“You lose some of yourself but you fill it with community in that immersion process.” Kat Burdine.
This quote was from my friend Brian Bieber’s podcast, Ghost & Horses. Last year he invited me to be a part of a show about living in other cultures and, fresh off the evacuation, I explained my six months in Niger and how I ended up in South Dakota. He also interviewed Kat about her time for at-risk youth organization in Honduras. That episode began with Kat talking about the reason why she went to Honduras, which happened to be the reason to Niger: to help these people we just figured needed our help. But you leave with something so greater and you find out that they really helped you.
I now have five months in Lesotho and I don’t want to prematurely describe how much this experience has changed my life, but it has. It did the first day I stepped off that plane. Yet, my Basotho interactions are just starting to flourish and it’s hard to predict how my life will change and what kind of version of myself will re-enter the United States.
Still, this experience is about self-growth and that is why many people apply for the Peace Corps: to find the best versions of themselves. They say Peace Corps is one of the toughest jobs you’ll ever love and there are so many reasons why that statement is true. For me, this earlier in my service, one major obstacle is fighting myself. Every insecurity, issue or intern-battle is now forcing me to deal with it. Maybe it’s the ample free the time, this structure of automatic growth or my personal resolution to be a better me. Either way I am staring down all of my ugliest parts, determined to fix them or accept them.
It sucks and it’s easy to be even harder on myself than I am already (one issue that definitely needs smoothing). However, I refuse to come out of these two years not a better person myself, and maybe I will do that naturally still it’s time to stop avoiding the things that hold me back.
In my short time, I’ve made some progress with a few things and YOP has really helped that. Putting those goals online and forcing myself to write these updates do help keep me in life, yet I know there is more progress to be made. And, to be honest, I am ready to fight those self-battles and to let the best version of myself persevere.
March wasn’t the in-tune-to-myself month, or to my community, that I wanted to be. As you can tell by the types of pronouns I used in this post, I am still very focused on myself. Eventually, I hope that fades and I think it will. I am still new at this and it is OK for emotions to the jump up and down as I find my role here. More and more I find myself less concerned about how I feel, but more worried about my villagers. I want to be a great volunteer and that can’t happen over night. It will come.
I end the month at my Phase III training, the exact point in Niger service where I was evacuated. I’ll admit that a part of my wonders if it will stop there because I don’t know Peace Corps beyond this point. Yet, another part is confident that I’ll make these two years and this is just the beginning.
When I left Niger I was devastated that my self-growth would stop in Africa. In a way it did and I could return to America ignoring those issues again. In Lesotho I see them and refuse to stop here. I have got 21 months left and I will use each one to keep pulling back layers until I reach the ultimate goal: a true and deep love for myself.
April will begin with a vacation to South Africa and then diving back into the rest of the term before winter break. It will be a good month and more time to find the best of me and turn that into work for others.