A year ago, I achieved what I’d originally deemed impossible when I arrived on the Island of Paros for the first time in my life. It was only one in a series of firsts that lead me down a path of growth and opportunity for the better. It was the first time I’d traveled alone, been on a plane, gone over seas and taken care of myself in such ways. Now only a week ago I achieved another feat I originally thought unattainable and returned to the Island of Paros yet again.
My experience was in many ways a trial by fire and journey of self-discovery. Not only did I complete the course with new and valuable skills and a new family of lifelong friends, but I began to realize the potential in my abilities as a person. With the right attitude, work ethic and determination the possibilities were limitless. Before I returned home, I made a silent vow to return to Paros someday in the future. But little did I realize that future wasn’t so distant.
In December of 2018, Albert approached me about returning to the program as a teaching assistant and student leader. There was no question in my mind; I had to come back! My memories of the year before were filled with surreal sights and endless excitement. The way I saw it there was no reason to pass up the same adventure. But that’s been the challenge I’ve had to face this time around.
Last year, despite my rocky road of travel to the island, the following three weeks were near perfection. I’ve been told several times that we had an especially unique group dynamic that stood out from others. There was never a dull moment between us. Our range of talents, industrious focus and the way we operated as a team created a bond that had never been seen before in the program. It was my first experience being part of a course like this. And now from the standpoint of a leader, I’m realizing it was a standard I couldn’t hold my expectations to.
Though the trip to get here went much smoother than before, this first week has been trying for all parties involved. It started with some trouble sleeping, then tech issues, then rescheduled shoots, personal challenges or disappointments and a shopping run that became stressful when the locals didn’t understand the word “plunger.” There is a daily stream of obstacles that have kept me on my toes and at times I feel like I have failed at my job in a way. But that couldn’t be farther from the truth, and that’s a lesson I’m having to teach myself while here this year.
I have a terribly unhealthy habit of holding myself to unattainable standards. Part of me believes I should have more control and be able to stop these situations from occurring, but the reality is I need to accept when there are problems I can’t fix, especially when it comes to the emotional stability of others.
Everyone here was selected because they have a spark that can burn brighter if kindled correctly, but the circumstances can be unpredictable. If you try to light a fire in a rainstorm you will have a much more frustrating time than if you accept it can be lit another day. With that in mind, I’ve come to terms with the fact that I can’t control the weather. The most I can do is pass on the torch when the time is right. Though I can light the path I’ve taken for those that come after me to follow, it’s up to them which direction they head in. That’s the greatest lesson Paros has presented me with yet. I can’t wait to see what next year has to offer.