By Elyse Davis, a member of the SkillCorps Kenya April 2016 trip. Elyse has also traveled on two other SkillCorps trips, one to India and one to the Dominican Republic.
Every time I walk into the office with my new team, it’s like I’m learning about Global Autism Project all over again. Then, just as one does when new to orientation, I sit and question my qualifications, experiences, travel history, life, and even if I packed enough shoes. Despite knowing a thing or two from my previous trips and fundraising, it’s these feelings that I can’t quite express that just make something click every single time.
This time orientation hit me as a strong awakening. Over the years, I often reflect on how much the Global Autism Project keeps growing but haven’t really taken the time to reflect on how much I have grown. I was a sophomore in college when I sent Molly my “you must let me travel with you” email – and now I am about to graduate college and start a Masters, working towards becoming a BCBA. Things have kind of (definitely!) changed.
When asked seemingly on-the-surface questions, such as ‘who are you’, ‘why are you here’, and ‘who can you be,’ I took some extra time to reflect. Who am I? Why am I here? Who can I be?
I’m able to reflect on my experiences in India where their handmade shoebox activities taught me a lesson in innovation; or in the DR where the therapists rejected positive feedback (even though they’re amazing!) and embraced any/all constructive feedback; or times when my ideas of safety were challenged as children at SOREM are trusted to be unaccompanied on bathroom trips (maybe it’s just my experiences but I rarely see this at schools/centers in the states). The idea that “teaching is the best way to learn” is reinforced more with every trip. I am empowered to learn and move forward knowing brave souls who start autism centers out of their homes in places where autism is greatly ostracized. I’m driven by the realization that the world is desperately seeking resources, education and understanding of developmental and intellectual disabilities.
As I try to answer the above questions for the third time, all I can do is think how my experiences have made these questions so impossible to answer. The answers are always changing.
What I have realized is that this exact identity crisis really isn’t much of a crisis; it’s exactly where I want to be. Being able to adapt who I am and who I may become based on what is important to me, gives me the freedom to live out of my comfort zone, take on new adventures, and learn from my experiences.
And here’s to wheels on the ground in Kenya where my ideas of life, purpose, and myself are to be challenged every step of the way.