What Am I Supposed To Feel?

Am I supposed to feel sad?
Why would I leave this place that has started to feel like home?  Why do I already miss red earth and the voice of the pastor next door floating in through my barred window?  Should I mourn crowded tro-tros and fresh mango juice?

Am I supposed to feel inadequate?
Have I done enough?  Have I seen enough suffering to legitimise my passion for change?  Why do I feel the need to legitimise my passion?  What is enough suffering?  Enough threadbare shirts, enough skinny babies?  How can years of learning about sustainable development be shaken by the thought of my peers’ expectations?

Am I supposed to feel hypocritical?
Have I done too much?  Have I travelled too far, indulged too heavily?  Should I have lived more meagerly?  Have I reinforced white privilege?  Do my intentions outweigh my image?  Have I been too complacent?

Am I supposed to feel guilty?
Is it okay to be excited for good coffee and convenient systems?  Is it okay to be excited to be able to pay with a debit card?  Why do I find the thought of Costco a little repulsive right now?  Should I feel heavy at the thought of my normal Canadian life?


I sometimes worry that my feelings are wrong.  The impending end of my placement has me questioning how I should feel and how I should tell this story.

The feelings I listed colour my world when I am anxious or unsure.  However, a vast majority of the time, I feel happy, fulfilled, and aligned.  It’s a testament to the complexity of sustainable development work that the people who work in it do not experience a uniform emotional landscape.  Western narrative prepares us for overwhelming despair and gratitude among other polarised, uni-dimensional emotional experiences.  What no one prepares us for is the fact that our emotional landscape will be as dynamic, flexible and self-contradictory as ever.  School: you love it, and you hate it.  Exercise: you love it, and you hate it.  Development: you love it, and you hate it!  We expect ourselves just to love it, to achieve narrative resonance with the uplifting and depressing propaganda we’ve been fed.  But realistically, there are ups and downs, and communicating that without calling into question our passion for this field is challenging.


I have one more week left in Kumasi.  Then, I’ll spend the weekend in Accra, a few days in Cape Coast, and fly to Toronto.  Time has absolutely screamed by!  See you soon, Canada.  Thanks for reading 🙂



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