On the Saturday of the launch of my JEXIT Countdown, I didn’t wait too long to hit send on my resignation email. By 8:18 am, it was done. I sent the email, spoke to the girl who lives here (when I told her she asked again if I was OK; again I said yes and that I just need to get home) and settled into my work day. There were 4 local volunteers who I wanted to tell myself that I would be leaving in a matter of weeks but in 2 instances, I didn’t get a chance to. News travels fast here.
In the late afternoon, the local volunteer at whose house I had spent that lovely Sunday afternoon, was talking about an annual outing that the local volunteers here apparently do every December. She asked me if I would come so I had to tell her in front of other people that I wouldn’t be here because I would be leaving in a month. With a slightly downcast look on her face, she asked me why I was leaving early. I told her I need to get home to handle some business. Do you know what she did? She had them shift the trip forward by 3 weeks so that I can go with them. Sweet, right?
A little later that evening, that other local volunteer with whom I went “jogging” one Sunday morning and then to the Batak wedding heard that I would be leaving soon and she was a little bit sad. I had meant to talk to her myself after her class was done but someone beat me to it. With a slightly disappointed look on her face, she also asked me why I was leaving early, and I gave her my stock answer of needing to get home. She told me how I was the best international volunteer they’ve had here because I’m always nice, friendly and respectful to everyone, and that I’m so well-liked that the kids don’t have a name for me behind my back (apparently, they have snarky names for the international volunteers that they use behind our backs). Sweet again, right? She almost made me cry.
Another local volunteer with whom I have a great rapport came to teach her class and I told her. She was also disappointed, wanted to know why I was leaving early, and said she would miss me because she likes talking with me (we’ve had many great conversations). She almost made me cry, too.
I honestly didn’t expect such nice words and actions from these guys. Yes, I expected them to ask me why I was leaving early, because this is Indonesia and people aren’t shy to get all up in your business like that. But I didn’t expect the soft sentiments from them.
It was at that point that I started to feel a little bit bad. For a minute, I felt like I was jumping ship. I wondered if I could have somehow stuck it out for the additional 2 months. I thought that maybe the place isn’t as bad as I have come to believe. For a minute, I wondered if I had let my negative emotions run away with me in deciding to leave early. I started questioning my decision and wondered a little bit if I was weak not to be able to make it all the way through.
But then reality reasserted itself. I felt my dirty feet and I looked around at my dirty environment. I watched a cockroach scurry across the floor. I went upstairs and saw out of the corner of my eye the ceiling in my room that I can’t stand to look at directly because it’s so darn gross. I looked at the sunken mattress that expels me from the bed after 4 to 6 hours of sleep every night. I looked at my filthy laptop that I have to wipe off almost every morning because of the dirt in the atmosphere that settles on it.
My soul settled again in the knowledge that I had absolutely made the right decision. This wasn’t something I had decided on lightly. I had spent months ruminating and praying on it, ensuring that I was doing the right thing and not walking out of the will of God. If He had told me again to stay put, I absolutely would have done it, even though I wouldn’t have liked it one bit; I’ve learned my lesson about going my own way. I breathed a sigh of relief as I picked up my backpack to go spend 2 nights of luxury at The Jamaican’s house, and I thought about the reasons why I didn’t feel bad after all.
Firstly, the local volunteers can say anything. They come here for 1 or 2 hours each week then they put their shoes on again and go back to their nice, clean, roach-free homes where they wash the dirt of this place off their feet. Not me. I’m here 6 or 7 days a week, all day every day. I don’t get a break from this place so I’m always surrounded by it. I don’t have the opportunity or luxury of thinking of it in glowing terms because I have to live here. They don’t.
And while I don’t doubt that their sentiments are sincere, where was all this concern over the past few months? It’s so easy to take the people in our lives for granted until they’re leaving or have left us, isn’t it? Then we start trying to cram activities and experiences into the short time we have left with them, not considering all the time that went before when we didn’t think much about spending time with them. I’m not judging, I’m just stating facts. I’ve certainly been guilty of this myself.
And finally, I’m glad that God has taught me about the fickleness of feelings this year. It’s so easy for me to get carried away with my feelings if I’m not aware and if I’m not careful. For example, I could easily get caught up in these expressions of sadness at my leaving and get carried away with my feelings, questioning my decision and God’s guidance of my life. But I know that feelings are fleeting, and I know that God’s hand is in this, and I know that as much as they’ll be sad to see me go, they’ll be fine again as soon as I’m gone.
So, ya, it feels good to know that I’ve made a little bit of an impact on them. But I’m still good to go.