“Do not despise the time of preparation.” I didn’t fully embrace this advice shared with me some seven years ago by a friend who had received it herself from a mentor.
We were nearing the end of a one-year training program in our particular discipline. It had been intense and exciting; we had grown in knowledge and skills and were looking forward to how they would be implemented in “the real world.” Encouraged to follow up our studies and expand our experience with a short-term internship abroad, my friend and I seemed to teeter on the brink of “readiness.” And I thought, “Of course not! Turn down and despise a 6-month internship vital to preparing for the life I want to lead and the work I want to do?" This was an obvious decision!
Fast-forward to the wry smile that adorns my face in the present as I consider the multiple times I’ve been forced to reflect on this wisdom in the intervening years.
Following that conversation, a 6-month internship in my projected country of destination morphed into 2 years in another country differing entirely in culture and language. Thereafter, plans for a year at home in which to regroup and to find an organization, funding, and a path to my anticipated country, extended to 4 years, a change in destination and several abandoned departure dates. Of that period, one whole year was relinquished to depression so deep as to be entirely debilitating.
Preparation? I found myself mired down in shame and despair. Emerging from the abyss of depression, yet another year saw me still struggling to meet my budget and find a way to fulfill language-learning requirements. As of this moment, I’m 8 months into one language and about to plunge into 6 months of another.
At the time, the word “despise” seemed harsh. After all, I was old enough and experienced enough to know the value of preparation. That disdain for it might take the form of impatience, despondency and even shame did not occur to me. Under the circumstances, these were and are natural emotions. Determining direction, undergoing training and finding partners are hard work that sometimes requires external conviction we’ve yet to consolidate internally.
But pride, mortification and despair are like hijackers ready to drive a time of preparation into a sense of procrastination. Comparing our journeys with those of friends and colleagues can crush perspective altogether.
That that 2-year internship turned out to be one of the richest experiences of my life resulting in relationships that I treasure and hope will be lifelong;
that four years at home brought precious time with family, new and solid partnerships, and much personal healing and growth;
that against all human odds, I’m writing this from my new country;
that amidst all challenges, I’ve experienced grace, love, patience and support from family, friends and colleagues;
that, in truth, one period of preparation usually leads to another as we strive to inject Love and Hope into the social, intellectual, physical and spiritual lives of the people around us;
suggest, perhaps, the wise man who spoke those simple words shared with me almost a decade ago wasn’t counseling preparation so much as shrewdly promoting transformation.
“Do not despise the time of transformation.”
About the Author: Kimberly is an IDEAS Associate and agricultural specialist. She is currently working on her French and Arabic in Tunisia.