This is a narrative I wrote about my PC life for future volunteers for the AZ PC website. I thought I’d post it here too.

“It is that true, real inspiration and growth only comes from adversity and from challenge, from stepping away from what’s comfortable and familiar and stepping out into the unknown.” –Ben Saunders, Poler Explorer

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You have probably read or heard that your Peace Corps service will be the most challenging and most rewarding experience of your life. It’s true. You have also probably read about volunteer’s successes and have envisioned your own similar successes. While you will accomplish great things as a Peace Corps Volunteer and have amazing experiences, life during this time will also be overwhelming andtaxing. This experience will stretch you. Some days you’ll have notable break-throughs and feel wonderful. Other days you’ll ask yourself out of frustration and disappointments, “Why should I leave the house today?” I want to explain what has gotten me through these hard times to not only finish my 2 year commitment but also to finish my 6 month extension.

I haven’t had many big successes in my service, at least none that I could take credit for or look at for validation when I felt low. Participants for all my classes slowly stopped coming; only 2 projects for my organization received funding; I was struggling to increase my work in the community; my director/counterpart and I argued on and off for 2 years. My second year was full of let down and a 6 month severe depression. Many times I haven’t lived up to my own expectations of my professional and personal goals. I wasn’t doing the community organizing activities I thought I would be doing, and I wasn’t improving my language ability as much as I planned. I have felt unwanted and belittled by my partnering organization and have felt unappreciated and taken advantage of by others. So what has kept my here? What caused me to extend?

My underlying drive to keep going has been the personal relationships I developed. I step out of my house for Orkhan and Mehemmed who are curious and passionate about learning and bettering their community. I leave my house for Tunjay who is hard-working, seeks out growth opportunities, and is persistent in pursuing his goals. I keep trying for Gulchin who has different ideas from her society about life and has the gumption to live her own way. I’ve stayed because when I felt like no one in the culture could understand me, my host family did. They have been there to support me and share similar experiences. These people and more remind me what I am doing here. Yes, I am here to work, but most importantly I am here to build relationships and spread ideas. By building relationships I have truly helped people by supporting them and making opportunities for them to gain skills and see their dreams realized. Certain people will be excited to work with you. Those people make staying worth it. The most lasting, impactful change will be with the people you connect with.

Specific people’s excitement to work with me is also why I extended. A group of IDPs sought me out with an idea to do a project. They had seen the opportunities that could transpire by working with a foreigner. They had a desire. At times working together was frustrating, and the project didn’t turn out the way I wanted (it’s not as sustainable as it needs to be). However, their desire to work with me always came through with every meeting and class. The excitement in their eyes shone brightly every time I arrived to work.

By leaving your house, you will be stretched to your limits. But that’s a reason why you joined Peace Corps. You wanted a challenge; you wanted a growth experience. You will change as much as you change other people. There will be more than a few days where you hide from the world and won’t leave your house. That’s fine. Those days will help you recollect. Don’t let the challenges, the failures, the frustrations distract you or tear you down from your purpose. In order to help you through your hard times, create a list of reasons you’re here. Have a picture to remind you. You are making an impact even if you can’t see it.

Always remember, each day is different from the next. Life here is full of unexpected turn of events—good and bad. On good days, I’m thankful for those impromptu experiences. On bad days, I know the next day will not be the same.

I didn’t achieve every goal I set out to from this experience. I also experienced things I never had imagined. I learned more about myself and my abilities. I have come out a stronger, more confident individual. By leaving my house, I have experienced more of life. I have more stories; I have seen more places; I have gotten to know great people. This experience has caused me to reshape my definition of success to be what the UCLA basketball coach John Wooden had explained as “Peace of mind attained only through self-satisfaction and knowing you made the effort to do the best of which you are capable.” I did my best and am happy I had this experience.

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