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Thoughts on Leaving Skyros

Do I regret my decision to spend the last 8 weeks volunteering for this project? Absolutely not.

Would I do it again? Maybe…

Let me explain.

I have met an assortment of amazing, talented, beautiful people from around the world during my stay here. I have been able to clear my head of the cobwebs that have filled it with an increasing density over the last 3 years. I was able to take the time to start prioritizing what I want out of life and give philosophical precedent to the things I have determined are MUST HAVES. The hours I spent walking around Trachi allowed me to explore my own ideologies and discover parts of myself that I didn’t know existed. I have allowed myself to cry here (in secret) over sadnesses that I didn’t know still had claws in me. I have grown, as an individual, and as a spirit, on Skyros.

For those things I am, and will be, forever thankful.

However, never will I recommend this place as the ideal volunteer situation. I am not alone in my feelings here either. The overwhelming aura of negativity that exists in nearly every aspect of life on this farm is sometimes too much to handle and, yes, if it were not for the support of the other volunteers, I very likely would have left sometime in the first few weeks I was here.

The volunteers here are incredible people and we are, essentially, a small family. We support each other, laugh with (and occasionally at) each other, and learn and grow with each other by sharing stories and knowledge not only from our mother countries, but also from our very unique walks of life. Although we are very different to one another individually, we have all been motivated in one way or another to drop our lives back home and volunteer on Skyros. This single defining commonality is enough to forge strong bonds between people, bonds that will last lifetimes. I will never forget the people I have lived with for the last two months and I have been encouraged to visit, and have likewise encouraged visitation, each girl’s home country when I next find myself abroad. These girls are incredible. I have learned so very much from each of them and feel that my life has been infinitely improved and polished just by knowing them.

The ponies, as well, are inspiring. The stories I’ve heard told about where some of them have been rescued from, and the genuine calm that characterizes each pony, serve to both terrify and awe me. If I could, I would commit large sums of money to Skyrian Horse programs around Greece (and Scotland) and help raise awareness about this rare and fabulous breed. These ponies are evidence of the tenacity, graciousness, and trust that I’ve seen in horses around the world. They, too, have inspired me and aided me on my soul-searching mission.

Some of the lessons I’ve learned, however, have NOT been worth living in Greece. I have learned that some people adamantly refuse to be happy and are resentful of other people’s happiness to the point where they spread discord throughout their environment. Some are so fearful of trusting others that they refuse to form lasting, meaningful, relationships with others. I have also discovered the very real danger that occurs when people project their insecurities on their animals and seen the emotional toll that is taken on these animals due to this negative energy. Lastly, I have watched the damage inflicted on groups of people when genuine feelings are buried below the surface and people are left without (or refuse to accept) a support system.

These lessons have been painful for me to learn simply because the idea of seeing others unhappy physically sickens me. My own happiness aside, I try very hard to bring light into this sometimes very dark world, and my light was rejected- not by everyone, but by some. Last evening, Elia looked at me and said, “I’m really going to miss you… You’re just such a happy person.” So maybe, my mission here wasn’t entirely a lost cause. Perhaps, although I was striving to be a positive, helpful friend to all, I need to be satisfied with just being there for a few. Perhaps, that was the reason I came to Skyros, to add a small amount of light to the lives of a few individuals. For that, too, I am thankful. And because of that, I would not take back this experience for anything.

But, no, I will not be returning to volunteer with this program. As much as I have learned here, and the number of people I have met and forged bonds with, I will never again put myself through the emotional roller coaster that has been in action since the moment the ferry docked at Linaria. I will, instead, use what I’ve learned here to have new experiences, to meet new people, and to continue learning and growing in each yet unexplored corner of the world that I happen to peer into.

P.S. Amanda drove me to the airport today and spent a good portion of the drive criticizing my views of the world and although she acknowledged that some of our communication errors were her fault, she essentially blamed my enthusiasm for creating the very palpable tension between us. She told me that my suggestions for ways to help the program came off as “patronizing” because of my “naïveté” and “enthusiasm.” She refused to apologize for her cloud of negativity or properly articulate why she felt that I was patronizing her. I, wanting to end on good terms, apologized for my contributions to our miscommunications and told her that I wished that she had said something during week 1 rather than waiting until the final moments of my stay on Skyros. Had she appropriately communicated her feelings with me, I would have found a way to adjust my temperament and become less helpful so as to alleviate some of her discomfort. But, bygones will be bygones and after she emptied her frustrations on me one final time, she, characteristically, became agreeable and we parted after discussing the best places to visit in ‘saloniki.

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