A Letter to Myself in Six Months

Dear Jenna,

I am sitting in my hut right now, on my bed under the mosquito net with my pillow and sleeping bag between my back and the cold concrete wall. It is almost like a couch, and it is the most comfortable place in the tiny 5×8 foot hut. It is the first time I have gotten to use my computer in over a month, which in itself is so nice. I should be studying for Saturday’s language exam, but instead I am here, writing this.

The full moon has passed, just a few days ago, and the sky is pitch black again. The type of black where I start to worry about getting lost while leaving my hut to brush my teeth each night. Remember how sometimes the sky gets a bit lighter at night and you think it’s because your eyes are starting to adjust better to the dark, but in reality it’s just because the bright light of the full moon is lighting up the night? Yeah. But the sky is pitch black again, and when you go outside you can see all the stars imaginable, and the Milky Way, too. It really is a site to see.

Desmond Junior and Kelvin and Victor and Karen are outside, sitting around the brazier. Esnet, your host bamaama is shouting something at them in Nyanja. They respond lazily.

I want you to know how proud of you I am. I want you to know how amazing it is, what you are doing each day. I want you to know that there truly are times when I don’t think that I will make it, and then I think of you, far off in the future, doing it all. And doing it well. I want to remind you to be brave.

The time is slowly speeding up here, and right now I think that is a good thing. Because June felt like it took months to go by, and I don’t want every month to feel that way. But July feels just a bit better and August will feel even more so, I am sure.

I still feel like I am living in a different dimension or universe from whatever is happening at home. Does that feeling ever go away? Do you ever get used to the discord between your life and your friends’ lives?

I don’t know if you think the time is going too slow or too fast, but whatever it is, just know that time is passing as it should. That sometimes when it’s going too slowly that just means you are really learning a lot from where you are and what you are doing. Sometimes when it seems like time isn’t passing at all you just need to get away with a cup of coffee and a book. Fall into another world while reading, and watch the time slowly start to speed back to normal.

I promise: it works every time.

Sometimes when it seems like time is passing too quickly and it doesn’t seem like you have enough time to do everything you need, just remember how far you have come. How slowly it went at the beginning. How you craved for it to speed up. Because right now it is speeding up so slowly, and there is so much yet to come. Remember that sometimes time flying by is good. It means you are really doing what you came here to do. It means you are working hard and learning a lot. And teaching a lot, too.

It will get hard, it will get easier. I don’t know that, but I do, at the same time. Because that is the way it always is. Even when it is so inexplicably hard, just know it will always get better.

Sometimes there will be days where the most work you can do is to light the brazier and cook yourself lunch. Don’t worry: that is your accomplishment for that day. Sometimes there will be so much to do you will think you can’t do it all. You can. You always can. Whether it be house chores or work tasks. Sit down, make a list, start tackling the list one by one.

Go for a run. Paint something. Draw a picture for a friend and send it in a bush note down to another village. Play your ukulele.

Go to the prov house. See people. Talk. Laugh. Listen to music. Plan a trip somewhere. Enjoy this. Enjoy it all.

Know you are doing an amazing job, whatever you are doing and wherever you are.

Your fan,


2 thoughts on “A Letter to Myself in Six Months”

  1. This reminds me of you.
    “Go placidly amidst the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly, and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexatious to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter; for there will always be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans and keep interested in your career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. Take caution in your business affairs for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism. Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass. Take kindly to the counsel of years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have the right to be here. And whether it is clear to you or not, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.”
    – Max Ehrmann, “Desiderata”

    I’m rooting for you, girl!

  2. You’re a SUPERSTAR and I am SO so proud of you JSmalls!!! XOXOXO keep enjoying that Milky Way, something the rest of us back in this other dimension don’t get to enjoy. 🙂

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