On my right thumb float deep, brown, hennaed buds and calligraphic leaves that form roses. My pointer finger alternates dandelion-like fireworks and teardrop-like cocoons. Intricate waves ornate my palm like overlapping sunsets in a dark curlicued frame. I shift my gaze but with an unconscious flick of my fingers, I am once again caught in their beautiful, accurate display of my emotional turmoil. As I board the plane, I at last am carried by the low tide of an ebb in my life. It is neither the end of Niswarth nor the completion of my Andover career, but the warm, sure, excited self-awareness that I have changed.
I take back a rawness, a sensitivity to inaction. I take back a confidence to question. I carry an obligation to social work, and an inspiration to find connections.
Along with slightly more kilograms of checked luggage, I pack a deep gratitude. I am thankful for the group of wonderful, inspiring people. I am thankful for the wonder of waking up and realizing I am in a different country. I am thankful for the love, welcome, and yes, pain that I have felt during this trip. It has been cement on the morals, exploration, and hopes that have gradually been floating towards each other like a mosaic of identity.
I did not need to travel 13 hours to learn the lessons I have learned here. Still, the combination of culture shock and continuous push to reflect and renew have re-energized a compassion and awareness that I had forgotten.
On the back of my hand, the henna artist began with a tiny, insignificant circle. She surrounded it with hand-holding swirls, one enveloping each other, expanding until suddenly, the circle is not longer insignificant; it is a burning sun.