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  • Writer's pictureRenata Joseph


Being new to the neighborhood (city, country), I am meeting new people all the time. Once I introduce myself, I then have to present myself to the other person. How do I get across who I am in 20 words or less? I'm not a singular thing. Is anyone?

There's a prefix: ambi-. It means both. Adjectives that describe that sense of being both, not one or the other, are words like ambidextrous or ambivert. In many ways I am ambi-. I am ambidextrous. I am also an ambivert: someone who is outgoing and friendly, but needs alone time to recharge.

Then there's ambivalence. Ambivalence is being repelled and attracted at the same time. Personally I hate the feeling of ambivalence. I want to know where I stand with something. Is it good or bad? Do I like it or not? I am a decisive person and I avoid ambivalence if I can. But ambivalence isn't necessarily a bad thing; it's just a bit more complicated. In working with youth I learned about embracing the "both and." Sometimes things are hard and still good. This move to Belize has been exciting and also sad.

My role here, for now, is ambiguous. It's hard to pinpoint and define. When people ask what I do, it gets complicated. I can talk about what I've done in the past, but for now I can't define my role. I typically say something along the lines of "We feel called by God to bless this country in whatever way we can." So cringingly ambiguous!

Being "ambi" can be off-putting and awkward when introducing yourself to others. I am American (and also Canadian). I am a wife and mother (and also a person in my own right). I am serious and I poke fun at almost everything. I am smart and passionate about the work I do, but I don't consider myself ambitious. I am hard to pinpoint and it's stressful for me to try to do that for others.

Psalm 139:14 says, "I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made."

As inconvenient and awkward as it sometimes is to be a complex human being, I recognize that all the seemingly contradictory things about me are what make me who I am.

I am ambivalent about making friends here. I am drawn to people and companionship, and I am discouraged by how long it takes to really connect with people. I'm going to have to slowly unveil who I am to those who want to get to know me. At the same time I will also need to resist the urge to put others in a box, and let them reveal the intricacies of who they are to me. It's hard, slow work and it's worth it.

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