Tuesday, July 19, 2011

‎"My satisfaction comes from my commitment to advancing a better world"

This weekend has been full of ups and downs (and by "weekend" I mean Saturday to Tuesday since it was a long weekend in Botswana to celebrate the Presidents Holiday). Over the course of four days, I have gone from feeling blissfully happy to extremely frustrated to calm and content to sobbing my eyes out. And today, more specifically, has been a roller coaster.

I woke up this morning feeling rested for the first time in a while. For all intensive purposes, I was pretty happy. My weekend to this point had been very fun - I had seen African animals, eaten delicious food, spent time with friends, and thoroughly cleaned and re-organized my house. And now I had a big cup of dark roast coffee sent from home to drink and the whole day ahead of me. What could go wrong, right? Well, I sat down with my coffee and a big bowl of granola with yogurt to watch a few episodes from season six of Weeds when the next thing I knew I was feeling overcome with homesickness. Yes, it was brought on by seeing Seattle in the episode I was watching but the nostalgic feeling was compounded with something much deeper than that. Today was the first day that I felt a real sense of calm when I thought about actually going home.

The thought of going home and being with and helping the people that I love was overpowering. The truth is that being here right now feels stagnant and, if there's one thing I learned from my dad's death, it is that life is too short and too uncertain to waste, especially if what I'm doing is not moving things forward in some sense. I feel like most of the people I am working with don't care if I am here other than the fact that they are happy I'm doing their work for them. My reason for coming was to help people and the message that Peace Corps has been constantly reiterating is that our mission is to capacitate host country nationals to improve their own lives. If the people I am working with are not interested in the slightest then I am setting myself up for disappointment in this arena. It's hard because I felt purpose at home, even in the times when I wasn't feeling totally fulfilled. It just got to the point today that I truly felt like if what I do here won't matter in the end, and if things will be no different if I were here or not, then I don't see the point in struggling through everything when I could be happy and with the people I love. So, basically, I'm trying to find a way to remedy that and see if there's a way my two years here could possibly matter in the end. And that was in the dark moments of today...

In my better moments of the day I was able to take comfort in the strength of my mom, who has been able to carry on even in the hardest times; smile in the humor of my sister, who has always been able to put me at ease; and find solace in the words of a friend, who said "The first few months will be hard... And maybe your organization will not make a lasting impact. But focus on the small things you can do, and all the little impacts you can make, and how this experience, be it positive or negative, will enrich your life... [focus] on each person here and there, the kids you can give candy to, etc, and then the big picture just doesn't matter anymore."

In the end, the things that are upsetting me are evidence of the need for help here. People are stuck in a way that is destructive (both in their actions and inaction). I may not be able to help everyone or magically transform them into faithful employees and partners, but I may be able to help a little. In truth, I came here because I want to see the world become a better place. This has always been my passion and I am dedicated and committed to doing my part here. Yes, I have my work cut out for me but I hope with all my heart that I can do something, however negligible it may seem to be, that will be meaningful and powerful. So I'm going to take the bad parts of the weekend and turn them into fuel for my mission. Because, after all, "My satisfaction comes from my commitment to advancing a better world." (And all the small things are sure to add up!)


  1. Tija, you will make an impact with everything you do. That rippled effect from the moments you shared with your host brother, to the kindness you've shown to the children in your village. Just your presence is impactful and your positive ways. Everything you wrote is important to remember, especially in times when you feel like nothing you are doing is making a difference, because it is. It's easy to ride the horse in the direction it's going, it's more difficult when it's not….you can do it!!

    I love you, Mom

  2. You are strong and I agree with your mother. In every way you are around those who are struggling, you are making an impact in their lives. In the same way you have touched and impacted our lives back here at home, I know you are doing the same there. While things may not change in your sights or even while you are there serving, they are causing a ripple in the water for many years to come. The villagers and the people you interact with will truely be enriched by your presence and services.

    We love you greatly and are praying for you everyday. Thru your struggles and joys. Thank you for sharing with us the joys and hardships you are having. Just know we are standing behind you rooting you on! Miss you! Love you! Forever in our prayers!