I have always been fiercely independent and stubborn to boot which is a terrible and beautiful combination. When I was younger if I put my foot down that I would not do something all my parents (or insert authority figure here) had to do was tell me that I wasn’t capable of doing it on my own. That would light a fire under me and I would do it if only out of spite to say that I had.
I love being independent. It’s that quality that has helped me to do all of the scary steps in life that seem somehow unattainable until you take even one step forward. It’s that quality that helped me to pack up my life in Canada and head to Mali. Since coming here I have learned to appreciate my independence anymore and have become fiercely protective of my right to a life that I choose for myself – not one that is handed to me because of societal, familial, or relational expectations. The lady boss in me claims “I am woman! Hear me Roar!” as I throw on my girl pants and tell the world who’s in charge.
I will admit that at one time in my life I strived to find a life where I could be taken care of and I sorely underestimated by independent spirit. Being in Mali has brought out the best of my independent spirit but also taught me how to value that independence. I hold tight to the reigns of managing my own life from menial tasks to cooking for myself, buying my own electricity, to the bigger tasks of deciding my professional next steps and where I wan to go in life. This spirit is what helps me take names and kick @$$ and get things done.
It can be hard to let that independence take a back seat though. Especially when you’re trying to let people into your life. I meet people everyday that I have no connection to outside of this sometimes otherworldly place I call home in Mali. I have no way of knowing if they are being true to themselves, their intentions, or their past. I have to trust them from the get-go – and that can be very hard. When you do open yourself up it can mean meeting some absolutely fantastic people who become fast friends (you all know who you are). When you choose to remain guarded it can complicate things, make you skeptical and guarded.
There’s another phase of contracts ending here in Mali, so we have a lot of people who are moving onto bigger and better adventures. It’s a time when I should be opening myself up to the new faces and personalities on the Bamako scene but I am finding myself being hesitant to let this new crew in; to trust that they are friends in waiting. The throws of goodbyes and subsequent sadness can make me feel weak and I try so hard to avoid that feeling that it has been making me less likely to branch out. I recognize it in myself now though, and as they say the first step to overcoming is accepting the problem. So here’s to you new friends in waiting – I look forward to our future unknown adventures.