Not long after training I had a dream about a guy I went to high school with. It seemed out of place, since the last known time that I exchanged words with him was in the ninth grade, but I shrugged it off as one of those weird side effects of having too much free time.
But the dreams kept coming. Sometimes we were a couple, other times we were involved in some grand adventure. We acted like the old chums we never were.
This guy was my first real crush. It started in the sixth grade when we were on the same soccer team. At the end of the season, I kicked the soccer ball further than him and he claimed it was because I was using a smaller ball and stomped off in a hissy fit. Because I tend to go for guys who treat me horribly, that did it. When we hit middle school, I was in a full infatuation. I tried to plan my class routes with his so that we would cross each other in the halls and I attend all of my brother’s basketball games because his brother was on the same team. Still, I told no one of this crush and barely said three words to him.
In high school, we finally had a class together. One day, he opened his mouth and I thought, “Ugh.” That was the end of the crush. I felt like Claire Danes in “My-So-Called Life” when she discovers she is finally over Jared Leto’s character. I was free.
Until now. Now, this guy who I am sure is a very different person from when we were 15, haunts my dreams. Why?
Life slows down in Africa, waaaaaaaaaaay down. Your mind wanders through past experiences and you find yourself discovering old memories that you misplaced or the ones you intentionally stuck in a dark corner. When I had a hectic work schedule and full social calendar, I didn’t think about things as old and useless as middle school crushes. But here, my mind wanders to those cobweb-covered corners. I remember a fellow volunteer in Niger saying she found herself thinking of things she hadn’t in years. The Peace Corps does that to you.
Part of the reason this experience can be so difficult is because every issue, moment of pain and insecurity finally gets your attention. In America, with busy work and social lives, you can tune this out if you want to, almost pretending they don’t exist. Here, though, you are changing, and to grow you finally have to work on these things or accept them as is.
It’s not particularly healthy to hash over things that can’t be changed. Not the middle school crush, but real heartbreak and failure. There are people and situations that plague my thoughts, and frankly don’t deserve too, but I let them go so I can move on. A while ago, I started praying and sending mental waves of love to those people who hurt me, who I believe owe me something. I needed someway to finally clear the slate so that I could grow.
I find that most of the times my emotional distress is not Lesotho-induced but things that have tarred me for years, such as body image and a need to please others. I am stripping back the layers and trying to create something fresh, something I am proud of.
Still, I can’t quite understand why this man keeps popping up in my dreams. Maybe he resembles my loneliness and long absence of a real partner. His mother died several years ago and maybe his appearance in my dreams is encouragement to send love to those who need it, whether it’s through a message or just positive thoughts.
Yet, when I wake up from those dreams I think about the girl who seemed madly in love at the age of 12. Then I look at this woman, who is chasing a dream. I’m so proud of who she has become and how much she has grown. She may not be perfect, but she is a good person with a big heart. And maybe, as I struggle to overcome barriers that have held me back for years, he comes to tell me just that: You are doing OK.