by Greta Ashworth, B.A.
I cannot believe my mother not only permitted me to go, but encouraged it. This was totally out of left field, and not something anyone in my family had done anything similar to before. I do not even clearly recall all my motivations for wanting to go. Perhaps I was simply driven to escape the awkward and tedious life I was navigating as a fifteen-year-old and to prove to myself that there was something beyond the autopilot I was running but failing to connect with.
My aunt had directed my attention toward an opportunity to volunteer on a small chocolate farm in the Andean foothills of Ecuador for the summer. I would be on my own with two other girls my age and the woman running the operation. At first it barely seemed real, but a few months later it was an undeniable fact when I felt adrenaline rushing through me as the plane took off for South America.
I fondly recall one late morning walk about a week into the journey. My companions and I were on the half-hour stroll that snaked us through the rainforest and down the dirt road into town under the brilliant equatorial sun. I kicked rogue stones as we meandered and looked around myself at the foreign landscape in awe. It struck me that I was incredibly far away from my family, and not even as far away as I possibly could be, a fact which implied a vastness and a diversity of potential experience that suddenly overwhelmed me. It occurred to me that I had lived my life up until that point in what barely amounted to a sliver of the world and now had somehow innocently stumbled onto the lip of infinity.
I imagine it goes without saying that my life changed after that trip. I was practically on another planet, after all. The impact of being stripped of my comfort zone and plunged into the unknown at that fertile stage of my development is an event that continues to affect me today. I was introduced to a new concept of possibility, to the expansiveness of the world and my place in it, especially in relation to other people. At that juncture it was news to me that I could be ignorant of so much. There were so many people, so much variety in their lives, and yet we all seemed to share an essence of being.
I struggled as a teenager. I think this is a common narrative that most of us can relate to. I was not inspired in school and on top of that I was not sure how (or even if I wanted) to connect with my peers. Traveling abroad blew my world open and gave me a subtle sense of the limitlessness of experience this abundant life had to offer. While things did not shift dramatically in an instant upon my return home, there was a new lens applied to my life that filtered information freshly and slowly built upon itself.
My internal compass has since drawn me to wild and intriguing places and people, each of which have bestowed upon me priceless treasures in the form of experience. It eventually became clear to me that I feel most alive when sharing and exploring this passion for discovery with others, and most especially with young adults.
Being an adolescent is a wild, wild time for self discovery and world-view development. You are working on establishing an identity, setting up patterns of behavior, and deciding what you believe to be true. These are the foundations for your life. What you are exposed to and the choices you do (or do not) make at this pivotal stage have a massive impact on your future. You are learning what is possible, what is the underlying structure of reality, and what you are capable of. I trace my passion for working with people in this life stage back to my trip to Ecuador, as it became such a formative experience for my life and happened at such a pivotal time in my development.
Which brings me to SIGA. Have you ever encountered something that fully embodied the principles you are personally committed to live by? This is what I have found at SIGA (perhaps you have, too!). There is a dedication to curiosity, discovery, and empowerment here that I believe is essential to any effective recipe for living a fulfilling life. It is not simply the recipe for a successful student or successful college candidate. It is a pathway to a conscious, intentional life of purpose and connection that embraces the world at large.
I bring my love of relationship-based programming, self-exploration and ultimately my passion for guiding the discovery of personal agency to the banquet table that is SIGA. By being encouraged to practice creative responsibility and take initiative in designing your educational path, you inevitably learn about your expansive potential and become capable of achieving, experiencing, and relishing more and more in life. To the students and community members of SIGA, I am excited to offer my dedication to the value of relationship, to each personal process of discovery, to crafting a community of support, and especially my dedication to learning through the art of play.
In closing I want to mention that life is BIG. Sometimes it feels as if I have lived a hundred micro-lives in between my trip to Ecuador and where I am today. Of course I cannot fathom exactly where or who I would be if I had not had the opportunity to embark on that first epic excursion into the world, but boy am I grateful for where and who I am now because of it! I eagerly await SIGA’s impact in providing that same impetus for its students and can barely wait to see the magic unfold.
Multiple contributors will be posting on our blog to keep you posted on the development of SIGA!
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"Siga" in Spanish means keep going... continue forward... persist... and that's what we do!
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