This is definitely the hardest entry that I have attempted to write. Beginning to explain all that has happened, all that I have learned, and the reasoning behind it all, would require a psychologist, sociologist, priest, atheist, and comedian. Their answers would be conflicting, confusing, and never-ending. I assume my own explanations and reasoning would be as well. But I have decided not to analyze the fact that my biggest dream turned out to be, in many ways, a nightmare.
Only days after returning to my village, I knew in my gut it wasn’t right. I tried and tried to make it all work, to not give up, to find solutions and work through my problems. I struggled with the idea of giving it “enough” time, however there is a slight problem with the quantitative measurement of “enough”…it’s not a measurement at all. Throughout my service I had used this term to drive me, to keep trying, to lead me to the next day. Finally, I admitted to myself that enough is enough. Life doesn’t have to be continuously running your head into a brick wall for the sake of becoming stronger or learning about yourself. I think there are a lot less painful to ways to do that.
Yet, I hated the idea of not overcoming all of the challenges that go along with being a volunteer. Of giving up on the commitment I made. Of accepting the fact that maybe my dream was bigger than myself. I didn’t understand how or why I turned into a different version of myself the moment I entered my village, but I knew it was true and took it as a fact: this isn’t a good fit. Even with all that I had learned and worked through so far, gaining new coping skills and strategies, I decided to do what would make me happy. Waking up each day to a world that I couldn’t appreciate, where my smile seemed forced and living felt like a chore, I knew something had to be done. What service would I be to my village if this is how I live each day?
One day I looked at my situation as two open doors. The first one was all of the possibilities within Peace Corps. I had the freedom to do what I wanted, develop projects, work as hard or as little as I wanted, travel, become fluent in the language, share new ideas and aspects of American culture with Rwandans…continue on the path of the PC experience with the hope of things getting better but dealing with the reality and magnitude of my struggles. The other open door led me back home. Yes, it was the safety net I mentioned in a previous post that I am privileged to have. Yes, it was admitting that the decision I made to return to Rwanda led me to where I started. Yes, I felt ridiculous for flying half-way across the world only to realize within a week that I had made the wrong decision. But even with all of those things weighing on me, the idea of getting out of my current situation made me excited, happy, and motivated to move on to whatever the next step may be. The infinite possibilities awaiting me at home looked incredibly more appealing than those I stood face-to-face with in Rwanda. I didn’t want to suffer for two years only to come out on the other end saying I did it, with little contribution to show for it and the possibility of resenting those around me or losing myself in the process.
With support from PC staff and my family back home, I decided enough is enough. The technical term is medical separation, a fancy way of saying I’m leaving Peace Corps. Unfortunately the one time PC is efficient with logistics, it is when sending a volunteer home. I had three days to pack my house, explain that I was leaving and not returning, visit my host family, and say my goodbyes. Not to mention the work required by Peace Corps before leaving the country. It was hectic to say the least, but once the decision was made, my world became brighter again. Although saying goodbye to my host family, my best Rwandan friend from my village, and fellow PCVs was hard, I was finally happy again and able to enjoy my last few days in Rwanda. I am glad I left on a good note. I viewed the free champagne on the plane as a toast to my service, accomplishments, and ability to make a decision. Oh yeah, and the fact that it was Christmas day.
So, this means that I have been back home for a couple of days now and in the words of Nelson Mandela, “There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered”. With the days, weeks, and years to come, I am sure I will realize how this experience has changed me. Beyond the jetlag, this transition will be another process for me to discover. I thought the next two years of my life were planned out, but if I learned anything, it is the ability to throw the plans out the window. The key is to enjoy the path of whatever may follow. Ok, so maybe I haven’t lost that idealistic nature that led me to do Peace Corps…but this time around, I think I have the sense not to be blinded by it.