The first night during my second trip to Uganda stands out like a vivid memory even today. I had planned this trip to fall directly after my study abroad experience in Cape Town came to an end. I would once again visit the place that captivated my heart before returning home to America, and I was ecstatic. But, before embarking on this second trip, the nerves of traveling alone settled in. I sat on the plane in a row by myself listening to the people behind me having a conversation about the trigger signs of danger in a developing country. “When you see a UN plane, you know that something is going down,” he said as I nervously looked out the window to a few UN planes sitting on the tarmac. I quietly got off the plane, trying to assume an outward confidence that seemed otherwise distant, if not altogether absent. I mustered my things, holding my passport in hand, sought out an ATM, and mulled over all the things that could possibly go wrong in getting myself through border security. But, the familiarity of the terminal- a place I had been before- swept away my nerves in an unspoken sense of assurance and security. I found my cab driver waiting for me with a smile and a warm welcome to a land I had wholeheartedly learned to love only a few months before. As he drove me to my hotel, he began to talk about his home, his family, and his work, and as he began to open up about his life, all my fears were seemingly gone. After settling in my room, I retreated to the common room where I sat with a cup of tea and reflected on my study abroad experience. My heart was full. In those moments, I felt the weight of the joy that those months in Cape Town provided me with. I felt all the growth of a woman experiencing a different culture, hearing the stories and understanding the lives of people with different upbringings. I felt the compassion that comes from lessons through experiences- experiences with people in a post-conflict society, experiences of personal growth, and experiences in overcoming previously ingrained fears and constructed dispositions. I felt reinforced in who I was and wholly different at the same time. I was humbled, reminiscent, joyful, and grateful. And I found myself in a place that, before my experience in Cape Town, equally transformed my life. In this hotel cafe, at that point in time, I was a different person than on my first trip to Uganda. I learned more, I experienced more, my heart was more torn, more broken, and more healed.
The funny thing about adapting is that we never get used to it. Since that night in Uganda, I have adapted to new circumstances, different situations, and new places ten times over. My heart grew in new beginnings, it was broken with new endings, and it healed again as I learned to move on. With each new beginning, I often find myself thinking, “I will never get used to this.” But, as time progresses, as I trust myself, and as I allow things to fall into place, I slowly and surely adapt to my surroundings. Usually, just when I grow comfortable with where I am, I am thrust into the cycle of adapting all over again. And, again, I find myself wondering, “I don’t want to get used to this again.” But, something beautiful happens each time. Each time I think I cannot adapt again, each time I think I am not capable of growing again, my strength is tested so I can prove myself stronger. My faith is tried so I can prove myself more faithful. My growth is expended so I can prove that my growth is ever-evolving. My compassion is stretched so I can prove that my heart is ever-reaching. My spirit is pressed so that I can see more clearly who I am.
As we adapt, we expend part of who we are to the circumstances, people, and places around us. We grow more comfortable with who we are and where we are, and then we are propelled to adapt to a whole new situation, a whole new lot of people, and a whole new surrounding. And, each time we adapt, we are reminded of the process we underwent the time before. We remember how we overcame uncertainty, fear, sorrow, and pain. We remember the people who came alongside us, who quieted our racing thoughts, assured our uneasy spirits, and calmed our diffused emotions. We remember the purpose that was fulfilled in going through the process of adapting. We recall those special moments, those influential people, that we were able to share our lives with. And from these memories, we are reinforced in our purpose and we are empowered to adapt again.
Then, when we welcome the process of adapting, we continually allow ourselves to grow to unparalleled destinies. As we adapt, we grow more into who we are, and as we continue to grow, we are more capable of offering that new growth to all those around us. We should continue to allow ourselves to adapt to new circumstances, new people, new places, and new situations because the world deserves all that each of our unique and individual spirits have to offer it. We should continue to adapt, trusting that these new circumstances equally shape us into who we are and use who we are in order to make the world a little bit better. So, let us continue to ever-adapt, using the strength we find in that process of adapting to propel us into giving all that we have to give to the world around us.