There is an overused saying that goes, "April showers bring May flowers," and it usually annoys me the most when people say it smugly to me as I come in from a spring rainstorm, dripping, pincurls ruined, and unprepared with no umbrella.
Okay, so no one has ever said that to me in such a moment, but it's a good thing because I'd probably want to punch them in the face. RUINED PINCURLS ARE NO JOKE.
Anyway, I've also realized throughout my life that the sucky times, the hard times, and the worst times have shaped me the most. They have sometimes shaped me positively, sometimes negatively, sometimes both at once. (I'm about to get real here, so hold on!)
One of the hardest times of my life was when I was living in Egypt. I moved from 93% white Springfield, MO to Cairo where I was suddenly the minority in every way, a feeling I had never experienced before. I lived in an Egyptian neighborhood, not an ex-pat one, so I had to learn how to navigate a new culture and how to function in a big city, also new to me.
One of the biggest issues Egypt is facing is that of sexual harassment. When I lived there, it became a daily occurrence I was unprepared to face. Lude catcalls were sent my way most times I went outside my home, and inappropriate touching was an almost daily happening. As my sister and I traveled the city together, I received more attention as the blonde, blue-eyed one in the pair. Men often assumed that we, as white girls, were just like the white women they saw in Hollywood films: loose and promiscuous. It didn't matter that we wore long sleeves and long skirts, fake wedding rings, and avoided eye contact with strangers. We did our best to present ourselves as modest, virtuous women, as many Egyptian women strive to do. But, as is the same in many Egyptian women's experience, it didn't always make a difference. There were times when I was legitimately afraid for our safety.
(I do want to take a moment to say that there were many men that did so much to help my sister and I, too. Our three Egyptian "brothers" went out of their way to escort us home, protect us in crowds, and reprimand those who didn't respect us. Men in my neighborhood treated us with kindness and let us know what prices were fair and where to find the best fruit. There are plenty of men in Egypt who treat women with respect and are grieved by the sexual harassment pandemic. Also, this problem is FAR less likely to occur in "touristy" areas, so if you're traveling there any time soon I wouldn't freak out.
I LOVED my time in Egypt overall and wouldn't trade it for the world. Just needed to say that.)
A few years into college, I was still struggling quite a lot in how to deal with these experiences. I struggled with why God would ask my family to move to Egypt then allow bad things to happen to me on his watch. I wondered if I would ever feel safe again. So I did what struggling people should do... I sent myself to counseling!
As I spent a couple months with an amazing Christian counselor at my university, I let the feelings that I had pushed down for so long come up so I could work through them. I learned so, so much about God's character as I asked him for answers and help in the process. I learned about myself; I healed. I grew closer to my then-boyfriend, Jacob, who stood by me in the process.
And as I still continue the process of healing, I've realized that I'm not just being restored to who I was before. I'm becoming stronger than I was before. I'm braver, more aware, more capable, more resilient than I ever could have been without living in Egypt, with all of its ups and downs.
If you're willing to share, what is a difficult time in your life that has helped you become a stronger person?