Voices: Which ones do you listen to in life?

I wanted to cry for so many reasons. You know the feeling where you’re at a point where you made a decision you feel good about, but suddenly receive feedback that somehow your family actually really hates your idea?

That's me as a kid. Look at that expression. Always a stubborn brat as usual.

Of course, when I made the decision not to work for the next few months, I thought long and hard. While I have been helping out with some of the organizations for the past few months before this, I haven’t been very serious. It was after my decision that I finally decided that I want to be dedicated, not just be a I’ll-do-it-when-I-feel-like-it person. My family sees it as one of my many whims (I do admit I am a person who has been known to change my mind about careers and jobs very quickly, perhaps more on that next time). They are afraid I might decide to do this (not-working penniless state) for the long term and simply can’t understand why I can’t just work and prepare for the future and its potential mishaps, accidents, illness like any regular hardworking person in the world. Of course I insist that I wouldn’t be able to do this in the long-term because my savings will run out and reality would call me back to a regular working life, which they are still not fully convinced I would (insert arguments of, what if you decide to go off volunteering in a jungle for the rest of your life and never come back).

After a discussion that really led to nowhere with my family, I thought about their advice, but also didn’t want to get too emotionally worked up. I stared at the wall for a few moment to compose myself and decided I would get back to getting some work done.

I came back from this jungle, didn't I?

Well, that wasn’t until I read my e-mails.

The plan was that next week, I would be going to Kabanjahe to observe and participate in the civic education program Institut Leimena was giving. I love their programs, and recently just found out they also have an economic empowerment program for farmers. While I admitted that the ticket cost worried me a little, but it wasn’t something I couldn’t yet afford, so I was more than prepared to pay for it. So imagine my surprise when it was suddenly offered to me out of goodwill. I was so touched and filled with so much gratitude at this unintentional encouragement that has arrived right at the precise moment I needed it.

Then I read the next emails. They were donations for the Youth Circle fundraising I had set up. In all honesty, I have never fundraised in my whole life. I did it because my friends from the organization were in despair and it was the only way I could think of (Find out how the funds can help different towns in Myanmar here). At this point, tears were already gushing down my eyes (down my nose) like a full blown running faucet (not a pretty sigh I reckon). I am just so touched and so immensely grateful for the kindness of others it just seemed that I should keep being motivated and keep going.

The truth of the matter is, sometimes I can sometimes feel so conflicted by what I do. In my family, I am not normal like the other kids. My viewpoints and thoughts are often in contradiction with others in the family. It doesn’t help that we can all be so headstrong. My mother and I have so many similarities and yet when it comes to opinions, ours has always been as different as two people could get. She doesn’t approve of my lifestyle and it does hurt when someone mocks what you do to your face, even if they mean it to provide a constructive advice to guide you in your future.

I think my students always end up inspiring me more than I inspire them

But I also know that I haven’t felt happiness as such until I volunteered at the Burmese jungle, until I met my Karen family, until I met Martin or Matius or the many people I work with now. I’m not saying my life was inadequate or depressing before, I just have never known such joy could be possible. It’s not that volunteering makes me feel like I’m some savior and thus I feel good about myself. In fact, I’m careful not to put too much emphasis on my being a volunteer itself for fear that people can’t see past the label. On the contrary, it’s connecting to others and seeing them attain the happiness through your cooperation with them and really the process of getting there that fills me with such abundant joy.

Oh what a predicament. I am filled with so much joy and yet so much conflict, my heart is about to burst (O Melodrama, I still can’t help but make fun of my own situation). Ultimately a child would still want the emotional support of their family in what they do. Wouldn’t they? My whole life has pretty much been charted by the decision of others. Since I was a child, making decision has always been something so painful for me. Being part of a close-knit family of six, I would hear so many voices and opinons, it was so much easier to just have other people make the decision for me. It is only with recent year that I am learning and struggling with making decisions, even in the simplest areas of like such as, should I buy this or that? I have also learned that you can’t make a decision when your inner peace is in turmoil. You have to calm your heart and ultimately go with what feels right for you.

i’m curious about people who has done similar things. What did the people around you think?