When something tough happens to you during Peace Corps service you have a few options on how to handle it emotionally. You can hunker down in the mire and allow it to color all of your service. Peace Corps is hard, and having to deal with another hard thing on top of that is like being handed a golden ticket to throw yourself one lavish pity party. The party favors include depression, the right to eat whatever you want and are able to find on your island, and several free passes for demanding “Why me?”
You’re clearly a good person for serving in Peace Corps, so dealing
with said hard thing and staying anyway must make you a great person, right? Worthy of everyone’s pity across the globe. But here’s the problem. Pity equity isn’t good for much. It expires fast and can only be used to validate feelings that held onto long term can be destructive.
So, you can turn down that invite or leave the party early, as I am apt to do at real life parties so why not emotional ones too? The nice thing about Peace Corps, or at least in my service, is when you need a day or two to disappear and process and be upset there is ample time for that. The problem is it can be easy to get stuck in that pattern.
When you are ready to leave the party it’s comforting to know you have a whole village waiting for your return, thrilled to have you there, and ready to show how much they love you. Learning how to use what is available to you locally to problem solve is a big part of Peace Corps. If you can manage to make your village friends and host family part of your support system you’ll go far in Peace Corps.
Not that the village needs to know the ins and outs of your personal life, but it’s nice to know they are always there and care quite a lot about your well being. The smiles, laughter, and hugs of my little host sisters and brothers go a long way to pulling me out of a dark mood. The long discussions about life that happen in three different languages at once so we can understand each other do wonders to take my mind off anything else. You try using Shinzwani, French, English and maybe a little Arabic to explain why Trump is trying to keep Muslims out of America and see how much brain power you have left. The answer is none.
And when all you really need is a Mom to cook you a meal, tell you she loves you and everything is going to be okay, you have your choice of a dozen or so. I haven’t met a middle aged woman here yet who hasn’t tried to mother me in one way or another.
Dealing with hard things beyond the regular scope of Peace Corps service daunting. But if you can manage to make it through, put the pieces back together and move on it’s amazing to know that you have everything you need right there on your little island, no matter what life throws at you. It is in the aftermath of overcoming you stop questioning if you actually have what it takes to be here.