before this trip, I deemed myself to have a terrible sense of direction because my father and sister always take control of such situations. My imagination had dramatized my inability to think for myself. The reality was very different, but my imagination outweighed my logic.
Tanzania taught me that as a race we may all be watching the same TV, but no one sees the same channel, when it comes to perception. Therefore, can we truly disregard another’s view on the basis that ours might seem less tinged with imagination?
A child, a wondrously gifted child took my hand one day. We were playing dodgeball and a layer of dust of a thickness which I had never previously experienced coated my face. In the midday sun, my sun cream that smeared my freckles made me feel sticky and uncomfortable, but there was a game to be played. This child who holds an uncanny ability to grip one’s attention held my sticky, freckle-ridden hand and told me that I looked beautiful. Fighting back the knee-jerk reaction to laugh and brush off the compliment, I was hit with the understanding that we were both looking at the same TV yet our channels were different. I had chosen to see myself as unattractive, allowing my imagination free reign over my insecurities and causing the worst kind of introspection known to man. Whereas this child saw something entirely different, whilst looking at the same picture. How could either of us be wrong or right?
In truth, we’re not. I was both beautiful and ugly at the same time, both unhappy and blissfully content, depending on the point of view you stood with. Just as the view from a mountaintop differs depending the direction you stand, the view of yourself differs depending on if you choose to see reflection or reality. Imagination or logic. Africa gave me the gift of that understanding. All one has to do is tilt their view and hatred can become love, because all things are linked and utterly dependent on our choice of emotional filters.
There is something freeing about having your every breath for five weeks be something new. Nothing that I saw, smelled, tasted, heard or touched was as it was at home. Except for me. I stood at the mountaintop, remaining firm and true while I craned my neck in every direction possible and saw the dangers of looking only one way, for your whole life.
Had I not gone would I have known the power of acknowledging that there is a different kind of beauty when you are present in each moment with both imagination and logic? Perhaps I would have, in time.
I don’t know if the power of this knowledge will stay with me, or it will fade and disappear the further my life travels from Tanzania. Though I don’t doubt that the knowledge of the difference a year can make will always remind me the importance of placing both feet on the cold floor, and getting out of bed. One day, it will be with the aim of meeting a friend to hear of their adventures and smile. Another day, it will be to drive to the airport to travel to a different continent. Both days start the same, and lead to the same place. With a single step to a mountaintop.