One thing people have told me here as well as before I left the U.S. is that I am being very brave. There are not many twenty-two year olds who would leave their family and friends behind to travel to a new country where they know no one and do not speak any of the language. As I have been here, sometimes I wonder if stupidity is more like the right word. But honestly, it was brave to come, but I find myself having to be brave everyday.
I am not an outgoing type. Although I love people and I love building new relationships, I have to really push myself to go up to someone and begin talking. Especially since I have been here, I find myself so nervous to have a conversation and especially to practice my Croatian. I am so self-conscious. I cannot tell you why I am this way. I really wish I wasn't. I am so envious of people who can just go up to anyone and begin a conversation. This is my struggle and I make little victories everyday.
Such as yesterday, I was having a really good day. I felt like I connected well with my coworkers in the library and decided to ask a friend to go to the zoo with me today. He doesn't speak much English, but I used the little Croatian I knew and we went today and had a good time. Another friend invited me to join a worship band for student chapel and tonight I had practice (the first time playing the bass guitar in about four years!). I was then invited to a girl's night with a neighbor and her friends, and it was great (the conversation was half in English and half in Croatian). I am making connections and I feel like my life is stabilizing a bit.
And some things that made me so nervous a week ago, don't phase me anymore. Such I have been running regularly and no longer think that everyone is staring and talking about me. I am not afraid to go to the grocery store or take a walk around the block. But I still feel that need to be more assertive. I am working hard to be brave, yet have the grace to accept myself for who I am. And as much as I would like to be, I am not out-going in new situations. It will probably always be hard for me to put myself out there and be fully engaged in potentially awkward situations. And that is okay. The important thing is that I am here and I am trying.
And being in this situation has brought a new insight into my life about welcoming the stranger. Especially last weekend as I was in Zagreb, I wanted so much for people to just come up and talk to me. It was hard to see people in their own groups and even when they knew I was alone and a foreigner, most did not make an effort to welcome me. Some people did show me amazing hospitality and began conversations. And that felt so good. And here at the seminary, people have been so nice and many have taken the initiative to be my friend. But it has made me reflect on situations when I was on the inside and had my own group... did I actively seek out those who were new or lonely? Was I willing to be brave and leave my comfort zone to welcome someone else?
You do not have to leave your home to be brave. But you do need to leave your comfort zone. I challenge anyone who reads this to examine your own life. Is there a time when you have seen someone all alone, yet did not go up to them? Is there someone you could invite out for coffee to make them feel like they have a friend? I invite you to join my struggle... go out there and make some new friends. Leave safety behind in order to show radical hospitality. Go be brave!