I couldn’t resist the pun. Apologies.
Prior to the Gesundheit! trip, I formed a list of expectations in my head. This list included, predominantly, my thoughts on what the trip would encompass: volunteer opportunities, closer friendships, countless photographs, and inevitable smiles. However, all of these things seemed to be the typical results one would expect from a service trip. And looking back on the memories made and the encounters shared, I realize that the biggest impact that Gesundheit! has left on me is self-development.
I’ve never been able to count solely on my own abilities to make a remarkable experience. During any particular event, you will find me focusing my attention on the faces and comments of others, pinpointing their leadership or shyness in the group, or simply staring thoughtfully into the distance. This aspect of my personality did not change during the first few days at the institute; during nightly reflections, I rarely wanted to speak because I was so intrigued by the words of others. The members around me seemed so confident in what they were saying, and always received positive feedback; and I, feeling neither self-assured nor presentable in a group of such witty and well-spoken individuals, chose to remain silent until at least a few people had spoken. I simply didn’t want to embarrass myself and risk the disappointment of silence. But as the days went on, I realized that everyone’s voice truly mattered in the Gesundheit! endeavor (you may have noticed by now that “endeavor” is one of my favorite words).
For instance, when devising the ideas and layout for the Hillsboro Farmstand, the procedures were not limited to only the builders or the site leaders themselves. All of the members were split into groups, which were categorized and allowed each individual to use his or her abilities to full potential. This was an admirable act that allowed me to use my passion for art to create the farmstand signs, which turned out to be a fascinating success. In the end, Gesundheit! helped me find the voice that had hidden itself for quite some time.
I also developed a considerable self-esteem boost during this trip, which was surprising and somewhat impressive considering the bullying I’ve faced in the past. I used to be ridiculed in elementary school for my natural hair, which tends to plop out in all directions and behave with a mind of its own. When I (insecurely) wore my hair down one day at Gesundheit!, the amount of compliments and encouraging feedback I received was enough to nearly bring tears to my eyes. After a lifetime of anger and disapproval towards my bodily features, it felt absolutely incredible to gain some faith in who I am. I suppose you could say that these days at Gesundheit! have paved the pathway for a more positive outlook on my potential and existence.
I must mention, of course, the vegetarian diet and how it influenced my own healthy cooking and consuming. Upon returning to New York, I decided to pursue a lifestyle that ensures well-being and sustenance; limits on sugar intake, avoidance of heavy starches, and, of course, a continuation of pescetarianism (perhaps even vegetarianism soon – STAY TUNED). While maintaining my frequent workouts, however, I have also been inspired to begin attending yoga sessions every Saturday. Here’s to prospective flexibility!
Perhaps the most significant impact I faced at Gesundheit!, however, pertains to the effect that our service had on each other. Certain group members laughed more during this trip than in a regular week at New York University. Sharing meals with one another led to delightful conversations about every topic, ranging from celebrity tweets to the difficulty of a certain puzzle. Need I remind everyone of our 1000-piece accomplishment? Shall somebody call the MoMA? We got to know one another more in seven days than we had faced in over several months; and despite the civilization of deceased ladybugs that established itself on windowsills and stairs (may their insect leaders rest in peace… as well as their predecessors, who are also probably dead by now), waking up with good friends was an enlightening experience. I have never felt more mentally at ease through talks, chuckles, and late night s’mores.
I can’t wait to keep in touch with all of you. Stay invincible.
And don’t be afraid to pop by Rubin sometime. Visitors are always welcome except during sleeping hours.
(I couldn’t go too long without using a Beatles GIF.)
P.S. Oh, and please do offer your condolences to those dead ladybugs. I suppose about thirty more have died since I typed that sentence.