I grew up in a nice, clean, safe suburb of Kansas City. In 1983-1984, Shawnee Mission South, the high school I graduated from was awarded a National School of Excellence. Life was easy, I see that now. Of course, when you're 17, nothing in life is easy. How time and distance and life in Africa significantly alters one's perspective.
I was not the popular kid, the homecoming queen, surrounded by an entourage of compatriots who ruled the school. I was the nerdy, band geek, sporty girl who had a few close friends in her class but mostly ran with others. High school was brutal at times. All I wanted to do was "fit in", be like all the pretty people. After 30 years I am thankful I never did. I needed to be just different enough to not be afraid to live a very different life....although it took me almost 25 years to begin that life.
30 years changes many things....suddenly my different life seemed interesting. In high school the last thing you wanted to be was different. People were older, grayer, bigger and nicer. One girl who was so nasty to me in high school was now the girl who was interested in what I did and who I had become. She was always the prettiest girl in school, now she was still this gorgeous woman who was still so both inside and out. My close friends are still my close friends even though I hadn't spoken to one in almost 30 years. The conversation picked up right where it left off..."Bitch Kitty...were have you been?"
I was not the most likely person to attend a 30 year reunion. I did so because I had the inner voice tugging at me to go. When that voice will not subside I need to listen to it. I am so thankful I did. It was a ridiculous amount of travel with an even more ridiculous price tag, but this week was priceless.
My friend who I hadn't seen in almost 30 years hugged me so tightly and said, "You were the ONLY reason I came tonight. I just wanted to see you."
That was enough.
We never know the impact we have on one another. I did not set out to impact anyone when I went to Rwanda. I was just trying to still my restless soul. It was purely personal and private.
The guy who organized the reunion and I were talking the last night of the event and he kept telling me I needed to tell my story. I'm not the limelight girl. I'm the behind the scenes girl. It feels strange to tell my story, funny as I write this very public blog I know. He said to me that although it is about me, my story, it's really about all the others who want to step out and don't.
Really....I'm a girl from Kansas who lives in Rwanda and works in countries like Eritrea, most people have never heard of.
"How does that happen?" he asked.
Simply....I just wanted to not suck air and die. I wanted to live fully and completely and with that comes a life that really is not that easy, it's rampant with struggle, obstacles and frustrations and there was a nano second that life in Overland Park, Kansas looked appealing this weekend.
But that's not me. As I listened to friends who live 5 miles from where they grew up, talking about retiring from a job they've had for the past 20+ years and then starting their life I wondered how they did it. There is nothing wrong with that life, these are great people, salt of the earth, hard working classmates. But that life? To me that is as foreign as people thinking about living and working in a 3rd world African country.
One thing I know to the core of my soul after this week is I have no regrets, there are still hundreds of things I want to do, but if it all ended tomorrow, I would have no regrets, nothing left undone. I don't wonder about a different life. I live a different life.
Paul is right.....perhaps it's time to tell more of my story, step out from the shadows a bit. If my story can impact others to live their authentic life then it needs to be told.
After all....I'll always be just a girl from Kansas.
If you're able to treat what seems like despair, what
seems like hardship as an opportunity
to reinvent yourself and to transcend your own limitations,
as David Johnson says, "the world is full of clues,
and you can read your way though it."
If you're able to turn your life into an art piece,
if you're able to turn your narrative into THE narrative,
then you become that hero.