I’ve Changed

Over the past few months I have engaged in various conversations with youth from across the globe about personality growth and shifts, academic and personal development, reverse culture shock, and how we take our learnings from one environment to the next. Subconsciously I knew I was going through the same thought processes as these youth, in a similar fashion to the multitude thoughts that occupied my mind when I first returned to Canada following an extended time period in East Africa.

The movement from Health Healthy requires shifts, adaptations, alterations, and ultimately change. Some changes are dramatic such as the new eating habits I have implemented and others occur slowly, behind the scenes, and appear in unexpected moments. This is not knew. Books such as The Trauma of Everyday Life  by M. Epstein and Transcending Loss by A.D. Bush share how an individuals experiences, perceptions, and processes all provoke change in individuals. What I have learnt about culture shock is that the greatest challenge lies in the fact that the individual has innately changed but that their external figure as well as the community they return to has likely not changed as significantly. Finding ones place within past environments while attempting to maintain the new person one has become is often at the root of reverse culture shock. I, and I am guessing you, have also experienced things, made decisions, and meet people which have changed your life, regardless of experiencing reverse culture shock.

Let me be a little more specific. Over the past few months, while I have been thinking a lot about the changes youth face when they attend a global camp in a developing community and the challenges they face when they return home, I have also been thinking about how that same experience changed my life. It was during this camp that I realized that balance between materialism, secularism, and faith look different for each individual. I acknowledged that I had (maybe have) a tendency to see things in a manner that challenges the natural flow and that I actively exhibit frustrations through the depletion of my own health.

Realizing the above while I attempt to support youth in finding new ways to connect with friends in their hometowns, to bring their learnings home with them, and to find the positive in the tough moments of reverse culture shock, I started to accept that I needed to make changes in my life too. This new understanding also came with the realization that my academic process was suffering. It was time to make a conscious decision, one I think I have intentionally done, attempted my best at, and perhaps forgot to think about how it will influence my personal relationships. Some of the things I intentionally and consciously changed included my nutritional intake by refraining from inflammatory foods, returning to regular daily physical activity, increasing my time outdoors, focusing on my academics for a minimum of four hours a day, personal daily reflection, and most importantly attempting to find the positives in all encounters.

Finding beauty is about perception - it is everywhere.

Finding beauty is about perception – it is everywhere.

The last, finding the positives, has been the most challenging. There are many occasions where I catch myself judging the behaviours and actions of others. I suppose I could argue that this is the first step to change – recognizing my current behaviours. However, as this became a regular practice, I was in disbelief with how regular of a practice this was for me. So, re-evaluating the way in which I interact with others and perceive their behaviours topped my list of things I wanted to work on. This goal was joined by finding like-minded individuals to spend time with (it is easier to make change when others are already doing what you want to be doing, I think). I would be lying if I said it has been easy. This is likely one of the most challenging things I have done in my life. Yet, each day it seems a little easier and easier. I even catch myself wanting to correct the language of those I surround myself and the language in texts I read. I find motivation and inspiration from friends, family, and nature.

Ultimately the movement from Health Healthy is not of just one discourse within our lives. It requires, in my opinion, an evaluation of all things in our lives including our perceptions, assumptions, judgements, the individuals we interact with, those we find ourselves mentoring yet learning from, our physical and spiritual health, our interaction with nature, and so forth. I encourage you to spend some time re-evaluating the various discourses within your own life that make up your health, determine what you are able to adapt and/or alter to move from one state of health to another, and continuously strive for your best.

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