What Have I Learned?
Around the sixth week, Deborah asked us why we were on this program. I remember the first thing that popped into my head: to learn.
I am reflecting on how much I have learned (so much!) and how much I still don’t know (far more!). It’s tough to accept that learning is such a non-linear process, and that increased knowledge does not translate directly to increased ability to make a difference. When I said I was here to learn, I think I expected a bigger change within myself and my abilities-- and so in some ways I feel disappointed. I want to write about the hope and courage and joy of this program. But to write about what I have learned, I should also write about sadness and confusion, frustration and apathy.
On this program I have hungrily snatched up countless new experiences and discussions and memories. I have been exposed to so much information that has filled me alternatively with passion, anger, hope, guilt, happiness, and hopelessness. I can honestly say I have never experienced an emotional roller coaster like this. I have learned of stories and concepts that I had never been exposed to before, and my understanding of many issues has been given new nuance.
I have also met some incredibly inspiring people. I have seen power, patience, and perseverance among so many here in India. I have heard heartbreaking statements spoken with a casualness that knocked the breath out of me. I have teared up unexpectedly, and been unable to figure out why, after all these weeks, that was the thing that pushed me over the edge. I’ve had conversations with students from SJC that have left me in awe-- awe at their strength, and the world in which they function. And, of course, I have learned so much about my fellow GCIL students: I have come to know their distinct laughs, their personality quirks, and their hopes and vulnerabilities.
Despite my best efforts, I walked into this program with expectations. Expectations are pesky things, because sometimes what hurts the most is failing to reach your own internal benchmarks. On this program I have had beautiful moments of hope, and challenging moments of frustration. These are emotions that I expected. But most disappointingly I have also felt the pull of apathy stemming from deep hopelessness. It really hurts me to say that, because I never expected to feel that way. I guess I have been overwhelmed by all this learning and at my small, small part in the puzzle.
I have definitely felt and learned and experienced a lot. But somehow I feel mostly unchanged. I believe that knowledge and learning have the power to change someone. I mean, isn’t that what learning should do? It should plant the seeds of slow but continuous growth. It should give you new perspectives and ways to navigate in the world so that you fundamentally face the world differently. It should shake you to your core until you have no choice but to act. But I don’t know how I have changed, or even how I will be changed once I go home. It can be so difficult to perceive changes in yourself while living-- constantly, relentlessly-- within your mind.
Have you ever felt yourself change? Or is it something that happens slowly until one day you look back and you realize how far you’ve come?