Pack a lot of bananas. Ok, I jest. But they do come in handy. Ok, ok, onto the real “5 Things I Wish I’d Known Before Joining Peace Corps.”
I Am Stronger Than I Think I Am
My fear of failure left me timid every time an opportunity to work on a project or a set back came my way. My immediate reaction to someone’s request to try something out of my comfort zone was “There’s no way I can do that.” And set backs left me wondering how I would manage. But I did manage, I always figured out a way. Nothing ever completely fell to pieces. There was a point one year in, when I felt completely helpless at site and my brain stopped me and said “Give yourself a little credit! You can handle this.” Don’t know where that piece of wisdom came from, but I’m so glad it did.
The Highs And Lows Are Constant
Coming to Thailand I expected to go through highs and lows. I’d lived overseas before and knew that was part of the experience. But I thought that at some point the highs and lows would stop and I would reach the emotional balance I had in the States. That never happened. The highs and lows came and went consistently throughout the two years. Still, with only a month left of service there are days when I feel like I am suffocating and there are days when I feel completely at peace with the world. The highs and lows do however become more predictable and manageable over time. I went through a frustrating time at the beginning of my second year and had to remind myself constantly that “This will pass. I know from experience it will pass” It didn’t hurt any less, but there was peace in the hope that I would move on.
I Will Get Really Good At Dealing With Bordem
My greatest fear entering Peace Corps was that I wouldn’t be able to handle the bordem and corresponding loneliness of living alone in a rural community. I’ll be honest, Peace Corps site placements can be really, really, REALLY boring. I started working out, I watched hundreds of TV shows, made up projects, read books, decorated my house, made peanut butter, joined community events and developed a habit of watching the ceiling. I’ve gotten freakishly good at spending time with me, myself and I. Even with all these skills and hobbies, I still scratch at the walls with restlessness several times a week.
My Job Might Be Really, Really Ambiguous
Job roles can be ambiguous for various reasons, from it’s broad objectives to wavering counterparts. So much of my job has been what I make it and even then, there’s still so much beyond my control. Some people flourish in with the ambiguity and use it as an opportunity to develop their skill set and pursue their interests. Others struggle with it from beginning to end. Not having daily standards to measure your success by can be very difficult. Especially when my American culture is so productivity oriented.
I Am Not Alone
During training, I didn’t make much of an effort to befriend my fellow volunteers. Partly because large groups of strangers scare me and also because I didn’t expect to see much of them after training. The latter was completely untrue. Not all countries are the same, but in Thailand I was able to meet up with volunteers every weekend if I had wanted to. Fellow volunteers are an incredible support system. Calling up volunteers to catch up, vent or just speak English kept me sane. It reminded me that I’m not crazy and there are several other people I share my experiences.