Saturday, January 15, 2005

On Letting Go

A good friend of mine sent me a beautiful travel journal as a Christmas gift. Included with it was a nice note from him and his wife that wished me luck and gave me support. It began, "When you take the assignment, go in without preconceived notions and embrace each day like the next page of a new book." This, along with some of the comments I've received on this blog, led me to want to tackle the subject of the way I talk about the Peace Corps, travel, self-doubt, and especially about "letting go." It's obvious I say or write some things that might be making some people nervous about my attitude or perceptions.

For one, I'm writing a lot about Guyana itself, and the facts/traits about it I've managed to gather from around the net and other sources. It may seem like I'm fixated on superficialities or developing a set of expectations, but what I'm really trying to do is synthesize what information I actually have right now. Which is to say, not much -- there isn't a whole lot of information out there about Guyana. I've scoured the net, I've read travel books (for lack of better, more community-oriented literature), and I've heard from a current PCV there. It might be that I should be thinking more about the assignment I'll be doing than where it is located, but right now I know next to nothing about the assignment. All I know is it where it will be located and that it has something to do with "community" and "literacy." But as I learned, and as any PCV will tell you, what specifically you'll be doing isn't even solidified until halfway through training, and even then it can end up changing based on the needs of your site.

So the long and short of it is, I have practically no information. On either the job or the location. But of course I'm excited, like any applicant, and I think about it constantly and want to write about it, so I end up writing about the few things I know. And that perhaps comes across as being fixated on superficialities or building up expectations. Other than those things about which to write, I have nothing. More entries about how I'm waiting for a package aren't particularly useful or interesting. And it wouldn't satisfy my need to write.

So what ends up happening is a lot of these blog entries have to do with internalized issues. You don't see that on many other PC blogs -- I'd like to think that sets mine apart in some way. Applicants, PCTs, and PCVs undergo a constant rollercoaster of excitement, fear, boredom, dread, self-confidence, and self-doubt. I'm no different on that, but perhaps I like to write about the internal stuff a little more than others. And I find I write more about the stuff one would consider weaknesses and strengths... Not feeling like I have a home, or a place to belong? That's a major weakness. I'm not proud of it. My excuse-making and cowardly retreat from my previous Peace Corps experience? Another weak point in my life. I'm not afraid to face those demons and to write about them in a public space, and the end result is I write about a lot of frailty and negative stuff and that probably comes across as -again- obsessing and setting myself up for failure. Other blogs I read don't approach these issues, other than maybe to say, in one sentence or two, "I'm feeling nervous" or "I wonder what it will be like?" or "Can I even do this?" I like to explore those issues a little closer. It's a peculiar aspect of my personality that I notice negatives more often than positives, especially when it concerns myself. I'm my own toughest critic, and rarely a cheerleader. Another weakness, and probably my biggest one. I'm working on that constantly. Fact is I'm going back into the Peace Corps, despite a previous failure and despite a pretty savage self-reprisal about it, because I want to do it. Period. You won't hear other PC bloggers say stuff like that, and maybe that's because they don't think it, but my only other option would be to not explore the full range of my thoughts, or to simply ignore them or pretend I there aren't complex reactions, and that would definitely lead to failure.

For anyone reading this, if you are concerned that I might not make it in the Peace Corps this time either, based on some of the soul-searching I do on this (very public) journal, I have nothing more to offer than my expression of hope. I believe I can do it, and I want to do it, and I will do it. I know I'll find things upon arrival that I'm disappointed in, and there will be many tough times in training and beyond where I'll just want to get the hell out of there. It happens to everyone. The first time I joined, it never once occured to me that I might leave, especially not after only a month (a "three hour tour," one reader amusingly called it). But I did, and now that has to be factored into my decision to go try again. I can't blithely jump in without contemplating whether I'll ET again because that would be dishonest; it's now irrevocably a part of my Peace Corps experience -- though I'm hoping to do better this time and so move beyond that moment of failure. I can't pretend I won't undergo self-doubt again, but I do believe this time I'll have more and better emotional tools to see myself through. That's all I can offer.

I appreciate everyone who reads this blog and who takes the time to engage in these thoughts. My battle is now, and has forever been, learning to let go and enjoy myself (just ask my friends who went with me to Key West for spring break in 2001... heh). I'm happy to have your support.


p.s. If any fellow PCVs or applicants dealt with these same issues, I would love your input on how you overcame them or dealt with them. Comments or direct e-mails are always welcome. :)

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