Thursday, December 8, 2011

Towards Acceptance? An Analysis of My Happiness

As a general rule, I am a happy person. Unfortunately, I am not happy. That does not mean that I am unhappy but rather that I am not living in a state of happiness. That is not to say that I don't have happiness in my life right now because I do. Every time the kids come over to play or I get a message from home or I go on a uniquely African adventure, I feel joy. But it is no secret that I have been unfulfilled in many aspects of my work here. I have been searching for meaning, knowing full well that I may never realize the full impact of things I am doing and that if I am able to help one person that should be enough. Even still, with a closed NGO, a counterpart that isn't interested in putting forth the effort to reopen, and the knowledge that hundreds of orphans and vulnerable children in my village are going without the care and services they need, I have had great difficulty finding comfort.

I have spent more than my fair share of days confined to my house trying to work through all of my thoughts and find some semblance of resolution. Recently, I have become rededicated to my own yoga and meditation practice, which has helped me let go of myself and examine this experience more clearly with the hope of finding comfort here. In this quest, I have realized many things. Among them: I know that I have little control over situations and that I must be patient. I have realized that sometimes even my passion and steadfastness cannot bring change and that it requires dedication of the masses (and not everyone truly cares). I have discovered failure and frustration and resignation and hope and disappointment and small victories. I also know that, despite everything, I am one of the lucky ones.

I long for something more because I have felt happiness and love and security and abundance. I know that the world is great and that more exists. I am surrounded by people, however, that have not realized these things. (And, even for those who know, they cannot imagine themselves in that world.) I have befriended orphans that never knew what a hug was or that snow exists. They cannot fathom the world as I know it. My happiness has been born of things that are foreign to them. I am grateful for my experiences and for my life.

If my end goal is solely to find comfort, then I can accept this new state of consciousness and recognize that I have been blessed and that I will get the chance to return to all those things that embody my happiness. I have the opportunity for this when others may never get it. This, in and of itself, is something that I struggle with every day. I often ask myself "Would I be happier right now if I never knew everything that existed and the great potential in the world?" I don't know. Maybe I would be more content in the nothingness. I doubt it though.

What it all boils down to is this: I would happily give up all of the comforts of home for the opportunitiy to help others, which is why I embarked on this journey to begin with. And, while it's true that I am grateful for the joyful moments here, I will forever doubt that I could be truly happy when I know there is something more I could be doing to help people. That desire comes from something within me that I cannot silence. But how can I help if I am in a place and in a situation that cripples me? I have a lot to offer and I want to give of myself to the cause here - I am constantly trying and being unable to do anything. I feel trapped and as if my efforts are fruitless and unwanted. How can I find happiness, or even contentment, in an existence like that? And therein lies my problem.

After the fact thoughts: The problem with being in this state is that "the smile" is gone. It's as if my sense of balance has dissipated and the little joys aren't enough to bring me back to center. You can't have happiness without sadness or work without play. My universe right now is very one-dimensional. And, unfortunately, it's primarily in the realm of dissatisfaction. I hope to find my equilibrium again.


  1. TIJA - As a fellow international development worker I truly understand where you are right now mentally. Let's try to skype this week so we can talk you through this phase and assess your options.


  2. Though not in the PeaceCorps, I can completely relate to not feeling fulfilled and therefore not being happy. it's not directly related, but here's a quote that helps me when I'm having a bit of a rough patch:
    the buddhist 5 rememberances state: "All that is dear to me and everyone I love are of the nature to change. There is no way to escape being separated from them. My actions are my only true belongings, I cannot escape the consequences of my actions. My actions are the ground on which I stand."
    (the last three statements help me rebuild my inner strength when I feel like I've hit a wall)