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Reinvention

By Ted Lynch · Current community coordinator

I am now starting my third semester (one as a student and my second as a community coordinator) at La Casa de la Solidaridad and by now I have witnessed enough that it is safe to say that this place is a space of reinvention for many young people. Studying abroad, by design, facilitates a cultural and many times a lingual and cognitive reinvention and while this happens at Casa to varying degrees it is not wholly what makes this space a comfortable haven for personal reinvention. One of the key texts for the Praxis class that all students take is the late Dean Brackley’s Call to Discernment that proposes ‘downward mobility’ which rejects the basic tenant of our North American economic system and results in a drastic restructuring of our social identity and the perception of our own privileges. These radical reinventions have also taken the forms of realization of sexual orientation and confirmation of vocations and run the gambit of experience to imperceptible habits that only family members pick up on after we return. Sometimes the reinvention doesn’t seem as radical to the student as they are leaving but seeds planted here propagate later through desires life decisions. The language that we sometimes use to describe this adjustment when we notice it moving within ourselves or in one another is ‘getting in touch with or discovering one’s most authentic self.’ Sometimes this phrase seems too transcendent for our ever-evolving lives but it is how I identified with my student experience, and when I was struggling back in the states this concept of a better version of myself kept me grounded and sure that it had been real. By now, the physical and personal infrastructures of the Casa community are layered with experience and memories for me even as a new fluid and dynamic community is moving and taking shape. There is a wall in Casa Romero, one of the residences here, which has a photo of every casa group that has passed through El Salvador since 1999. A relatively small fraction of those faces represent to me a universe of experiences, fears, desires, joy, plans and liberations that I carry with myself now along with the testimonies of so many Salvadorans.

These fellow, past and current (probably future as well) students have become the tools and energy behind my personal self-driven reinvention. What does that specifically look like for me today? This is a hard question to ask oneself since we are forced to adapt to so many outside forces in society, such as a presidential runoff. I now feel more comfortable here than in many parts of my own country and while I am not culturally assaulted everywhere I go anymore I realize that the methods and processes of reinvention, when internally generated during periods of introspection can be a healthy exercise against banality.

Looking back at the orange wall full of smiling alumni faces I think about all the relationships that were forged here, some many years old and others fresh and strong. This opportunity that I find myself with now really comes with the responsibility to honor all those relationships and experiences and put the appropriate energy into co-creating this next semester. It continues past that though, and while next week I may find myself trekking through a cantón polling about the election run-off next month, eventually the opportunity to live here and work alongside Salvadorans with the Casa will pass to other deserving young people. With an eye toward taking a major part of my authentic self back to North America I’m going to soak up as much of El Salvador as I can these next couple months.