Three weeks left in Senegal, which is terrifying and wonderful all at once. It’s put me in a weird place, because I have to deal in earnest with arrangements for the summer/rest of my life, and that’s always troublesome.
Also, over my lunch break, I launched a new business venture. (I also learned about setting a static homepage in WordPress! It was an exciting day.) I’m hoping to make some money by editing folks’ cover letters for them, so if that interests you/some recent college grad in your life, please get in touch. I work quickly, edit this particular kind of copy very well, and enjoy helping other people get really cool jobs. email@example.com
I’m not particularly interested in going into my conflicting emotions (they’re easy-enough to imagine–I will miss people here and yet I want to go home, which is the plight of everyone who has ever moved temporarily).
What I am interested in talking about is the obligation to feel.
Because here’s the deal–I am bad at feeling things appropriately. For example, dog food commercials, Spring Awakening, and particularly moving episodes of Doctor Who have all been known to make me weep. But things where I’m supposed to cry–graduations, weddings, camp endings–don’t move me in that way.
Particularly strong in my memory is the end of my six weeks at the Georgia Governor’s Honors Program, a state-sponsored summer camp for nerds. It was the best, and some of my dearest friends to this day came from that program.
But here’s the thing: the last night of the program, as everyone wandered around and signed t-shirts and hugged and felt with a capital F, I couldn’t cry. Everyone was crying. My best friend, who I have basically never seen cry since, broke down in an elevator. And I just couldn’t do it. I felt like I wasn’t the right amount of sad.
And right now, I feel like Senegal is going to be nerd camp all over again.
It’s not that I’m not sad to leave–I will miss most of my host family, and I have made friends with folks who I will be legitimately sad to no longer have in my life. But y’all? Dakar is a hard place to live, particularly as a foreigner, and I am going to be pretty glad to be going back to the land of Mexican food and men who do not call me 20 times after following me home.*
So I don’t think I’ll cry when I’m leaving. And that kind of makes me feel guilty, like my not crying invalidates my time here. It feels like I didn’t engage enough, because (as I have written about before) the study abroad narrative is not one that allows for a diversity of feelings about the place you’re leaving, really. If you aren’t of the I Never Want to Leave school, you’re doing it wrong.
And when I get home? I still don’t know what I’ll tell the folks who didn’t read my blog during my time here–or even those who did. I feel some responsibility not to paint Senegal as a bad place (it’s not), but I feel like that in doing so, I have to hide portions of my own experience (which was frequently trying).
“Senegal was great!” doesn’t quite cover my actual experience. “Dakar is pretty bad, but there are some good things, and many of the people–including the Chadian immigrant who danced the running man with me–are lovely, though some–like the small children who pelted me with rocks while yelling racist slurs–are not. I wouldn’t recommend living there or being a tourist in Dakar, really, but please don’t write off the country on my behalf, it’s great! The birds near Sine Saloum are really pretty!” seems unwieldy.
And neither explains my conflicted feelings about crying.
* JK. We’re at 22. Yes, I will eventually learn to give a fake number.