Tuesday, February 03, 2009

my credo

Today in my Freshman Colloquium class we were asked to review the credo (statement of our values and beliefs) that we wrote as our first assignment last semester. As I reread it, I was disappointed at how the busyness of school and life has contributed to me loosing sight of a few of the elements of my credo. I'm prepared for it to change--some--but for the most part, I think it is a well thought out representation of my current situation.

Today is the 6th month mark of me being back in the United States. My life has changed so much, and so frequently during the past four years....It's hard to imagine myself sitting as a freshman in a high school classroom just four years ago, trying to endure the system that was holding me back. I'm so thankful for the opportunities that I took to get out and see the world. Those experiences have changed my life drastically, and influenced my view of myself and the world in a powerful way. I'm not quite sure how it's possible that I'm homesick for so many countries, but, reflecting on my time overseas, I genuinely enjoyed the slower pace of life. I walked to school, sports, the grocery store, and friends' houses out of necessity; I did arts and crafts at home with little kids because our schedules weren't booked to the limit with extracurricular sports and activities; I walked in the park and wrote in my journal every day because I enjoyed it and actually had the time; and going out to dinner was so delightful because it was literally a once-a-year event. I yearn to immerse myself in that simple way of life that is markedly driven by community solidarity and rare indulgences--so different from the life we're used to here in the prosperous United States.

But it was also encouraging to look back over my credo; it's a grounding experience to revisit a personal statement of values. So I'll post it here below, maybe my statement will prompt you to ask some questions about your own priorities in life.

My Credo
Created September 2, 2008

"This is what I shall do:
Greet each day with vigor;
Put time, work, and energy into familial relationships;
Live below my means and conserve whenever possible;
Nourish my body with wholesome foods;
Exercise often;
Have meaningful discussions with people in their own language;
Show my appreciation for nature by spending time therein;
Pass a considerable portion of my life abroad, without the comforts of life in America, that I might better appreciate everything that God has blessed this country with;
Support American soldiers and revere the flag always;
Think for myself and exercise critical thinking daily;
Not underestimate the power of a smile;
Be optimistic;
Remember the ones who came before me;
Weigh the facts and avoid hasty decisions;
Pursue truth, wisdom, and knowledge 'til the day I die;
Put others before myself;
Let God be the judge;
Take opportunities, even risky ones, as they are presented to me;
Rise with the sun;
Go above and beyond my duties to others that they might know my respect for them;
Periodically evaluate the accordance of my actions with these said values."

Although many of the values expressed in my credo were instilled in me by my parents from a young age, a large number of them have been acquired throughout the past few years. I have spent the last twenty-four months living and studying overseas. During my time in countries such as Australia, Belgium, Bosnia, China, England, Italy, and Switzerland, not one of my values or beliefs was left unchallenged. Whether they were outright opposed or simply unacknowledged and misunderstood, the values I hold today have run the cultural gauntlet.
In addition to having my already-established values put to the test, I came to value and appreciate many new ideas over the course of my travels. For example, in line eight of my credo I mention my appreciation for nature. Growing up in California and Oregon, I was never far from a forest. My family owns 350 acres in northern California and we have spent many summers in the deer cabin, picking blackberries and building dams in the creek. It wasn't until my fourth month in Belgium that I realized the absence of forests; there is not one undiscovered stretch of land in that country. It's simply too populated to devote prime real estate to such a frivolous concept. In fact, you couldn't get lost in Belgium if you wanted to--you're bound to run across someone or something within a few miles.
Within four days of my return to America I drove from Oregon to Tennessee and cherished every mile of undeveloped countryside.

Another deep conviction which surfaced during my year in Belgium is my commitment to "put others before myself." Despite the hundreds of hours of community service I had accumulated by the age of sixteen, I still had not discovered the real blessing which lies in serving. It took an almost complete emotional breakdown to see it; serving was the only means of getting my mind off my problems and interacting with other people. In this way I learned that it truly is better to give than to receive.
It's unquestionable that my time abroad has broadened my worldview and deepened my appreciation and understanding of other cultures, but what is perhaps less predictable is the effect my exposure to other cultures has had on the view I hold of my own country. I now see America through the eyes of the immigrants who so valued our freedoms and economical opportunities that they were willing to give up their homes, friends, and tradition to pursue a new life here. I have a new respect for our soldiers after spending time in some of the dangerous and inconvenient places they are posted.
All this has resulted in an increased sense of patriotism and a new, deep appreciation of our history, national identity, and legacy. One reason I value spending considerable amounts of time abroad: the American lifestyle is that much sweeter every time I return.

The last line of my credo expresses my commitment to "periodically evaluate the accordance of my actions with these said values." That is to say, I know I'm not perfect; I strive to live up to every one of these virtuous concepts, but realistically, it's not going to happen all the time. I think self-reflection and progress reports are an important part of achieving any goal. With this closing thought I provide room for temporary shortcomings, but more importantly, long term success.

2 comments:

  1. I'm absolutely convinced that you're lying about your age;).

    I love ya!

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  2. Hi Shirah...
    To my shame I must confess that although I try and read your e-mail updates, I've only just got round to reading all your posts from the beginning of the blog...
    I'm so impressed at your focus and drive, firstly for writing this credo and putting time and thought into it, and secondly for trying to stick to it... I must say I was slightly confused by the part about living abroad without the comforts of America. I assume you're talking about 3rd world countries here and not just generally anywhere that isn't the US right? You don't seem like one of those American's that is convinced that the American way of life is the only one worth living, and that all other countries are "sub-standard"... I love how bravely you just make plans, and get up and go... I loved my YFU year in Belgium, but having now moved house internationally 3 times as it were, now that I've got to sort out my year abroad next year as part of my uni course, I can feel myself getting annoyed and worried about the hassle involed...
    Anyway, I'm going to carry on reading your blog, and I'll probably leave another few comments along the way.. Hope you're well! Next time you're in europe give me a shout, and if you ever feel like another trip to England, you've always got a place to stay in Birmingham!!

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