Doubt. Emptiness. Sadness. Anxiety. Loneliness. Overwhelmed. All of these terms can explain the first month in my new site. Having never experienced any of these feelings at the magnitude I was (let alone all together at the same time) it was nearly more than I could bear. Of course, I had experienced doubt and loneliness before, but never to this degree. I knew a thing or two about stress… I mean I received my Master’s degree in eleven months, wrote a 50+ page capstone thesis in 2 months all while living in five different foreign countries.
But this was more than that. My first month in my new site was the longest and probably the darkest month of my life. No self-care I did to better myself worked… so I left. It took forty days at home for me to realize that I am allowed to walk away when I have tried over and over again with no visible changes to spark hope. Initially, I thought I had failed: I saw leaving my new community as quitting or giving up, despite having every intention of returning. However, it was not until I returned that I realized that leaving was the absolute best thing I could have done not only for myself, but for my community as well. Leaving meant discovering myself, it meant redemption, and it meant having to look within myself to find that original initiative to join the Peace Corps.
Leaving also meant coming back. Coming back to a community that had been let down in the past by the previous volunteer, coming back and explaining to people that only saw me at my darkest that 40 days home healed me, it meant coming back to a family that had showed me nothing but kindness and try to explain to them what happened and how it affected me, it meant questions… a lot of questions, it meant surprised looks from community members that I had actually come back. But coming back also allowed me to be strong, to come back more resilient and ready to work. Returning meant realizing that I had to start over and that I would be in a sense ‘behind’ my fellow volunteers; while they had completed their 3-month diagnostics, I would be just starting mine. It meant that while they were all starting projects, I would be walking the dirt mountain roads of community to visit houses and work on building confianza. But… I am still here. I’m here. And that’s what is important.
In Peace Corps we do reports and have to report on our biggest success story and while mine isn’t roses and butterflies about a project I did with kids in my school, I have these stories too. Hugs, hula-hooping, teaching my host brother and his friends how to build paper cranes and dreamcatchers, helping Raidiny distinguish between ‘b’ ‘d’ ‘p’ and ‘q’, or being a celebrity in the kindergarten classroom. However, this story is my success story – coming back. I fought. I lost. I left. I healed. I returned. I am here. Some days are harder than others, but I am still here.
“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” – Maya Angelou