You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do. (Eleanor Roosevelt)
Fear is a funny thing. Sometimes I fear things I have never experienced: for all of my childhood and adolescence I told myself I was afraid of flying, despite the fact that I had only flown once in my life and was only two years old so I don’t remember the experience at all. That kind of fear is big and intimidating, but only because I’m facing the unknown. Sometimes I fear things that I have experienced: I’m still afraid of flying, even after multiple travels in planes. These are the fears that really get me. They seem so much stronger. They pack a bigger punch when you’re about to face the same thing that overwhelmed you the first time you experienced it. You want to shy away and avoid the possibility of getting hurt.
I am afraid to go to Costa Rica later this summer. And it’s not really for any qualities of the trip itself. Sure, I’m nervous about the experiences and challenges that await me there, but that’s not where this fear is based. I’m afraid to go to Costa Rica because of the crippling homesickness that I experienced when I studied abroad in Spain. In 56 days, I’ll be boarding a plane that will take me to San José, and I’m terrified that I will experience the same homesickness that I did when I was in Spain.
Here’s the good news. The more I think about that fear, the more I realize just how unfounded it is. Yes, I was homesick when I was in Spain, and it wasn’t one of my favorite parts of my experience there. But because I was homesick I learned how to deal with those emotions. If I begin to feel homesick while I’m in Costa Rica I know how to cope. I can find a favorite spot in the city to sit and journal, or go discover some tasty treats. Homesickness is a disease that can be cured, if you know the right remedies.
And so excitement is starting to overwhelm my fear. In two months, I’ll be working that Fernando Centeno Guell Center for Special Education in San José. There are three divisions of the center, one for the hearing/language impaired, one for the visually impaired, and one for the mentally impaired. I’ll have the opportunity to work alongside speech therapists, physical therapists, and occupational therapists, and to interact with the students at the center, who range in age from 1 to 21 years old.
I’ll be living in a beautiful country for six weeks with a Costa Rican family. I’ll get to speak Spanish on a daily basis again. I’ll get to visit a volcano! I’m going to learn so much. And all because I’m facing the fears that I had of being abroad again, instead of running away from them.