Repeat after me:
*My reality as Peace Corps Volunteer cannot be defined solely by my social media presence.
*My worth as a Peace Corps Volunteer is not reflected by a perfectly cultivated Instagram feed.
*I have a social responsibility as a Peace Corps Volunteer to use my platform to promote images that do not inspire pity, be demeaning, or convey inferiority or superiority to my audience.
The hardest part about sharing parts of our service with others is our fear of being VULNERABLE. Our most important, obvious, UNGLAMOROUS realities are often the ones we are afraid to note and share.
Social media is the key perpetuator of a false perception of reality and a source of comparison for many volunteers. And that’s the issue.
Our services are not meant to be a competition. Whoever gets the most “likes” doesn’t have a better service. We’re all meant to be doing this at our own speed, in our own way.
We’re so fortunate to be living in a time where social media is prevalent because it is such a useful communication tool. It can be used for bridging the distance between volunteers, sharing highs (and lows) with people back home, or sharing the beauty and grace of our host nations.
But I’ve lost that. In my head, who would “like” if I shared the minuscule aspects of my day? (The REAL, unedited moments).
Do you know why I haven’t blogged in three months? My reality. Call it writer’s block, un-inspiration, what have you. But honestly, it’s because I haven’t felt at 100% and here are some reasons why (this is *NOT* an exhaustive list):
- I fell out of my teaching groove last term and haven’t found my way back;
- My iPhone decided to stop working and it broke my spirit;
- My family and friends back home are dealing with their own lives and I’m missing so much of it and I feel like I’m helpless to assist;
- My service is ending in December (inshaAllah) and I am highkey anxious because I have NO IDEA what I’m doing next;
- I celebrated my 29th birthday and felt like my life trajectory has completely side-tracked and I’m questioning everything;
- I HATE HAVING TO WAKE UP AT 5 AM TO TAKE A PACKED BUS TO GO ANYWHERE;
- I am weary of having to hear the constant forms of corporal punishment at school;
- I was sick last week for the first time since I had Dengue early last year and LOST MY VOICE. I forgot how much that sucks;
- I am VERY worried about money, all the time;
- I have hit a wall with my community and feel like I have no more to give them;
- I am exhausted and don’t want to bucket wash my clothes (and still have them smell like mold) or take cold showers anymore;
- I have SO MUCH ON MY PLATE AND I HAVE A PROBLEM TELLING PEOPLE NO;
- I am TIRED of lacking variety in my diet;
- I have the runs frequently (sorry/not sorry if that’s TMI);
- I am annoyed at how I’ve become accustomed to this ruthless gang of rats in my kitchen that just can’t take the hint;
- I have plateaued in my language acquisition and honestly, I am more upset at how much I don’t care;
- I am so over pointless gossip and drama that comes from living in a giant PCV fishbowl in a country of less than 200k;
- I am done with taking a ferry that makes me nauseous every time;
- I don’t get a good night’s sleep at site anymore. I’m constantly too hot and uncomfortable because I sleep on lumpy foam mat and it’s full-on humidity 24/7;
- I am not feeling like myself.
Oh, wow, cute picture, Lena. All smiles and a what was maybe the fifth draft of an attempt at a witty caption.
Which one hides the fact that I woke up at 5 am bus to catch a packed bus where I had to sit uncomfortably (and get bruises) on a large woman’s lap to head to “town” to an extremely long GLOW meeting that was physically and mentally draining?
So when you ask me “how are you doing?” Just know there’s more to it than the generic “Good!” that you may get as a reply.
But, I don’t want the negatives to control my narrative. That’s not the point of this post.
I’m slowly finding my way back to myself, as we all do, eventually. We can find meaning in the mêlée of our moments. If we look at the grit of our Peace Corps service and decide to reframe it is what helps your resiliency.
- Yes, I am tired of eating the same things over and over, but I am thankful to be eating at all.
- Yes, your iPhone stopped working, but your wonderful and gracious friend let you borrow a smartphone to get you through the next few months.
- Yes, I was sick, but I am slowly healing. How amazing of our bodies to be able to recoup.
- Yes, you have a lot on your plate. This is a lesson for you in learning to say “no” and learning to delegate and manage your time.
- Yes, you do have to wake up early to catch a bus, but you don’t have to walk and there will be times the bus isn’t as packed and you will soak that up.
- Yes, you are worried about money now, but this helps you recognize your privilege.
- I don’t know how to frame the runs more positively…
Because the allure of Peace Corps included both the highs and lows. It’s a packaged deal and reality of our
sanity service is meaningful and poetic in ways we will only be able to fully grasp and appreciate once it’s over.
Your truest reality and self is so much more than the grouping of pixels on your screen. You are a combination of the happiness, failures, curiosities, disappointments, ah-ha moments, empathetic conversations, frustrations and everything in between.
Don’t let your screen distort your view.