This post originally appeared in my Peace Corps blog roughly four years ago. Once again I find myself in the limbo that is March indecisiveness. Though I am no longer in a place where indoor heating eludes me, I am still struck by the frustration of mercurial weather and uncertainty ahead. Though across the ocean and in a completely different setting, I find myself once again in a place I’m not yet ready to leave. Sometimes all it takes is a little curiosity to keep me going.
March 17, 2009
As of the 12th, I have been in Moldova for a year and six months. The first of us will Close Service in 7 months (excluding those who have/will leave early for medical, educational, personal, or additional reasons).
A couple of weeks ago I found myself very irritable, stuck within some frustrating combination of apathy and anger. I would cry at unnecessary moments, snap at those who were trying to help me, and get frustrated at the simplest of questions. I felt significantly disappointed by those around me and I didn’t really know where it came from. The answer, though, can almost always be found within.
We were told from the beginning to reevaluate our expectations. Every step of the way a sign of frustration is followed by someone questioning our expectations. Lowering expectations is not something that comes easily to a group of overachievers who have crossed great ponds to meet their high standards. And if my “unrealistic expectations” had been replaced by something more appropriate from the outset, perhaps I wouldn’t be where I am. But no one can give you a correct set of expectations while simultaneously telling you that each experience is unique.
My current frustration comes from the shock of another awkward transition from the dead depression of winter to the unexpected wake-up call of not-quite spring. You see, I have reassessed my expectations on a continual basis, trying to find ways to match any worthwhile outcome to existing opportunities. And yet it keeps getting redesigned; new expectations keep getting thrown out at me, and what I once discarded as dead or dying has been resurrected and thrown in my face.
I think, ultimately, it’s fatigue. It’s not homesickness but an overall lack of energy and a reluctance to take on more responsibility because I don’t want to be disappointed, to fail.
“Many volunteers feel they need to create a monument,” he told me. And I didn’t get it at first. “Like a statue?” I said. “No, like a monument project: one concrete accomplishment to signify their service.” And I got the impression that he was either judging them or trying to persuade me into not relying on that same evaluation of my service, basing it on one concrete accomplishment. And I do agree that the perspective I’ll gain in ten years will shine light on the significance of each of these daily activities, but I also understand the longing for something solid…at least until that time of great perspective has washed over me.
Purging expectations is not the same as lowering standards.
As grim as this letter might sound, I actually feel a lot better. I feel calmer, and I try to remember to stretch and pray more frequently, to speak my mind, and to not take things so personally. And I feel like I have come through another transition and am now in a new (although unchanged) part of my service. I still have no doubt that I want to finish, and part of it is simple curiosity to see what will come of the full experience, what might come at the end. I’m also just not ready to leave.
What do you do to get yourself through the depression of winter and the frustration of a slow-coming spring?