A Confession

I promised myself that this time it would be different.  That my transition back from India wouldn’t mimic my transition from Ghana.  I told myself that I would be different and thought that through self-discipline and determination I could escape the ramifications of culture shock.  No one would feel the rockiness of my return home and everything would go smoothly.

I promised myself that I would internalize my cultural experience different than before.  I told myself that I would not take the weight of the world on my shoulders and that I would not claim sole responsibility for the poverty and hurt that inflicted many living in India.

I determined to come back a new person.  More confident, more spiritual, with a clearer understanding of where her life was headed during the end of schooling and post-graduation.

But I have a confession to make…India wrecked me.

It’s hard to even explain how exactly I feel so I’ll borrow a few words from someone who seemed to explain it quite beautifully.

“I wanted away, out from under what I had seen and felt. I talked about it a little bit, but it was so hard to explain, and so hard to go back into those places inside of me. I didn’t know how to tell my husband or my friends that [India] had done something bad inside of me, had demonstrated to me a part of myself I didn’t know I had.  For one of the first times in my life, my beliefs and perspectives bowed and flattened under the weight of my experience. Before I went there, I wanted to invest myself in the healing, in some small way, of [India]. But when I was there, I just wanted to leave, and I was ashamed and surprised by that part of myself. I wanted to shut my eyes and stop seeing the images of starving children.

I had to make things right within me. I had to confront the person I found on that trip, the one who wanted to fly home and pretend the whole things was not real. The one who, when faced with death and sickness, cried, instead of rising up like a prophet or a nurse.  That’s the trick I think. That’s why actually getting on a plane and going there is dangerous and very important. Because I could not forget about it, as desperately as I wanted to. Because once you see it, you will never be able to un-see it, and once you see it, you will be responsible for it, and for the self it reveals back to you.”

-Shauna Niequist “Broken Bottles”

I feel like something broke inside me; that piece of my spirit that was filled with hope that in the midst of the problems and the pain there was a hidden solution, and I was determined to find it.  I thought that if I went to India and immersed myself in the culture than I would find the cure , so I went and I immersed and came out with way more questions than solutions.  All the stats and poverty and hurt and problems sat on my hope and suffocated it.  Its still there, but I’ve got to do some digging to find it.

It’s hard to function sometimes.  Hard to study and remained focused in class when my mind begins to wander across the ocean to the friends I met and the people I got to know in the slums and on the streets, wondering how they are doing.  It’s weird to walk down the sidewalk and not have to walk around any people living or sleeping there.  It’s weird not to have a kid beside me, tugging on my shirt and calling me "Auntie".  Those things started to become normal for me and I’m still getting used to the transition and trying to understand why I saw the things I saw, because now I am responsible for it, and I have no idea what that looks like.

I have not, for one single second, ever regretted going to India and seeing and experiencing all that I did.  The unsettling discontent inside of me, the stirring in my spirit that craves for a different world, is one of the most fulfilling feelings I have ever had.  

I hope that my confession not only moves you to explore the world around you, but also shows you that it is in the challenging and uncomfortable life experiences that God does some of the most beautiful renovations in the human heart.

Ashley Sider