One of the things I have had to comes to terms with is probably not being able to see visible change in the behaviors or lives of some of the students I work with during the short time I am here. Two years might feel like a long time, but in reality, it’s just a blimp on the life course and maturation of the students I get involved with (even tinier blimp on the earth’s life course but thats a different blog post).
I have come to realize this is in other parts of my work-life where I fill(ed) somewhat of a teacher/mentor/tutor role. For instance, some of the positive impacts I have had on the lives of some of the YMCA campers I have worked with didn’t really come apparent until years and years later. I personally still have so many fond memories of mentors I’ve had that I wish I could share with them. The reality is that we sometimes don’t share these things; share how we feel. It could be because of shyness or lack of ability to express it. Or it could be because we also don’t see the evolution in ourselves at the time, and only after years and some reflection do we realize that the source of some of those positive improvements in our lives derives from a singular person.
I think this difficulty with seeing visible changes in my students stands true for changes I see within myself; changes that have been brought on by my Peace Corps service. I think one of the selfish aspects of wanting to become a PC volunteer is to involve yourself in an experience where you too will be able to get something out of. It could be to travel, learn a new language or set yourself up for better employment in the future. I think also its about getting involved in an experience that pushes us to evolve as a human. With this in mind, I think it’s safe to say, that honestly, it’s not always about the communities we serve and community members we work with. Or about ‘saving the world’ (I think that perspective is so warped for many reasons, so please, do not begin to think I am doing that. Or any of my colleagues for that matter. It might sound ridiculous, but the amount of people I have spoken with who have attached that problematic savior imagery to Peace Corps volunteers is shocking). It is also about changing ourselves.
Because it is difficult to see changes within ourselves, I have decided to spend a little extra time reflecting upon myself. Reflecting on little changes I see. Reflecting on where I was when I started my service and where I am now. Better yet, where I will be when I finish my service sometime around November 2019. I’ll share one here today, and then dedicate smaller/short posts to other facets of my life/personality/being/body/world perspective/etc. that have changed (maybe for the better, maybe for the worse) since I became a Peace Corps volunteer.
It’s no secret that the world moves slower when you detach yourself from larger cities, big groups of people and overstimulation. Yes time keeps ticking for all of us, but you find yourself spending that time at a slower pace. With less things to do. Often times, with less worries and less stress.
This might sound like an ideal thing. But for myself, it has been less than ideal at times. Mostly because of my addiction to efficiency and a fast paced lifestyle full of people and things and activities and work and play and family and friends and travel and noises and smells and all the things. You get the picture. To say the least it has been a test for my patience.
A slower pace with less things to do and some times less worries/ stress became a wonderful thing once I got my patience skills more honed (and I am still honing). Before that, I felt like I needed to move fast, to fill my plate. I felt that everyone around me need to move as quickly as me and take on as many responsibilities as I wanted. Come to think of it, this was super selfish. What made me think that once I arrived my colleagues, students and community members would adjust to me? I’m the minority. Being that I’m the one outnumbered both numerically an culturally, I should probably be the one to do the adjusting. And I did. Letting go of that rushed mindset, breathing more and moving/thinking slower has been entirely liberating.
I see that I am more patient now. I see it when I wait 30 minutes for the car to fill up with passengers so we can leave. I see it when I wait for a document to be approved by the director despite what I perceive of his ’empty’ to-do list. I see it when I wait for my students to finish reading or understand a new concept. I see it when class seemingly always starts late. Knowing this, I see it in my session planning, when I strategically plan 1/2 to 3/4 of what I think might be accomplished. I see it when I sit in an empty room for a meeting that finally starts at 10am despite being planed for 9am. I see it when I wait for my water to boil and popcorn to pop.