A few weeks ago, I was talking to a seasoned volunteer about the difficulties of village life and some of the struggles that occupied my mind. She told me that she once made a list of the things she gave up to be here and, when on bad days, she looks at the list and it makes her feel better.
It’s true that joining the Peace Corps comes with a lot of sacrifices. One of my dearest friends in the world is getting married in April and I only get to enjoy it through pictures. There are smaller moments, such as causal weekends at home or random nights out, that I miss too. But, there are smaller things as well. I gave up the ability to run to my favorite sandwich shop for lunch, watch movies on rainy days, wear shorts when I run and feeling clean. Mostly, I gave up being comfortable.
Now, I am not complaining, these are (mostly) small points compared to this incredible experience, which I wouldn’t trade for all the hot showers and veggie subs in the world. However, in this new state of living I must find some sense of normal.
The volunteer with sacrifices list is home now. When I asked her boyfriend (who is still in country) how she was doing, he said she enjoys being able to take care of herself and going to the gym. That made me realize that I do a pretty terrible job of taking care of myself here because I am so wrapped up in other emotions. I need to do more of the things I love while eating well, exercising and just being nice to myself.
A piece of advice I got in Niger was to do whatever you needed to in the morning – run six miles or dance to music as loud as your speakers would allow – to get yourself out the door. In a place where I feel constantly like an outside, I try to do my favorite things to make me happy.
A daily cup of coffee, “This American Life” in the background as I do dishes, running along the dirt road that leads out of my village, wearing my favorite necklace, meeting a friend for beers and blogging (of course) are things I enjoyed in the states and they help me feel like Heather. Even reruns of “How I Met Your Mother” and “Glee” bring some kind of comfort and feeling of home.
Slowly, I am starting to recognize this as my life for the next two years, a time frame that is truly daunting. It’s not some quick vacation or adventure, but a life and I need to treat it like that. And it’s in the smallest of moments I see the real Heather come out: singing to myself in front of a group of girls at sports and joking with the teachers.
It’s the small things that make us who we are and what we cling to when everything else is different.