I feel like a huge weight has been lifted. Making the decision to leave Liberia, at least for an extended period, was cathartic. The fact my manager understood and supported my decision reinforced the black and white fact: I need to go home.
What was stopping me? A big factor – something I also see in retrospect in the lead up to quitting my last job and coming out – is that I don’t want to disappoint people. Maybe it’s a humanitarian failing – giving and giving and not stopping even when you should. You somehow think that the weight of the world is on your shoulders, that you are superman and only you can make all the difference to a situation. Clearly if you leave, everything will descend into chaos.
Some nights I stare into the bathroom mirror and look at the lines on my forehead that weren’t there 6 months ago; I’m tired.
At the peak of the Ebola outbreak, I worked at the Ebola Treatment Unit 12 hour days, 7 days a week; I was rarely exhausted. As if the view of the sun rising gloriously over the jungle wasn’t enough to get me out of bed, I had a supportive team of 100+ hygiene staff who went out their way to wish me a good morning. As the crisis started to peter out I was suddenly moved to the Liberian capital Monrovia. Here I feel I’ve become a bit of a square peg in a round hole – not the best fit for what I’m doing, or maybe vice-versa. I’m still figuring things out, while being increasingly spread thin over something I’m not invested in. Since coming back from my last R&R to Thailand, I’ve been exhausted, agitated and dissatisfied. I’m burnt out and no use to anyone in this condition.
It’s time to go home.
My actual plan is still a little nebulous, but at the very least I know I need to return to the UK to spend time with my family and friends, at least 2 weeks and probably longer. I’m not sure if this is the end of my time in Liberia and if so, where I will move on to next. Thoughts include a short sabbatical in North America followed by moving to East/Southeast Asia to do humanitarian work there. Alternatively I might base myself in the UK and only do short-term field deployments. I haven’t decided. The main priority is to give myself a break from Liberia and this mission and reflect on it and figure out how to move forwards.
With one week until my flight, I’m more certain that I will be leaving permanently. Every day at work is going to be a day of preparation, writing handover notes and leaving things in order. Every day I’ll have to explain to people, especially the Liberians I’ve come to know and love, why I’m leaving. Am I sure it’s the right decision? I’ll never know for sure, but according to my gut feeling, I think so…
According to my gut feeling, I think so…