On this Sunday evening, one week after the trip to Phoenix, I am sitting in my room feeling quite lonely. It’s never something I’ve thought of before. Being by myself has never bothered me. In fact I often enjoy being alone after spending a lot of time with a group of people. However, after our trip to Phoenix, I feel as though I cherish the company of others so much more. The fellowship on our trip was genuine and refreshing. Our conversations with each other and with our newfound friends were engaging, and I found that just taking the time to be in each other’s presence was a great way to connect with one another. The overwhelming sense of community was alive during our trip, and as I settle back in at school, it is something that I feel is lacking in my everyday life. I run on my own schedule, worrying about my individual errands I have to do each day, and in return I feel as though I forget to make time for those around me. Before Phoenix, I would come home after a day like that and feel relieved to hide away in my room. Now, I feel lonely. I miss the laughter around the dinner table each night, and the open atmosphere we established, that made it so easy to speak our minds without the fear of judgment.
Why is that atmosphere so hard to create now that we are back at home? Shouldn’t my own apartment, a place where I should be most comfortable being myself, automatically be an open and warming place? Probably, but it isn’t. There are so many environmental pressures that subconsciously affect the way I communicate and interact in college. I find myself talking about things that only those around me talk about. Bringing up different topics, well that might make me weird. I’m not going to bring up an in depth thought I had earlier that day with a roommate, because its cooler to just laugh about what we did last Friday. There are so many little factors that I am never even aware of that prevent me from having an open and truly engaging environment like we had in Phoenix. These pressures, which really have no rhyme or reason, keep me from truly opening up, and truly engaging with others. And in conclusion, I fall into the individualized culture we see in our country.
I think of the Lost Boys, and how they must have felt first coming here after leaving the community of the refugee camp. You often hear them refer to the camp as one big family, where everyone attempts to help one another. Coming to this culture that I know could not have been easy. If I feel lonely here tonight, I can only imagine the loneliness they must have felt as they became accustomed to a brand new lifestyle. What inspires me is as I met Kual, Koor, Jany, Sam, the Gabes, and all the other Sudanese men, is that the pointless social pressures that I feel, they do not succumb to. These men don’t dwell on whether something makes them seem weird or unusual. They don’t let the pressures defined by others define how they live their life. They simply live. They have seen what life can be like, and they understand their blessings. And with that in mind, they focus only on what is important to them and they give that cause everything they have. Their outlook on life is refreshingly simple, and it is an outlook I have always strived for, but have never come close to achieving. Meeting these amazing men have put my life and the social pressures that come with it in perspective. My new friendship with them has allowed me to begin the journey of assessing what is most important in my life, and how I want to make a difference. There will always be social pressures that can affect how I accomplish this, but thanks to this trip I am more aware of them, and inspired to not allow them to hold me back from achieving what I want in life.