How do you define personal growth? Personal growth demands an open mind to learn, reflect and make necessary the changes. It may be changing an attitude or a quitting a negative habit. Or it may be more internal, changes to one’s perception and deleting pre-conceived notions of others versus self.
That said, I have grown so much in the last three months. Though I still struggle with a few things that have, in some ways, hindered my growth as a young person ready to take on the world, I have come to also appreciate others through this experience.
Volunteering is a great experience. It gives you room to learn from others and also share your experiences. It gives you the opportunity to work with persons from different cultures and enable you to develop your passions, skills and ideas in a non-formal setting.
I had my reasons to doing volunteering. For one, I had always wanted to volunteer, it was a romantic notion, to see and experience something different. I did not expect that, in some part, it would change my outlook on life. The thought never even entered my mind. To me, I was going on a great adventure.
For starters, I have come to value and appreciate my country. Yes I have have and will always love my country, but I have never been fully aware of what we have, because I was either complaining about our situation as a developing country or comparing our country to another, placing less value on what we already have. Though Solomon Islands has its bad points, like any other country, it is a country richly endowed with natural forests, white sandy beaches, lush mountains, flora and fauna any tropical country can boast of. But it is also unique, considering that we have a very diverse culture and traditions, it is almost akin to a little European Union in the Pacific. Yes, there have been times when life in this developing country, where access to education, health services and many things, have been difficult, but have lesser problems still, makes it the most peaceful place to live.
The world is one big giant bowl of cultures and traditions. And in the midst of it is my culture. My identity. I am a Solomon Islander with a diverse culture behind me. I come from three different provinces. But what do I know about my provinces? Apart from the usual day to day customs on how to treat others, the most popular typical way of making food, I know nothing about the history of my people, the tribes, and the local dialects. I know a few words. Necessary words. Being here, I realized, who am I if I don’t know my origins? How can I be an ambassador for Solomon Islands when I don’t know the little details that make my country unique?
We live in the age, where globalization has made the world smaller and in this small world where we collaborate on commonalities, our differences have become more pronounced. While, we celebrate our similarities, we also become more aware of our differences; cultural, ethnicity, ideologies and the list goes on. Being here, I have come to value the similarities that enable us to co-exist and appreciate the differences that make the person next to you exciting. I have come to put myself in others’ shoes and break down stereotypes that have long plagued and ruined the goodness in our hearts for others.
Then, there is deeper understanding of myself as a person. Being aware of my flaws has made me reflect more on who I want to be in the next 10 years as a person. Sometimes, I am so complacent with myself, and accepting because I have a family who supports me and friends that help to boost my self-esteem once in a while. But I shouldn’t be complacent. I should strive to transcend all faults, embrace them and find a way to change or improve. And that is what I have realized. And every day, I try to reflect on how I treat my colleagues in the project or my friends outside of the project. Then I also reflect on myself when I was working in my country, my work ethics and how I handled myself in the work place, and to be honest, I cringe a little bit sometimes. But I am human, and I am no better than the next. But when I realize my failures, I can find a solution. And I am trying every to do that every day.
One of my greatest flaws is communication. Yes, I can be social, but I was never a person that says what bothers me. And this has caused me frustrations and negative consequences. I have always been afraid to express what I truly feel or think in the work place, for reasons, even I cannot understand. Now, I am slowly shedding the fear, becoming more confident to speak up, share and learn.
I have been internalizing these changes and their contribution to my growth and some of them are quite difficult to explain. But what I do know is that when I start to acknowledge my flaws, I grow.