Reflection: over a month in the “field” (to all my INDEVOURS)

**I wrote this right after my last day at my first field placement location. I was on the bus, on my way home, feeling discouraged with life and angry with myself.

So I decided to get off the bus and smile to as many people as I could, until I could wash off all of my own unhappiness and the shadows of my failure by making other people happy. But I was going to do that right after my hand stopped itching, and my wrist stopped jumping and my brain could throw up on paper what was in my mind. So I got off a few stops before my usual one. At this nice park full of people, and green and benches. I bought myself a new pen (S/. 0,94!) and started writing.

“More and more I see that I can’t do things just to do it. I’m sensitive to people, to places, to situations. If I could take a motto, a lesson to myself is to only do what I really want. “But where would we be if we only did what we wanted?” An old question pops into my head. And then I think that I’m not talking about shallow wants and “needs”, I’m talking about what’s really inside. What you want is who you are. Something that feels normal inside, that makes you free of all anxiety. You can’t judge a fish on its ability to fly. You can’t assess and English teacher teaching a chemistry class. So who says that you’re not to do what you want? “Society”, you might say. Society says we have to do what we have to do so we can all survive. But look how that has worked out for us. Our society is far from perfect. Who is society to tell you who you are? What good example has society given us to inspire us to follow all of its pre determined patterns? None. We do so out of custom, but mostly out of fear. So many fears: not fitting in, not finding a place in life for oneself… But also fear of following and accepting what we really want (since it might not fit the model). Also, of accepting that you will never be happy so long as you don’t do that one thing that makes up the core of your being, that is different for every single person alive, that one thing that we, as privileged people, have all the opportunities and time to discover, explore, accept and impose to society. If only we would allow ourselves to do it. Let it in, everyday. Figure it out a little bit every day.

I am going to say this because I feel that so far I have earned my degree. Not just because I have completed and passed all of my courses, but because I have put up with all of the bullshit, silently, bowing my head forward, accepting, envisioning my future, my placement, my degree.

But I am yet to find some use to the things “learned”. You see, I have a huge problem with things that seem to exist “for show”, because they “have to be”, such as our academic curriculum. I understand the trial process of establishing a program, but ours is just… I lack words. We all know the anger and the humiliation of each useless class that we had to take seriously, because no one would as much as listen to us. Because we know nothing, right? Compared to old biased society, we are only still learning its many ways, learning what we HAVE to do to get by. That was our program, based in life itself. How ironic, how proper: a bunch of shit you have to do in order to get by. And I am not saying this to point fingers at anyone’s incompetence. We are all jaded, and I am not gonna be the one to judge that fish. I am here, writing as a way of letting it all out, as a way of healing, perhaps in a constructive manner, otherwise my head will certainly explode.

My first job in the field was a failure. I am not exactly blaming anyone else for it, but some things could have been better. I have exactly ZERO practical skills, as much as we pretended that some classes gave us those skills, and we wrote it all down to hand it in. But we are pros at doing what we know will help us get by, on saying what they want to hear, on doing what we HAVE to. So we embellish our reflections with a bunch of bullshit on how we can do this and that, when truthfully we can’t. I feel ill equipped for the journey I was supposed to be prepared for. I have nothing but my passion. The same passion I had in the beginning, that got me thorough all the “have tos”, the same that was criticized, laughed at and almost broken by those who were supposed to inspire us. We were told to drop the utopic feelings, to get real, to conform.

Today my passion is the greatest tool I have for this placement, for life, for myself. So to the ones after us, don’t let it get to you. Don’t let them break your dreams. You can do anything you want, if you know that this wanting comes from your very being, from who you truly are. It will never leave you alone, as much as they might laugh, infantilize or mock you for it. Don’t let them take away the one thing that got you where you are. In the end, it’s all you have. Because I see now that I have nothing else. No other tool, no other skill. I was lost. “So what can you do? What are your abilities?” I was asked at my (now previous) job. And I was embarrassed, after thinking, to have to answer “Nothing”. And it sucks, because they thought I was being modest, but I honestly have nothing to show for, and I would dare any of my classmates to answer that question with anything that you didn’t already have, or that didn’t come from yourself personally. That is my point about the program.

I was given an office job, even though it is called a field placement, and I was afraid to speak up because I was told, over and over, I was conditioned to believe and accept that my passions could not be fulfilled.  I was given a job, more out of charity from this amazing organization I worked for. They were expecting someone qualified, someone who could do something, anything, and for the first time I felt crippled by my education. Embarrassed, I felt severely embarrassed. All I had was what I wanted. I was supposed to have been taken care of, for the other part. I was supposed to have been given tools to “engage my passion”, to “shape the world”. Why else would I have enrolled in the program then? My passion has remained the same, because this is who I am. What I was promised was a way to be able to professionally work with it, to be able to have all that was necessary for it to become my profession. But today, over 30,000 dollars in debt (the wonders of being an international student), and 3 years of my life later, I had to answer that embarrassing question with “Nothing”. Just that, after being told over and over, throughout these 3 years that I didn’t have all I needed to make it in the real world. And I didn’t, that was right. But I still don’t and that’s the problem.

So I was given a job in an office to look for funding for this organization and that was all I could do to help them. Eight hours a day, five days a week. So I started thinking about what “field” meant, and about what I wanted, not only as a person but as a professional. I was working with a great organization, a great add on to my resume, but there I was, catching myself more than once a day, checking facebook, twitter, my email, the news… I know for a fact that many other INDEVOURS can relate to this. But then, ask yourself: is that why you came? Is that what you want to do, to be on facebook all day? Couldn’t you do whatever you are doing, in front of a computer all day, from your home? Couldn’t you do it from Canada? Then what is the meaning of the word “field” in “field placement”?  Does it only mean that we get to be in a different country but just work whatever office jobs we could have had at CIDA or whatever development agency back in Canada? I know many of you are putting up with it because you love being in the country that you are. So much to see, to do, to eat, to try… a whole new culture!! But then… what are you: a tourist or a development worker?

I am noticeably frustrated, but this time I won’t take away my own reason like I was taught to do so many times, mainly because I have done so before, and patiently waited for this. We all have put our last hopes in this placement, and so far it has failed me badly.

The work I was doing would have been better suited for some of our classes that were supposed to give us “practical” skills. If placements were perhaps set up earlier, it would be a useful exercise (for both the student and the organization) to get the search for funds started from Canada, as an assignment. The student would become familiarized with the organization since you need to know what kind of projects they work with, their budgets, time frames and mandate in order to determine what kind of funding is available and appropriate. And that would also clear the first “get-to-know-things” part of the process so the student would be able to start the field part of the work much earlier. I don’t know, this is just a suggestion (you can’t just criticize without suggesting possible solutions, remember?). I am not saying I have all the answers, but “critically thinking”, that sounds like a better option to me (and I might, obviously, be wrong).

So what are you going to do, my fellow INDEVOURS? Stay on facebook and enjoy your parent funded 8 month trip, or get off your ass and fight for what you want for your life by yourself? I know it’s easier said than done, especially when I am lucky enough to count with the support of a great team that is WUSC PERU. I know from experience that not all branches are the same. But I think you all can still do it. Speaking of which… am I breaking any rules or sacred contracts where you have to bow down, always keep quiet and not say what you really mean?? If I am, I am truly sorry. But I was told once by a professor – and that was one lesson I will always take from INDEV – to always question authority.

So here I am. Let’s start doing this right.”