Yεbεhyia Bio?

It seems like such a long time ago that I’ve written something about my life today, rather than events that happened weeks previously. If I remember correctly, it was right before I left for Sri Lanka in May that I had last written in the present tense. I suppose I could’ve written about everything else that transpired this past summer, other trips, but most importantly, that time I hung out with Oprah and Mariah Carey at the after party of Lee Daniels’ The Butler’s premiere in NYC, but I don’t need to spend paragraphs detailing how obviously perfect that was. And I guess interning at the State Department this semester is pretty cool. Right? That’s about the pinnacle of every DC student’s dream who’s studying International Affairs/Development.

Since then it’s just been the usual repetition, the familiar blurred days that make up my time  at school. Somehow it’s now the end of October, more than halfway through my second-to-last semester as an undergrad, and I feel like I’m no closer to figuring myself out then I was when I first arrived here. Looks like I’m about 7 months away from becoming part of that unfortunate statistic of graduates who have no clue what they’re going to do next! Such a comforting thought.

But I think I’ve strayed from the point of this post long enough. I am going back to Ghana.

As of this past Sunday evening, I am officially returning to Ghana almost exactly one year after I left, from December 16 to January 6. For those of you who are surprised, who are thinking, “Wow, that’s sudden! What a wack job!” well, you’re basically right. This is extremely sudden. The lag time between deciding this is something I really think I should do and purchasing the plane tickets was about 2 days. I’m really not sure when I became this person who makes massive life choices within a 48 hour period. Or maybe there was just this understanding, this feeling ever since leaving that I had to go back, that made this not that hard to decide.

I could have gone back last summer. I thought about it briefly, before ultimately deciding on Sri Lanka. But I think at that point I might not have been ready, there hadn’t been enough time and distance separating those 140 days yet. I have never been the “returning” type of person. When it comes to endings, endings that are really significant, I tend to want to push it back as far into my mind as it can possibly go, otherwise I’d just end up constantly thinking about it, I would always wish to be somewhere else. I seek out new experiences, new travels as a way to shovel those memories down further, I guess as some self-preservation mechanism. The fact is, leaving Ghana was hard. It was really, really, hard. For those first few months after being home, I really couldn’t stop thinking about how much I wanted to be back there, back at Beacon House and back to a life that left me filled with more purpose than I had ever felt before.

I feel like since I left, since I said those goodbyes, since I heard that final, “Mattee, don’t go,” from Prince, that I’ve just been stuck. Stagnant. There was an incredible rise in vitality during those 6 weeks in Sri Lanka, a jump-start that I desperately needed. Somehow leaving there was worse, and I’ve been trying to figure out why that was the case, why those 6 weeks seemed to have left more of an impact than those 4.5 months in Ghana. And the conclusion that I since came to is that when I came home that day, when I had time to look ahead to this year, all I could think about was the uncertainty and fear that comes with arriving at your final year of college. I think as I was leaving I had thoughts of, “This is it. This is probably the last time I’m going to be able to do something like this before real life comes and removes these possibilities.”

Something must have happened this month to change my outlook, to make me at least want to see things differently. Sometime over this semester I decided that I no longer want to see endings as definite, that some endings really don’t have to be. There are so many times in life when endings are just that, with zero chance to go back. Ghana doesn’t have to be one of those times. I have this opportunity now to step back into a period that brought actual happiness, happiness that was real and unbridled.

And why shouldn’t I take this opportunity? You only have one life to live, one life to fill with worth. Prince has been adopted, he is going home to Washington State soon. I have no idea if he’ll still be at Beacon House when I arrive there, but how wonderful will it be if that reunion can happen? Somehow that kid hasn’t forgotten me over this past year, apparently still referring to me as his brother. I have this chance now to show him and those that are still there that they do matter to me, that they are worth returning to. Maybe I shouldn’t have waited until now to go back, maybe I lost my chance of seeing Prince again. But maybe not. And if he is no longer there, then that’s okay. That means he’s with his new family, a family that will give him the best shot at living a healthy, fulfilling life. And for those I came to know who are still there, I can spend 3 weeks reassuring them that they’re important.

This guy.

This guy.

I don’t really have a plan as of yet, no idea where I’m going to stay or anything. But I’ll figure it out. This is Ghana, after all. Finding a place to stay might take many misunderstanding-filled taxi rides and my poor bargaining skills might lose me out of a few cedis, but I’ll eventually manage to end up somewhere. I wish I could break out my Twi book to refresh myself on some phrases, but lawd knows where that book has since ended up. Probably in an Obruni Trap. I haven’t even begun thinking about everything besides Beacon House I’ll be able to experience again. Umm…those egg sandwiches? I don’t know if the Night Market remains open at the University of Ghana between semesters, but I will be booking it there on Day 1 to eat those $0.75 beauties. And jollof? Plantains? EXCITED. Honestly, there is so much to look forward to I can’t even concentrate on just one long enough to compile a mental list.

Again, this is still just a week of being a reality and there is so much that needs to happen before then, but having this to look forward to will probably be crucial through the rest of this semester. I’ll end by giving my thanks to my dad, who is somehow always willing to let me do these things. Even my mother, who would normally skoff at the idea of me being gone at a time when I could otherwise be home, and is never quick to approve of my travel decisions, seems to understand that this is something that I really need to do. And of course, there will be weekly updates, and none of this “waiting 2 months to share my stories” nonsense that unfortunately happened this summer.

I’m sure you’ll hear from me again before I leave. I’ll probably devote an entire post about how much I’m looking forward to drowning in my own sweat again. But if it results in the kids asking me once again why I’m crying, I’ll take it.

Can’t wait to see how many pounds I’ll sweat away in a three week period! And if The Lord is truly on my side those weeks, One Direction might be there as well.

Some Tidbits and Musings…and Turning 20.

Well, it’s been a while since I’ve checked in.  There are a few reasons for this, but about 85% of those reasons have to do with me really not doing anything or having anything to report, since, as we all know, my college life is bursting with endless activity and excitement. But finally, within the past week, I actually have some things to discuss! Try to tone down the excitement.

The other 15% of reason why I haven’t updated is because I received a visit from these two lovely ladies, also known as my mother and sister, this past weekend:

Yes. We're paddle-boating

So much slobber. So much joy.

Besides the normal amount of bickering and drama, it was a really great weekend, coming at a really great time just before things with school start to become extra cray. Activities included: 21 Jump Street (So stupid. So funny. So beautiful.), bulldog stalking and subsequent coddling, paddle-boating (or mostly floating, in our case) in the TIdal Basin, mixed with a lot of lounging. My favorite.

The major development that has come within the past week is that I was accepted to the University of Ghana! I’m someone who is always looking a few months or even years ahead, so not knowing where I would be 4 months from now was honestly starting to cause a lot of stress.  Part of me knew that I didn’t have too much to worry about, since I don’t think Ghana is too many people’s top pick for study abroad, but worrying over nothing is something I’m exceptional at.  So now I have to decide whether or not I want to live with a Ghanaian family or live on campus in a dorm, which definitely won’t be an easy decision.  Other than that, I’m not going to worry about this too much until the semester ends. Way too much else to deal with in the next few weeks!

I thought I’d go off on a slight tangent to offer some praise for my father, known to my friends simply as….Irwin.  Thanks to his awesome job at the Weinstein Company, he I have benefited immensely from his various contacts with sponsors over the years.  I really should have a ton of friends. I might be at the point of being open to being used for free tickets from Irwin. Here’s a sample of a conversation I had with my friend about a week ago, just casually at Starbucks:

Hayley: “The Bruins are playing the Caps in next week in the playoffs. I need to go!     Matthew: “Hmm…Irwin’s good at getting free tickets to stuff. Maybe he can help!”       Hayley:    “STOP. Don’t even tease me with that.”                                                          Matthew: “Whoops, already texted him. He said he’ll work on it.”

So about 5 days later and after extreme anxiety over the tickets being delivered on time, we got to watch the game last night in a luxury suite, equipped with lots of free  food and booze, as I soon found out. It was a really amazing/ridiculous experience, filled with the occasional hockey fight (Lucic is so beautiful and psychotic) and luckily a Bruins victory. I really didn’t want to deal with the wrath of a scorned, mildly intoxicated Bruins fan afterwords. Back to the booze, I opened the refrigerator to get a Coke, sat back down, and quickly realized that I snagged a Budweiser. Whoopsies. I decided to just down that, and then tried a Heineken to compare. The verdict? They both just really suck. But hey, at least I got to do something mildly wild and drink free beer with some fancy people!  THANKS IRWIN!

Back to business. This is my final post as a teenager.  I wish I had a full day to just sit down and reflect on these past 7 years, and maybe I’ll still do that when I’m back home and have time to.  There have been so many embarrassing/sad moments (starting with my unfortunately themed Bar Mitzvah…Hippomattamus…ending with falling into a river and down a tree within a 24 hour span in Africa), there have been many friendships formed and sadly a few that have faded. I’ve been fortunate enough to see so much of the world, to really understand that there is so much beauty in every country. I can’t look back without thinking about some of the regrets I have, mostly when it comes to the people I’ve come across that I let slip away, the few people I didn’t put enough effort into being in their lives.  Maybe I’ll start to take some real risks, not just safety risks with countries I visit, or academic risks when I chose to come to DC.  I need to take some risks in my personal life, to be proactive and not just hope that someone I may want to be friends with comes to me first.  Maybe I’ll decide to not settle on being a B-, that I deserve more.  Maybe I’ll decide to spend less time focusing on where I’ll be a few months from now, or less time thinking about what I wish I had done differently, and just focus on today, on right now. I can accept the past as unchangeable and focus on daily goals and dreams that will make the future something I don’t have to worry about as much.

But seriously. 20. Woah.

P.S. I forgot to mention that I saw Titanic in theaters last week. Even though I saw it so many times at home, seeing it where it was meant to be seen was just…wow. So many tears. My love for Kate Winslet has grown to probably unhealthy levels.

For all of you with upcoming birthdays, here you go! Thanks for reading.


 

The White Rabbit

We all know the story: Alice sees a white rabbit, follows him down the rabbit hole, and finds herself in Wonderland.  Crazy stuff.

My life is about as uneventful and unexciting as it gets, which I guess is largely completely my fault. I spend nine months of the year following a pretty pathetic schedule of going to class, going to my internship, going to the library/starbucks to do homework, squeeze some time in for food, and go back to my room where I pathetically watch TV on Hulu until I fall asleep to repeat that process the next day. Saddest of all, I look forward to the weekends the most because I have even more time to do homework. Social life? Screw that! Skool fo lyfe!

Clearly, my shit is a mess.

On the bright side, at least I’m aware of how embarrassing I am. Unfortunately, habits are pretty tough to break.  I know my love for traveling, for being in other places and experiencing different ways of life is a consequence of this. I don’t want my life to be a constant loop of Grande Caramel Apple Spice and history textbooks.  So I decide that one day, I’m going to have a job where I can spend weeks at a time in different places (USAID, I’m comin’ for you!). I spend summers giving myself a taste of what that could be like, sending myself to Peru and Africa and wherever else, just to resuscitate my flat-lining life.

Anyway, back to the white rabbit.  There have been so many times that I’ve wished to be somewhere else, somewhere…different from where I am now. Basically, somewhere unknown. I don’t really feel like I belong anywhere right now. I’m at school, thinking about the next time I go back home, I get back home and pretty soon start thinking about the next time I’m leaving.  Clearly, something isn’t right here.

Given my desire to discover my own white rabbit to follow, my favorite TV show, Lost, provided some way to vicariously do that.  I can’t say how many times I’ve wished I could be on that island, slate wiped clean, the past no longer significant. Maybe I could do without all the deaths and smoke monsters. And crazy evil people. Here’s a clip of one of my favorite scenes of the show, a conversation between John Locke and Jack Shephard:

In case you didn’t feel like watching, Jack is struggling with coming to terms with something he feels to be an impossibility, his own white rabbit he refuses to accept. Locke wants Jack to believe in the possibility that things happen for a reason, that what he believes to be a hallucination may actually be real.  Faith is something that both characters struggle with throughout the series, something I struggle with today. I’m constantly questioning myself, questioning my past and my future, never really allowing myself to just stop and believe that things will work out the way they’re supposed to.  The present isn’t really a place I like to spend too much time thinking about.

In this clip, rabbit holes are discussed in a slightly extremely more depressing way.  In this scene from the amazing movie, Rabbit Hole, Nicole Kidman’s character is contemplating parallel universes, other realities where versions of herself are happier.

First off, how beautiful is Nicole Kidman?? Seriously. Love that woman. This is one of my favorite scenes from any movie, which probably says something about how depressing I am. But honestly, who doesn’t think about, or wish for, something better? To be better, happier, to be eating pancakes or at the water park instead of wallowing in pain.  It’s nice to think that somewhere out there, a version of ourself is living the kind of life we wish we had now.

One day, I will find that damn white rabbit. And follow the bastard.

So this post became a lot longer than I anticipated. I’m also concerned that I didn’t make any sense at all, but since I spent over an hour on this, I’m just gonna let it be and hope that when I re-read this, I’m not completely embarrassed.