Writing from 3.387° S, 36.683°
(Disclaimer: I’ve never actually watched the show I Love Lucy. This is probably completely unrelated. Oops.)
You know how people always ask couples for the story of how they met? Well, my friend Lucy and I got that question a lot when we came to Tanzania, due to the fact that we were attached at the hip but didn’t actually know each other before coming here. Lucy was usually the one to answer, and as with every story she ever tells, started it by saying “Okay, so…”
It all started with a creepy Facebook message.
Love Volunteers has a Facebook group where people can find each other to ask questions and get advice before going on their trips. I was already signed on for my placement in Arusha at this point, but Lucy hadn’t decided for sure, so she started asking me what I knew about the program and why I chose it. Eventually, she sent the infamous message that I make fun of her for approximately five times per week:
“I promise I’m not crazy” – the official motto of crazy people everywhere.
I originally said she could book the same flight as me because I felt bad and didn’t know what else to say. If going along with me was what would make it possible for someone else to go volunteer, then I couldn’t exactly say no, right?
The socially anxious introvert in me really, really, REALLY wanted to say no.
30+ hours of one-on-one time and small talk with someone I had never met before? Cue the anxiety attack. But, I said yes, and I’m so glad I did.
Lucy and I got extremely lucky. There are a million different scenarios that could’ve happened here (all of which we discussed at length on our balcony over the last 2 months). She could’ve been crazy and ruined my trip. I could’ve been crazy and ruined hers. We could’ve both been normal but just not liked each other at all. Instead, I met one of my best friends and got to spend two months bopping around Tanzania with her.
The things that scare me may not be relatable to everyone. Selling almost everything I owned and buying a one-way ticket to Africa didn’t phase me, but extended one-on-one time with someone I don’t know is terrifying. Awkward silences are physically painful for me and I pretty much always think they’re my fault. Even though we definitely had some awkward moments, it all ended up being worth it — and we never would have met if I had said no.
“Say yes to the things that scare you” is not a new idea, but it’s one that I haven’t been very good at practicing in the past. Hopefully this experience will help me get better at that.
Side note: Lucy, come back. I promise grad school won’t be as fun as listening to our German friends say “squirrel.” If you haven’t had ice cream and tacos at least three times already then you aren’t taking advantage of easy access to my favorite foods like you said you would. We miss you!