In my 10 months in Lesotho, I expect to know this place fairly well.
I am no longer new, nor really a foreigner as I have adapted many Basotho mannerisms and daily activities. My cultural faux pas are now rare and, although not by blood, I am Masotho in every other meaning.
Or, so I expect.
But, I am currently learning that expectations are what set me up for pain, for disappointment in others and myself. Because there are times when my whiteness, my Americaness reminds me that I am still an outsider.
Last week, the snow layered the village and mountains for hours and hours. It was so cold, especially in our unheated school, that my bones rattled. I wanted to let the students go, but I was told to proceed as usual as the rest of volunteer friends had snow days. The students are used to this, I was told. It broke my heart and I threw a fit. I asked for an alternative, a movie in the warmest room of the school, which the students took advantage of with awful behavior and disrespect.
“I still have a lot to learn,” I told another teacher as I looked at the mess I created while trying to do the right thing.
“Yeah,” he said. I think I know what is best, I am the educated American after all, or so my Westerner ego says. But, most of the time, I have no idea what is best and what to do for the greatest outcome. Many days, I am so over my head and it takes all the energy and strength I have to grab one gasp of breath.
I don’t like not being in control or making mistakes. I don’t like not knowing what I am doing, but I can’t run from that or make excuses to cover my incompetence. I just need to accept it and move on.
This lesson has been thrown in my face lately, along with the notion that I can’t continue to give the world such high expectations to live up to, and it’s putting me in a funk. All those emotions that I had back at home – the ones that brought on public tears over my coffee or endless Google searches for inspiring quotes and a better life – have followed me across the ocean. I haven’t escaped them, rather they are stronger than ever. And, if I ever want a shot at being happy, I must face them now. The only thing I can do is accept.
Accept that I don’t understand everything and there will be things that I never do. Accept that I will make mistakes and trip every now and then. Accept that I can’t control each situation and it is better if I don’t. I’ve never been good at accepting, but I am trying. I must try for me and for every person in my life. Because I can be a good person and do the right thing without being perfect.