A Can of Worms

I’m taking a quick break from my current series to delve into something I haven’t yet shared, at least not 100% truthfully, with any one person in particular: my feelings about my internship.

I’ve been asked the same question countless times by friends, family members, EWBers, etc. I run into them on the bus, or meet up for coffee, or call them up and inevitably I am asked “are you excited?” It seems straightforward, but I can never take it at face value and I always assume that “are you excited?” really means “how do you feel about this?” I invariably answer yes to the excited question, because it seems that that is the “correct” answer and saying so means that I don’t have to delve into the range of emotions I’m experiencing around being a JF to sometimes near-strangers in sometimes time-limited circumstances (on my way to an exam, for example).

So, am I excited? Yes. But, like everything in life, the full answer to the underlying question within that question is not a simple yes. Before excited, I am overwhelmed, challenged, stressed, elated, disbelieving, rushed, and–frankly–a bit scared.

This is probably the biggest thing I’ve ever done and, while I made sure that I felt ready before even applying for this opportunity, I question whether anyone can be fully prepared to move from home for an extended period of time to do work in which they are highly emotionally invested. The stakes seem pretty high and my job (information is forthcoming, I promise) is very serious in terms of the professionalism it will require from me, the scope which it will encompass, and the ambiguity it involves. I understand that the more I put into this, the more I’ll get out, both tangibly and intangibly, but the sheer seriousness of it all continually hits me as my date of departure draws nearer.

The learning I’ve done for this job in the past four months greatly surpassed that which I did in school, and the pace of that learning is only going to accelerate from this point onwards. I’m working through multifaceted challenges related to my own personal development, International Development fundamentals, job-specific content, Engineering principles–the list goes on. To effectively absorb, contextualize, and synthesize my learnings is hugely challenging, especially while I’m still here in Canada. It’s a challenge into which I like to dive deep, with my lungs full of what I know already and I’m looking forward to even more diverse challenges in Ghana and my job.

The list of mundane things left to do before leaving for Ghana is a long (though ever-shortening) one. Packing, shopping, medical stuff, seeing friends, finances, finding a long-term cat-sitter; these are all things which I have to get out of the way before I can experience the full excitement of this internship. As always is true with these kinds of things, I’d like more time to get through them all. Well, the dates for pre-departure training (May 8 – 15th) have been set and I won’t get that time. I’m naturally a scrambler, but believe me when I say that the stress involved is not conducive to the excitement I’m “supposed” to be feeling.

Finally, I still can’t believe that I have this opportunity when I look around (especially at my chapter) at all of the people who I think would be better at not ruining Ghana than me. I am so thankful that it’s been given to me. This has been/is/will be, without a doubt, a career-and life-altering internship (to whatever degree) and that’s huge.

So the excitement is there, underneath the complexities of everything else I’m feeling around this. Some days I feel it more than others for sure (especially when I’m with Robyn). Understand, though, that when you ask that question, you’re opening a can of worms; you might go searching for excitement and find a bunch of other unexpected, awesome stuff along with it.

And that’s okay.



4 responses to “A Can of Worms

  1. Chris! Thank for this very honest post – definitely got me feeling a little bit of your stress, nervousness, sense of responsibility – and underlying excitement. Any ideas on how you can best manage the stress in the interim?

    Also, quick feedback on the blog layout – by halfway through the post my eyes were begging me to stop reading; as much as the black background with white text is supa’ snazzy, I find it really hard to read, so something to consider especially if you hoping that people with older eyes than mine will be following along 🙂

    • Thanks for the feedback, Anna! The blog layout has definitely been a learning experience for me. I hope the changes I made make it easier to read.

      In terms of stress, it’s not so much that it needs to be mitigated-I’m doing a good job of managing it with the skills I’ve picked up as a chapter president-but rather that I generally can’t experience the full excitement until I’ve gotten through my stressful list of to-dos. I guess that’s my J-ness creeping in again, and something to work on.

  2. Hey Chris,
    totally know what you’re going through, dude. I’m usually presented with the same question and my response, similar to yours, goes from a range of being super stoked to shit-scared!!
    hope you get through that train-to-do-list in T-minus 2 weeks!!!!

  3. Dear Christian,

    Thanks for that very honest post. Fear at the seriousness of this opportunity aptly describes how I was feeling as I embarked on this journey over a year ago. Look forward to reading more about your JF experience.


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