Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Cycles of an Overactive PCV's Mind

I know I have said it before but, in the interest of stating it's contribution thus far to my experience, I'll say it again: Peace Corps gives you a lot of time to think (perhaps too much). There is a lot of down time and a lot of alone time at site which leads to an over-active mind. (I think it leads to this, and can be somewhat troublesome, because the type of people drawn to Peace Corps are usually outgoing, inquisitive, motivated, and adventurous. We are the type of people that seek things out and want to know and do more all the time. So, when we are given extensive time to just sit, we have to occupy ourselves with something: thinking.) Having all the time in the world to sit with your thoughts elicits a lot of emotions (that continuously cycle without notice).

At first, having alone time was only a blessing. We were relieved to have control again - it was a break from the monotony of pre-service training and all that entailed. For two months, we had been consumed with classroom sessions, group assignments, language study, field work, and living with a Batswana family. We had a regimented schedule and not enough time to just sit. We were on overload and so the quiet afternoons and dormant nights on our own were welcomed. We were able to calm ourselves down, think and do things our own way, and get back into our own grooves.

And then we found that having nothing but time yielded an over-active-mind-game, which had the potential to drive you insane. It could make you question your decision to join Peace Corps, it could make you over-analyze every relationship or thought or belief you have ever had, and it could drive you to drink just to escape the over thinking. (I say this last point in jest but, as a group, we have actually joked about the potential reality of it on more than one occasion...) Basically, you have more than enough time to let your mind wander anywhere and dwell on any number of things. It takes a strong will to focus those thoughts so they don't become destructive. In an effort to combat this, most of us consume ourselves with books and movies and sending sms's to one another to remind us that we're not alone out here. These things serve as an escape from our own thoughts and occupies our latent hours.

And finally, we hope to find peace. And I don't mean "world peace" (although that would be great too). What I mean is that feeling of contentment where you can sit idly with yourself and your thoughts in peace. In all honesty, some days I feel completely content and am blissfully happy just for existing and then other days I have to consciously force myself to this place, if I get there at all. (Remember, I said this is cyclical so it's a constant re-commitment to service and to myself.) I am doing a little meditation, a lot of yoga, and a ridiculous amount of soul searching on this quest for inner peace. At this point, what I have realized about myself (outside of the fact that I'm somewhat OCD and that I can cook) is this: It doesn't matter what I do in life if I am not surrounded by people that I love. Even the most meaningful work can feel meaningless without those people. They are who make my life complete and who fulfill me. Although I do not doubt that my work in Botswana will be extremely compelling to me (and hopefully to others) and that I will remain dedicated and passionate about helping people, it is realizations like this that will probably have the largest impact on my future.

In the meantime, I will sit and think and ponder... or go play catch with the neighborhood kids.

"When you find peace within yourself, you become the kind of person who can live at peace with others."

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