A Year since Bonn

While I was working in Sri Lanka, I applied for a UN Youth Volunteer position in Sarajevo, and, in what I consider a miraculous stroke of luck (as a person lacking a knowledge of the language or a background in the field that the position was in), got the job. I studied for the LSATs at the beginning of this year, went through a roller coaster of mental and emotional states, had a panic attack which almost killed me, and eventually took the test, reminding myself that this test isn’t worth my mental health or my life. I went through training in Bonn, and felt a tremendous sense of loss at the end of it because I knew that I would never again (or to be less fatalistic, rarely ever) meet such a large group of people whose values and ideals aligned so well with what I consider the better version of myself. We had many intimate conversations, and at the time, felt like heaven and earth moved to make me meet these people and realize that there was still work to do in this world, and that I could do something as part of it.

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I was quite emotional saying goodbye to everyone, so I wrote this email at the airport:

Dear all,

I’m sitting at the airport eating haribo gummies being given too much time to dwell on the tsunami of emotions that accompany separation from amazing people I didnt know 5 days ago. (if I had a tub of ice cream, I would be eating my feelings away, but haribo should make do for now).

Few words can even begin to explain the gratitude I feel towards all of you, and even fewer words can explain the immense sadness I feel when I start comprehending that the experiences over the last couple of days can’t be replicated, just like how a sweet dream ends and never comes back when you wake up and can’t fall back asleep.

I feel like the stars alligned for me and blessed me with your company, and I do hope those stars allign at least once more in my lifetime so that we could all meet again.

You can only be sad about the end of something if what has ended was a gift, either of experience, love, or the company of the special. Thank you for being such an incredibly special gift. Thank you for being people who make goodbyes so difficult.

The cliche in situations like this goes “dont cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” I think I’ll be doing a bit of both.

I wish you all the best of luck in your assignments throughout the next year.

Best wishes, and with a heartful of love,

Minji

So after all that, I arrived in Sarajevo and moved to my new house which basically felt like a luxurious Airbnb I didn’t feel entitled to at the time.

To share my honest feelings about my first week at work, I probably felt about as useful as a sack of potatoes sitting on a chair with a UN ID card hanging around the neck of the sack. I felt like I had no business being there. People (i.e. other UN Volunteers) reassured me constantly, saying that things will change, I will adjust, there will me work for me to do,and I will miss these few days or weeks when I had plenty of time and little to do when I am overwhelmed with work. Obviously, they were right to a certain degree.

As time went by, I slowly started feeling like like heaven and earth never really cared about trivialities such as myself and the people I meet. I knew how treacherous the human memory can be, and I knew that everyone will eventually not remember everyone else, or the content of the exchanges with everyone else. I knew that once this dissipates, the emotions that everyone felt towards each other will eventually dissipate too. All the good stuff in Bonn felt like an extension of my luck that landed me the job in the first place, and I knew that luck never lasts. I knew that feelings never last either.

How arrogant I was in thinking that I “knew” these things.

To any of the other UNVs who may be reading this: Facebook is a waste of my time and it cost my eyesight, but for me, it essentially keeps the feelings of connectedness and affinity going for a very long time. And I still feel that towards you all. I feel pride and happiness when I see photos of you guys working in the field. I always harbor good will and a genuine wish for great things to happen to you. I feel like if I ever see any of you guys again, it will make me immensely happy and those feelings I felt in Bonn will come back to me. I don’t know how you feel now, a year after Bonn, but I hope it has left similar lingering feelings for you too.

 

 

 

 

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