I know it has been a long time since I have written. When I started this blog I didn’t want to be one of those people who consistently writes, then just randomly falls of the face of the blogosphere. But sometimes life happens. The last time I wrote, almost three months ago, I was just starting to see some progress in a new project. I was also preparing for my Christmas vacation back to America. A lot has happened since then. Life has happened.
Work wise, things are great. The chicken project that I started with my community is thriving. Large, healthy chickens are being produced which provides the producers with income and the community with access to food that they didn’t have access to before.
The water project that I started in October is in its completion stages. We installed two water lines before I left the country for Christmas and it was a huge success. When I returned from vacation we fixed the bathrooms and built the fence for the school garden. The garden is not yet in production, but that will be my next task.
It is funny how milestones in service make you feel, versus how you thought they would make you feel. In my experience, the completion of a project is not the “Finally! I have archived something!” feeling that you hoped it would be. I think that can be because of the constant, in your face reminder that no matter what you improve upon there will always be a list as long as your leg of things you could work on next. It could also be our cultures ideal that no matter what you do, you can always improve and take it to the next level. I am by no means saying that this philosophy is completely flawed. But it does make me consider what success really means to me.
So this idea plays greatly in to why there has been so much radio silence as of late. As I mentioned multiple times above, sometimes life happens. Things get busy and priorities get out of line. In addition though, I think volunteers have a tendency to only publicize the good things that are happening to them. Whether it is to give friends and family a positive outlook on their host country, or because they are afraid to let people in on how life really is, I don’t know.
Well really I do know..because I do this a lot. But if we’re being honest, service sucks sometimes. Pardon my frankness, but every now and then things happen that really just make you say to yourself “Why am I here? What good am I doing? This wouldn’t be a problem in America because America is a beautiful wonderful place, and my real life is there.” I had a lot of those moments leading up to my vacation in America. I told myself that all I needed was a system reboot. A break from the monotony of life in Senegal to remind me that what I’m doing is worth while. Some time in the developed world to remind me how lucky we are to have been born relatively wealthy.
Unfortunately, my trip to America didn’t do that for me. It was an amazing trip. I spent time with family and friends,ate all the Taco Bell I could ever want, got to share my experiences in Senegal with people I love. Those three weeks in America were so amazing. I was incredibly happy. When it came time to leave I was sad, but I knew that I would be home with those that love me in 11 months. That doesn’t seem long when you start out with 27 months! I was ready to get back and complete my service.
But the feelings that I had when I got back to Senegal were completely unexpected. I broke down. People who know me best know that I am not a crier. I am an emotional being, yes, but crying is not a thing that I do often. My mother thinks I’m just cold most of the time. I don’t show my emotions and tend to keep my feelings in. Or at least I used to. When I sat down on my bed in the regional house in Dakar on January 4th, it was like all of the sadness, all of the loneliness and the hurt and the anxiety and the pain, it all came flowing out of me. I texted the people who I cared about most, I called my friends in Senegal..I just could not stop crying. Eventually after many, many people telling me that it was okay and things would get better, I just cried myself to sleep. I can not say that I had ever done that before.
In the days to come I cried myself to sleep more often than not. Some things happened on my way back to village that I would not wish upon anyone, and those events caused me to enter in to a spiral of emotions.. anger, fear, depression, anxiety.. you name it, I felt it. I had been holding in my feelings for so long that when they finally came out I could not control it.
There was a good three day period where I was convinced that I was not going to finish. I was going to early terminate my service and go back to America to continue the life that I had going there. I think it’s really hard for PCV’s to admit that they have been at this point. We are told constantly that what we are doing is great. We’re doing such good work and should be proud of our accomplishments. But what about when we don’t feel like these two years are benefiting anyone? Or those times when literally being in the country for one more day feels like a nightmare? Those moments happen for some of us, and frankly, they suck.
The next couple of weeks were a roller coaster for me. Life in village got a little easier day by day and I started feeling a little bit normal. I was finishing up the water project with my community and that made me feel a little better. Then some events in my personal life plunged me right back down to the depression that I was trying desperately to crawl out of. Luckily I had returned to a good state of mind about finishing my service. I had reestablished why I was here and what my next steps would be in village. Those next couple of weeks were still some of the hardest in my life.
Fast forward a few weeks to now…I don’t know exactly what I am feeling, but somehow I think that is okay. I was able to take a short trip home which was very healing. I do not feel as helpless as I did a month ago. I have some new drive to finish what I started. However, I am still nervous for what is to come.The unknown is one of my biggest fears. In Peace Corps you are literally walking right in to it.
Throughout my adult life I have had some rough times. In each of those times certain things have helped me move forward. Family and friends mostly. But aside from that, one passage in Hebrews has always helped me gain perspective.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the righteous right hand of God. – Hebrews 12:1-2
Through everything. All the pain. All the fear. All the heartache. Through everything. I know that this is the path that I am supposed to be on. I can not simply cast that aside. I know that I am surrounded. Not only by people, but by the love of God. I can press on. I can persevere and I can finish what I came here for. But this is not saying that it will be easy. I have to remind myself of this every day. Every hour at times. Even with the words ‘since we are surrounded’ permanently tattooed to my body, I still find myself forgetting. Moral of the story, life just sucks sometimes. But in the end, we pull through. With love, we will always pull through.