Posted by Emily Block | 0 comments

My First SASiversary

  One year ago today I was excited beyond belief, struggling with a little bit of homesickness, and meeting tons of new people.  It was the first time I stepped over the threshold of the MV Explorer, a ship that would become my home during my voyage and my happy place once back on land.  I had ambitious hopes about the voyage and myself which were more than fulfilled.  I thought I would take time on my first SASiversary to reflect on these hopes I wrote down right before I left for the trip.  What I originally wrote back in January 2011 will be in regular font and my commentary I'm adding now will be in italics.

  • How to you expect to change on this trip?
  I really hope that this trip will make me more self reliant.  In some ways I already am in that I don't require much social stimulus, however I am very emotionally reliant on my family and reliant on technology for entertainment.  I always joke that I am not fully weaned from my parents yet, but it really is true.  I would like to still have just as strong as a connection with my family, but also be able to be on my own as well.
   I changed in this way far more than I ever thought possible.  SAS was a test to see if I could handle moving across the country for grad school, and since I'm writing this from my dorm room in Boston, it is safe to assume I passed the test.  My mom told me the other day that she is so happy I am finally becoming my own person outside of the family.  I really think SAS and my subsequent move helped me immensely in this area.  As for technology  I am still really into the internetz, but only if I don't have anything else to do.  Also, my friends can attest to the fact that I have lost interest in my phone.  I ended up enjoying being unreachable for a semester way too much and am horrible with texts or returning messages.  Oops.
   A past SASer described the voyage as "Life Rehab."  This is incredibly appealing to me.  I need the time to figure out my new (more healthy) life without the distraction of reddit and other technology.  I hope to have a better sense of direction of where I want to go by the end of the trip.  
   On the ship I was my usual lazy self, but in port I really pushed myself.  Five years ago I had to adjust to being disabled, but on the trip, I got to test my limits and find my slightly less restricted "new normal."  I figured a lot out about myself and how I fit into the world.  I certainly have had a dramatic decrease in existential crises since the trip.  haha
    I also hope to gain more confidence in my abilities.  Though I am pretty self confident in the personal area, I do need to work on my physical self confidence.  Being disabled and sick for the past 4.5 years has had a huge effect on what I think I can do.  I'm excited to push those limits and see how it goes.
    Hey, this has a drawback too!  Now when I don't want to clean my room or do my homework or whatever, I have a stupid little voice in my head that yells "YOU HIKED IN THE AMAZON RAIN FOREST YOU LAZY BUM!  NO MORE EXCUSES!"  That voice is a jerk.  But it also convinces me I can do crazy things like move across the country by myself and maybe live in New York City after grad school.    
    I hope to become more social since I feel well enough to get out and about finally.  It would be nice to need less alone time and be able to hang out with people more often.  I want to be able to make deep connections with people in a shorter time span than the 3-4 years it usually takes me.
   So much success here.  I didn't know "grown ups" could become as close as I was to my friends during my hormone-amped teenage days.  Now I know that grown-ups can make the best of friends too, and that it can happen pretty darn fast.  I never would have though a year after the trip, I would still be calling and writing to my friends I made on the trip, but I am indeed.  We still all pine for the day we can have a SAS reunion and have a sunset dinner together again.  
   So far, most of the above is just about my time on the boat.  I know that my experiences in port will change me, but this is such a unique experience for me, I don't even know what to expect.  I hope to think more globally and figure out tools to address global issues.  I hope I become even more comfortable interacting with people from different cultures and backgrounds.
   Yeah.  I won't even pretend I can write about all the things I learned.  In addition to the facts, it was a hundred new perspectives and ways of thinking.  I miss thinking that much everyday.  

  • What are you most looking forward to?
I'm really flipping looking forward to South Africa!!!!  I've wanted to go on a Safari since I was nine years old and I will finally be doing it!  Petting a cheetah will be another childhood dream fulfilled.  I think in general, I am most excited about the animal centered experiences.  The service projects will also be really cool.  I can't wait to talk to other people with disabilities and exchange ideas!

South Africa was pretty flipping awesome.  How I pet the cheetah without hyperventilating or sobbing is beyond me.  It was an amazing experience that was years in the making.  The service projects were a crazy mix of "cool," challenging, and many conflicting emotions.  I did meet fellow disabled people most places and learned a lot about disability in different cultures   My experiences have made me want to work internationally once I am an OT because people all over the world can learn a lot from each other.

  • What are you most anxious about?
I'm most worried about missing my family of course.  I've never gone even close to this long without seeing them, and no Skype or phone calls will make it even more difficult.  From the time I could talk, my family have been my best friends who I talk about everything with.  I'm worried how I will cope when I don't have someone to talk to all of the time.
   I coped by making the best of friends and having an amazing, adventure filled trip.  I think I was only homesick the first couple of days and then Easter/Passover.  So worry turned out to be not a big deal at all.
Health issues are also a source of anxiety.  Though I am mostly confident, I really won't know how my body is going to handle some of the things I'll be putting it through.  Knowing that at any point I may get dehydrated or dislocate a joint is a little scary.  Dealing with health issues in countries where I don't speak he language is pretty intimidating even though I already have some experience in this area.  I'm most worried about the heat/humidity and how I will do at very high altitude.  More than any serious health concerns, I'm worried that my health will hold me back.
I am mostly excited about the trip because I got most of my panicking out in the years leading up to this.
   My body held up like a boss.  Ok, there were those shaky times, and those IV saline infusions, and I did leave the ship on crutches...but in general, I did well.  Going to high altitude was still the dumbest thing I ever did, but I loved Tibet and would brave oxygen deficiency again in a heartbeat!  
  • What will you miss about home?
I'm going to go right past people, because it's pretty obvious that is going to be the main thing.  I think food will be a bid thing.  Due to digestive issues and personal preference, I tend to eat the same things all the time.  I've been having the same breakfast for five years and it will be strange to not have access to the homey comforts of food I am used to.  Especially peanut butter.  I flipping love peanut butter.  
   Honestly, the food was the worst part about SAS.  (Not that is was that bad.)  The "peanut butter" was nasty even though it was supposedly just Skippy.  Every meal had about the same thing.  I haven't been able to eat fish since I got back home!  haha  But it's not like we starved.  The seventh deck had delicious and cheap food, so when we couldn't handle one more bite of pasta and potatoes, we could get a Cesar salad or chicken burger.  
Not having access to the internet is going to be crazy for me.  I am one of those people who is always checking message boards, surfing reedit, watching netflix, playing games, or browsing the net.  Especially since I got my smartphone,  I have instant access to so much information.  It will be good for me and also difficult to not have the whole internet at my disposal every second.  It's not just the internet itself I will miss though.  Some of the communities I'm keyed into will be difficult to leave behind such as my sickly friends and the reedit community.
   Psh, what internet?!  I did miss it when I was doing reports or when I had a question and didn't have google to answer it for me.  But in general, I didn't miss it nearly as much as I thought I would.  I also think it was really good for me to take a break from sickly communities.  That was another umbilical cord that needed to be severed so I could become a person outside of a diagnosis.  I still love my sickly peeps, but the lack of communication helped me to focus on other aspects of life and develop other aspects of myself.  As in the things that don't come with an insurance billing code.  haha
Other than that, it will probably just be familiar things, places, smells, people, etc. that I will miss.  Even as I am so excited to start this trip, I know there is nothing like home and my hometown.

  • What will you be glad to take a break from at home?
I know I said I will miss technology, but I'm SO glad to get away from most of it!  When I was sick I began to rely on my family and technology for everything.  When I was bed bound, my whole social life was on my computer.  I'm healthier now, but it's a difficult transition to make.  Nothing like a trip around the world to get me over the withdraws.  haha
All my commitments at home are also something I am happy to take a break from.  On this trip I will have so few things to do and to worry about.  It will be a nice vacation.
  Yeah, that's why they should call it Utopia at Sea.  Life ain't gunna be that easy or awesome until I retire to a nursing home.  haha
  • What are you feeling right now?

I am so excited!  I wake up in the morning and my first thought is about SAS.  I get that thrilling feeling in my stomach which is an awesome way to start out the day.  I find myself impatient when wasting time and eager to do anything to help prepare for SAS.  I'm sure I am nervous, but right now excitement is definitely the dominant emotion.  I just want it to start!!!!!
Also, I should say that I have a hard time thinking much beyond just getting on the boat.  All these amazing places I'm going still seem like a dream.

   Ok, now you are just rubbing it in past self who still has the whole trip ahead of you.  :0)


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