Untitled, but not unedited

The words were glaring back at me from the computer screen. A new, blank, limitless digital canvas where my thoughts could be displayed pixel by pixel. A dramatic difference from the vibrant, noisy, confusing, heartwarming world around me.

I began writing tonight with the intention of capturing some of my feelings about living in Andapa for the last year. It’s been one year since I arrived in this new and different place that I can now proudly call my home. But tonight, I didn’t know quite where to start writing, how to best coagulate my thoughts, until I considered the words that I saw on the top of the screen. This document, without a title, became the metaphor that I was searching for. The idea that something can be changed, things added to it and just as easily taken away, while maintaining no user-generated title. It doesn’t have to be called anything, but it can be filled with rich experiences and interesting tales. A great thing doesn’t always have to have a name.

So it is within this framework that I feel most comfortable at the moment. That is to say I consider myself to be untitled, but not unedited. Before I go any further, let me assure you that in reality I do have a name, I have a job title, there are a multitude of words that other people use to refer to me. I don’t consider myself untitled to the point where I don’t respond to someone calling me from across the room. Rather, I look back on this past year and I can’t pick any particular “title” that I feel suits me best. I recognize that I play many roles, such as teacher, friend, cousin, son, Volunteer, and weird white guy. None of these seem to roll off the tongue easily when I ask myself, “Who am I?” I consider myself to be any combination of titles. These ideas of identity have been developed and shifted for many years, but probably more so in the last year because I have undergone a dramatic self-induced life change. I consciously stepped away from almost everything and everyone that I hold close in my heart, and now I feel as though I am less clear or less certain about my identity. Many wonderfully new aspects have been added to my life, some aspects were taken away, and now I am left with a new canvas with which I can continue expressing myself.

Even without a clear or comfortable title, I know that I am a changed person in more ways that I can understand or enumerate. During the past 12 months, my senses have been overwhelmed by the new, the exciting, the strange, and the inspirational. My worldview has changed and my perspective on humankind has been altered. I have developed new skills, some of them more practical than others. I’ve shared laughter, sorrow, disappointment, and elation with many people and I’ve created strong relationships with a handful of them. The version of myself who left California in June 2014 is not the same person who is writing this message now, and I am destined to be further changed before returning back to my loved ones in the future. It’s thrilling and terrifying to undergo this transformation. Yet, I take comfort in knowing that most of these edits to my character have made me more capable, more empathetic, and more devoted.

In light of everything the past year has brought me, I feel immensely different and also unable to title myself. I’ll leave that last part for the critics.

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3 thoughts on “Untitled, but not unedited

  1. You will never be “untitled” to me. You will always be Michael, my first born grandchild whom I love very much. I am so very proud of you and all that you have accomplished. I admire your courage for going so far from home for 2+ years to a land that is so strange to you. You have had adventures that you couldn’t have had anyplace else. Take care and know that I love you very much. Grandma

  2. Self examination can be profound, scary, uplifting and most of all revealing. Thrusting ones’ self into a foreign environment is a unnatural act. A very brave/bold act, but still unnatural. You seem to be managing the challenge quite well. You were a wonderful person before this adventure and I have great confidence that you’ll become an even better human because of this adventure. I proudly tell anyone (and everyone) that my son is a Peace Corp Volunteer. One thing I seem to glean from your writings and our conversations is that the Malagasy (as a whole) are a kind and happy lot. They may be impoverished (financially), but they are rich in positive attitude. I find it very uplifting to be among other humans who share a positive (and happy) outlook on life. I say go forth and discover yourself and bring along a happy song in your heart to share with others.

  3. Your experience will forever change your life as it has changed our lives in many ways. You are an incredible person: committed, willing to take and face the challenges faced and doing your part to make the world a better place. I admire you greatly and you have encouraged me to take chances when I have nothing to lose only to gain. You are an inspiration!!!! Love you.

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