I have to admit, the 5th of April has rather snuck up on me. For a long time, it seemed distant. Unreal even. In my head, I knew it would come, but nonetheless, I was genuinely shocked when, chatting to a friend, I realised it was less than a fortnight away. And now? Well now I am sitting in Heathrow Terminal 2, already in the second day of my three day journey from Coventry to Tamale – and my flight will leave in about 5 hours.
People have asked me a lot about how I feel. They have asked if I am looking forward to it, and told me it will be an amazing experience spending three months in Ghana will be. Part of me has thought ‘yes I know’ whenever people have told me how fantastic it will be. Don’t mistake me, I really do appreciate the support I have received from people I know well, and those I barely know at all, but those comments have started to wear a little thin.
I can’t help thinking that the reason for my frustration is that I haven’t *really* known how it will feel. In my head I have been aware of what I ought to expect. Words like amazing, life-changing and unmissable have slipped out without a thought, but they haven’t been real. I thought for a long time that the full reality of what I am doing wouldn’t sink in until I arrived; until I met my host family, and got stuck in to project work. Then I started packing.
I have been gathering things to pack and making lists for a few weeks. I began to fill a bag on Thursday, and on Friday afternoon, this all became very real. Suddenly, I was struck by the enormity of spending three months living with an unknown family, in an alien culture, working with people I have met only once before. I don’t know what pushed me over the edge. It might have been the stress of deciding what books and music to take, or fretting about whether I have been overly cautious in my packing. But more than that, I think that packing up three months of your life activated a fight or flight response. It is so final. So decisive. Perhaps my half-dozen repackings of my bag where meant to wear away that finality. But, the tipping point was inevitable. I had to grapple with the big question: WHO ON EARTH THOUGHT THIS WAS A GOOD IDEA.?
Of course, in my head I know that 12 weeks isn’t all that long – about the length of a university term really. I know I will be well supported in Ghana, and that people in the UK will be thinking of me. I know my team and my host family will look after me, and I them. I know I will have plenty to do. But still,its easy to be overwhelmed. (In part I blame this on the emotional trauma of the Hamilton soundtrack. Those responsible know who they are and will suffer accordingly.)
The solution, of course, has been to stop and think. To realise that really I don’t need to worry about another repack when my bag is way under-weight. To enjoy music from a choir which was once a central part of my life. To write about what I am feeling, for public and private consumption, and to talk to people. I consider myself a sociable introvert, but it is amazing how much difference enjoying a meal with people you love can have when the world feels far too big.
On balance, I am sure that facing the questions was good and healthy. Better to deal with them while I have a safety net here. Whatever doubts I had, have given way to a certain zen resignation about things. There’s no turning back now, and there is no way I am going to let people down, so it will be okay. How could it be otherwise?