Monday, August 31, 2015

A Universal Conspiracy: Afghanistan, Selection, and a little Fate?

No I did not have a camera in the bathroom during Selection. I returned a few days later to take this picture.

On September 12, 2001, I sat in a field at University of New Mexico and thought about my life. I wondered if I was headed in the right direction and if what I would do later down the road would have an impact on the world, and help prevent 9/11 from occurring again. I felt an extreme sadness and confusion about what had just happened, but what was clear to me on that day was that somehow I had to learn more about Afghanistan. Someday I would go there.

Ten years later, after a lot of living, I went to Afghanistan to teach. The twisty turning road of my life took me to many different countries as a teacher; I went through highs and lows with sports; was married and divorced; and eventually had forgotten about my earlier need to see and live in Afghanistan. When I was offered a fellowship there, however, all of those feelings resurfaced.

I wondered, "Will I die there?"

It turns out that most of my family and friends thought of that too.

A few days before I left for Kabul, my friend Nick asked: "Jaala, are you ready to die teaching in Afghanistan?"

I took a few seconds to consider this question and said, "Yes. I am." 

He asked me to explain.

I told him that ten years ago I knew that I would go to Afghanistan someday to learn about the place and to teach. I knew that I would be such a small piece in the larger picture of what was happening in the world with regards to the war and the fighting and the danger of the place. But I was willing to go there because it was right to me. Not only would teaching affect maybe one person and make a small change, but my heart had called me there years ago, so I would listen.

In the book The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho says, "When we least expect it, life sets us a challenge to test our courage and willingness to change; at such a moment, there is no point in pretending that nothing has happened or in saying that we are not ready. The challenge will not wait. Life does not look back. A week is more than enough time for us to decide whether or not to accept our destiny."

Ironically, it took me about a week to accept the job.


I went, I lived, I thrived, I saw, I taught, I learned...and I returned many more times.

My life changed in a multitude of ways before, during, and after my time in country. I'm still not sure If I have uncovered all of the lessons therein. I'm still learning day by day what being in that place means to me, and what it means for my future. Even though I am not there anymore, pieces of me remain.

My friends have grown, changed, gotten more education, expanded their families, and I've gotten to see it all happen. My Afghan "sister" becomes more beautiful everyday; I want to hug her and tell her I love her, because part of her spirit lives in me.

And now friends that were lost have been found again, and live in me here in the states in the strangest of ways. Just when I need them the most, little signs appear showing me that their love follows me on my journey through life. 

Though this was not going to be a story about Selection; the event is woven into the fabric of my life, so what isn't a story about Selection these days?

During Selection in Bozeman, in between the 5 mile run and 12 mile ruck march, I had a chance to use the public bathroom. I ran into the stall, focused and tried to move quickly. When I was doing my thing, I looked up at the door to the bathroom stall and saw lyrics to an old Beatles song, "Blackbird" written there.

At that moment I knew that I would be okay, no matter what happened during the event. To me that song reminded me of a special person in Afghanistan; I had already been singing the lyrics that weekend, and to see it scrolled there on the bathroom wall in the middle of Montana in a public restroom, I knew that I was moving in the right direction.

I'm not sure if I fully understand life yet, but I do know this is for sure: When something is right, when something is meant to be, just like Coelho said later in The Alchemist:

 "... todo o Universo conspira para que vocĂȘ realize seu desejo.
...all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it."

I desperately want to live a life full of challenges, love, and growth. I want to constantly be moving forward, yet serenely taking in all that this time and space has to offer me. I want to meet the challenges as they come, inspire others to do the same, and have a positive affect on the world.

These days it seems to be that the Universe agrees with my wishes.


At 10:58 PM , Blogger John Guelcher said...

Good job. Nice words.

At 5:43 PM , Blogger Jon WInslow said...

Please keep writing your blog.


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