I have been humbled many times in the past 10 months by this Peace Corps experience, and I keep making the mistake of believing I have reached the appropriate level of humility and the lessons can stop. And yet every time I’m surprised when it happens again.
Before deciding to go home for two weeks for my sister’s wedding last October, my country director told me to think hard about if I was in a good enough place mentally to go home that early in service and still be able to return. I assured him I was. Sure, it was supposed to be hard, but I was tough. He clearly meant it was hard for SOME people.
In the weeks leading up to the trip, the grueling four day journey back, and even through the first 13 days of my stay at home I convinced myself that coming back would be easy. I was happy here before leaving, why would that change? I hadn’t found life here particularly hard so I should be able to step right back in without missing a beat.
When people with a lot more experience in something tell you a thing will be true, believe them. Listen closely. Don’t assume you will be the exception; chances are you won’t be.
Anxiety is a sneaky monster that worms it’s way in when you’re not paying attention. And I wasn’t paying attention in the days before my trip back. The anxiety set in full swing the moment I shut the car door and watched my sister drive away, leaving me once again alone curbside at the airport with a daunting few days of travel ahead of me. I did my best to tamp it down, I wanted to be fine and I intended to be fine no matter what.
It wasn’t until I was in a taxi on Grande Comore, headed to my final flight that would take me back to Anjouan that something finally broke. Staring out the window, headphones blocking out all the sounds of Comoros, I realized I was crying. And couldn’t stop. I’m not a crier. I didn’t cry when I left the first time, not even through all the hard goodbyes. But there I was, filled with anxiety about returning to my village life, missing my family, not ready to part with the comforts of home.
My director’s words rang back through my head. This was going to be hard. I had to accept that. I was not, and am not, an exception. Thankfully I had a great network of friends here to help me settle back in and remind me of why I wanted to be here. It took time, but I found my grove again.
It’s easy to post about all the positive parts of life here, to paint the picture of an adventure everyone should be jealous of. But life here is just like life at home in some ways. You have hard days, you have days filled with boredom, you have days when life just feels like life with nothing particularly special or inspirational. To tell a complete story about life here, you have to talk about them all.