Flying away from Swarthmore

I did not realize this when I booked the flight, but this morning flight is timed almost perfectly with the sunrise.

This flying off into the sunrise, watching Philadelphia drop away below me, seems too romantic, almost overly dramatically so. From the rocking motion and general post-Swat fatigue, I usually fall asleep as soon as the tires start rolling, but this time, I stayed awake. My mind is buzzing with thoughts.

The last few weeks, even months, have been strange. I have had moments where I am suddenly overwhelmed by emotions about leaving Swarthmore – a kind of premature nostalgia mixed with melancholy. But largely, I have been feeling neutral. I had expected to feel more emotional about graduating. After all, this is the longest I have lived anywhere since I began elementary school. But even as I sit here now on the plane, writing about this, I don’t feel any particularly strong feeling of finale.

I think, in part, it’s because my mind has been largely occupied with other matters the past few months – namely that of development work and Haiti. This had begun a while ago and has not ended with finishing Swarthmore. It has taken up a larger mental and emotional space in the last few months than any Swarthmore-related subjects. In turn, finishing Swarthmore loses the delineating meaning it may otherwise hold. For other seniors, this moment demarcates their college career from their future. For me, Swarthmore has unknowingly ended sometime this summer. This technical ending is nothing but a formality. It means neither the end of a chapter nor the beginning of another one. This post should be about the last 3.5 years, but instead, all that occupies my mind is the next 2 years of my life.

I have been juggling in my mind several different thoughts. A part of me desperately wants to be on the ground, working with an NGO, any NGO, in Haiti, as that is where I can really learn from some hands-on experiences. The other part of me feels that I am vastly under prepared for anything of the sort and to begin making any sort of sustained impact, I need more training. This part of me wants to focus on getting back to school soon.

Haiti does not have a dearth of humanitarian efforts. What she needs are effective humanitarian efforts targeting at her actual needs. To really, fully understand what these needs may be and how best to satisfy them, I need to spend a year just focusing on learning more about development work and about Haiti. I keep asking myself: Do I really want to be working with just any NGO? Would working with just any NGO be beneficial for my future and for Haiti? Asking these questions makes me to want to go back to school. On the other hand, as I have learned again and again, theory is very different from reality. Reading about development work will not be the same as being on the field and trying to implement what I’ve read. This drives my focus to the other end of the spectrum. Ideally, I think, the best situation for me right now is to work for an organization that I find ideologically appealing, in the states. This will allow me to have the capacity to focus on getting back to school and getting the degrees necessary to really go back some day and make some real impacts.

This post makes my experiences at Swarthmore sound trivial. They by no means were. I have grown a lot at Swarthmore. Perhaps, more than I can really verbalize. I am not sure how much of it was just growing up and how much can be attributed to Swarthmore, but Swarthmore has given me a depth that, I think, is harder to see from the surface. Superficially, I am still the same person who entered Swarthmore, but I have also gained the ability to think more deeply about things that cross my path. I have learned what work means and how much I can get done if I really tried. I have grown more confident of my abilities, but at the same time, gained a sense of humility. These – Swarthmore has provided for me. Some of them, I gained through my courses. Most of them, I gained through interacting with my peers. And for that, for creating this community of extraordinarily interesting individuals, I have to thank Swarthmore for.

As I sit here, listening to the air conditioning hum and conversations mumble, these are the thoughts that are running through my mind. The plane just landed, opening its wings up to slow down – a dragon sprucing up, opening up to the world its innards.


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