“What would you do if you didn’t have Fear?”

It was of many thought-provoking questions that Abby Falik had asked of us before we had arrived in our designated countries. However, for some reason, this one in particular rang throughout my mind like a bell. Its echoes reverberated through the experiences of my life as I realized just how much that question pertained to me.

I’ve always been a fearful person, always using excuses to avoid anything that stretches my comfort zone. I don’t know whether it’s an offset of my Aspergers, but it’s just part of who I am. Ironically, I ended up in a program that does whatever it can to stretch a person’s comfort zone. I am deeply thankful to be a part of it, yet also sometimes frustrated that I am.

Sometimes (as HORRIBLE as this metaphor is), it’s like I’m on a boat. When the waters are smooth and sky is clear, the experience is refreshing and nourishing. Meeting people who, like me, wish to take a break, but at the same time come from such undeniably unique walks of life, is both refreshing and shocking. Unexpectedly, in about three weeks of knowing these people, especially my Ecuador cohort, I feel closer to them than any of the friends I had known for years in high school. Being an introvert—something I’ve finally come to recognize and cherish about myself—has allowed me to appreciate the meaningful and quiet conversations with these people and has caused me to evaluate myself and grow as a person, so much that I could spend hours talking and weeks writing about it. However, when the sky turns dark, clouds bellow with thunder, and waters surge and collapse, it becomes unbearable. In my first week in Racar, I met the most wonderful, endearing host parent I could ever ask for. If only I could just communicate with her. I comprehend, if I’m lucky, half of what she is saying. If I respond, I sound like a caveman, uttering one word replies (Bathroom? Eat?). Even though my Spanish has improved miraculously, it’s still hard. I know I’m supposed to be proactive. I know I’m supposed to be resilient, but I just feel so… stupid.

I guess if I wasn’t fearful—if I lacked the fear of dealing with my own ego—I would try to set out and expand my horizons. I would go out into the city more, actively communicate with my host family, and (hopefully) make new friends. Day by day, the fear is slowly fading away. I just wish I had the conviction to push past it.