Relationships are built and destroyed around trust. It takes trust to start a relationship and eventually deepen it. When trust is broken, a distance and even complete destruction of a relationship can happen. Recently, my long term relationship with my boyfriend ended. This blog isn’t about that relationship specifically. Long distance relationships are difficult. It’s a common fact. Peace Corps tries to prepare you for the concept, but nothing is a learner like experience. It is common for the majority of volunteers who come into service with a relationship to eventually break up. The distance becomes too much as you are not always able to communicate frequently and as you immerse yourself into a place where your partner has no connection to. Since this is a blog about my Peace Corps experience, this is now—however unfortunate—part of it. Many others who serve experience this too. This blog is about how I’m dealing with it, how it’s affecting my service, and the discovery that I haven’t—until now—put trust into my relationships here.

The break up happened February 3 through an emotionally neutral e-mail. I was shocked. I didn’t expect this to happen to me; I didn’t even know something was wrong. Without a say in the matter, my life had been turned upside down. My future plans no longer reachable. I was for the first time in my life filled with intense unbearable emotions. The shock, disappointment, and inability to comprehend why this has happened left me in a weird state. The doctors call it grieving. I’m grieving a loss—much like a death. I lost someone very important to me, and I’ll never get him back. This loss has affected my daily livable life immensely. I cry every day. I cry multiple times in a day in inappropriate places like work. I barely have enough energy to get myself out of bed in the morning and go to work let alone to keep up the activities of exercising, cleaning, and cooking. I leave site on the weekends because I can’t bear to be alone any longer. I’m working through grieving, and I’m told it takes time. The evil word “time” does not have an end date. There is no known date to the end of this suffering. All I can tell you is that “yavaş yavaş” (slowly slowly) I am getting better. One day I will be back to normal. No man can keep me down. In the mean time…

I didn’t tell many people at first about my breakup. I’m a private person to begin with, but telling people made it feel more real. As reality set in, I felt more like a failure. People had told me my relationship would fail. It was mostly people that didn’t really know me. I know long distance is tough. He knew long distance was tough. He knew I wanted to do Peace Corps and our relationship would be long distance for a few years before we made the commitment to date. Accepting that those people were right is difficult. It was people in America and in Azerbaijan. Some older women in Azerbaijan would tell me I needed to go back home because I would lose him or because he would cheat on me. Based on those responses when I came here, I didn’t want to tell people for fear of being judged. Dating isn’t done in this culture. It is a modern concept just gaining ground in the more modern progressive thinking capital city of Baku. It was not only fear of being judged but also fear that I would now be seen has a “bad girl” or as I would interpret it in this case “damaged goods”. I didn’t even want to tell fellow PCVs. While PCVs probably wouldn’t judge me, I wasn’t prepared for my name to go around the gossip circle.

I told a few of my closest friends in PC as well as my friends and family back home. As the month of February come to a close, I felt I wanted to scream. I didn’t want this secret, but I didn’t want to talk about it. I didn’t want people to ask about him, but I didn’t want to talk about what happened in order to prepare them not to talk about it. It would eventually get out though, and it did.

Instead of continuing to hide away in my house and isolate myself from my Azerbaijani friends in order not to talk about him, I decided to tell a few people. My first experiment was a few days ago. I told my host mom. My host mom has always been protective and supportive of me. She has never criticized me for being different. She went through the grieving process in November when her mother died. She has also had a tough life when it comes to men. If anyone could understand me it would be her. When I went over, she asked me how I was. I told her a bit about what had happened, and she completely understood. She told me to come over as much as I wanted and that I shouldn’t be alone. She gave me tips on how to forget about him and reminded me what a strong person I am.

Why had I been so afraid to trust? This is not the first situation either. As I look back, I think I have been more closed off than I had intended with my relationships. I don’t really like to talk about myself or what is going on in my life. That combined with limit vocabulary has made it difficult for me to really connect and build those strong relationships. Friendship is about sharing the good and bad times. Sometimes I think I can be an island. So I knew I needed to open up more, but I never really realized how closed off I had been—how guarded and protective I was. But guarding and protecting what? I don’t know. I’m here to build those relationships and work off of them to help them accomplish what they want. Those relationships are what PCVs remember most in the end. It’s what Azerbaijanis remember most about Peace Corps.

I have no real conclusion to this. I’m still going through this stupid grieving process (I say stupid because I hated that he has affected me to the point that I’m not fully functional when he gets to stay happy and not grieve). Maybe, just maybe, this can be a stepping stone to build a stronger relationship with my host mom and a few others that I tell. Maybe this will help me start to accomplish my “build strong relationships” goal. I just got to push myself back into living, working, and socialization. That’s my biggest struggle at the moment. I need to find that little “ump” which I can use to energize myself to visit someone, make a meal, or clean my house.

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