Relying on Resilience

It has been exactly two months and two days since I published my last blog post.  I’ve sat down to write this post time and time again, but each time, my fingers become paralyzed as they touch the pen or keyboard.  I have hardly been able to process the wide range of emotions that I have experienced over the past two months so how am I supposed to write about them honestly and eloquently?

Moving to site proved to be much more difficult than I ever anticipated.  I was stationed in Satun, one of the southernmost provinces in Thailand.  You can see the Malaysian border from my house.  My village is predominantly Muslim.  Most of the locals are a mix of Thai and Malay and many of them speak Malay, as well.  Some speak both Thai and Malay, but many speak one or the other.  Many of the Thai and Buddhist cultural norms and customs that I had become accustomed to in my training village no longer apply to me.  I often feel like I am not even in Thailand anymore.

While I rejoiced in the accomplishment that was completing training and swearing in, I look back and laugh at my naïveté.  Swearing in felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders.  “I did it,” I remember thinking to myself as I assumed that the most exhausting days were over.  Little did I know that the greatest challenges were yet to come.

As an independent introvert, I didn’t expect the overwhelming loneliness that comes with being the only native English speaker in your village.  As someone who has hardly spent time at home since graduating high school, I didn’t expect the sometimes seemingly unbearable homesickness.  As someone who has always relished in the idea of living simply, I didn’t expect to miss the amenities of America that I now realize I took for granted my entire life (i.e. western showers, air conditioning, reliable access to water and electricity, etc.).  As someone who has always challenged herself and conquered adversity, I never expected to come so close to calling it quits.

At some point in mid-April, I thought I was going home.  I would sit on my bed, feet on the floor with my head in my hands, breathe deeply, and try to recall the reasons I chose to join the Peace Corps in the first place.  On most occasions, those reasons were impossible to recall, regardless of how long I sat there.  Instead, the following doubts persisted: I don’t belong here. I will never belong here.  How will I make it another two years here?  I will never make the impact that is expected of me.  Why did I throw away the beautiful life I had in America to come to… this?  I could have a career, I could be making money (literally any money at all) and be building the life I dreamed of as a little girl and thought I would adhere to until not even a year ago.  I am missing multiple weddings, some friends are having kids… Should I be doing that, too?  I felt trapped in my mind, sick to my stomach and aching in my heart as I would go through the motions of each day, looking for something, anything, to cling to that would offer me the epiphany I was looking for and desperately needed in order to stay.

Needless to say, the mental and emotional challenges have been inexplicably more difficult to overcome than the physical obstacles I face.  I still haven’t found a bulletproof way to fight my feelings.  I write, I send letters and postcards, I read (okay, I nap with the book open beside me), I take photos, I draw, I exercise… and yet, I still haven’t found that one thing that calms my anxieties and washes away my uncertainties.  And unfortunately, I sometimes lash out at some people that mean the most to me or pull away because there’s no way for anyone back home to understand.  But what I have been slowly realizing, is that for the first time in my life, I am confronting my emotions rather than pushing them aside.  All of them: the anger, the frustration, the sadness, the desperation and especially the special moments of indescribable happiness.  In my five months in Thailand, I have gotten to know myself at a rawer level than ever before, my strengths and my flaws and especially what I treasure most in life.  And for that alone, I am grateful for this rollercoaster of an experience.

I still have days where I want to go home.  I still have moments, many moments, of self-doubt and lack of clarity when looking toward the future.  But, that is all part of this ride.  This insanely beautiful, absurdly magical, entirely incomprehensible ride.

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