Monday, February 16, 2015

Unpredictable PCV Cycle

One of the (I'm struggling with a truly appropriate adjective here) interesting terrifying complicated things about the life of a Peace Corps Volunteer is that it's unpredictable. I don't just mean that we don't know when we're going to walk into a surprise masa, what personal questions a stranger will ask us, what we'll be sitting next to on a rutiera (or if your rutiera will get pulled over by the police, which is what's currently happening as I write this), or when our stroll through the fields will have to be rerouted because suddenly, oh hi, there are all the village cows! (No, seriously. All of them.) Though it's definitely impossible to predict those things (except that we can pretty much guarantee the stranger's personal questions will be about our love lives), it's even more surprising to not know what is going to be happening in your head and your heart on a daily basis. 

It makes sense to go through periods of different emotional states, and it makes sense when they sort of go together. For instance, it's logical to me that when the sun is coming out and sticking around for days, I'm more likely to be in a good mood. When I haven't left site in more than a month, it's safe to assume that I'll be a bit lonely. When I'm around many PCVs for an extended period of time, like at a training or something, I can guess that I'll have some time where I'm overwhelmed at all the social interaction. 

We've got this Cycle of Vulnerability and Adjustment that has predictors like this for your whole service. For example, during the first 2 months, you'll likely be fatigued, overwhelmed, feeling helpless. During months 11-14, you'll be establishing a routine, feeling more competent, etc. That's great and all, but what about when you go through the whole cycle in 27 minutes instead of 27 months? Sure, that's a slight exaggeration (I'm nothing if not hyperbolic, right?), but it's almost absurd how close our good days and bad days can be. 

I'm even aware that I'm not alone in this, because I know that multiple volunteers have talked about having one of their best days and then suddenly one of their worst. 

A few weeks ago, I had a week that started off so strong. I considered that Monday one of the best days of my service at that point, and I was feeling really proud of myself and confident in my abilities for all sorts of things. And then that Friday evening and Saturday were some of my worst moments of service so far. How can things change so quickly and without warning? I know, things can change that quickly anywhere, but it feels like such a ridiculous range here sometimes. 

Two days ago I couldn't get out of bed—I couldn't even think straight, I felt so terrible. That was physical rather than emotional, and I'm fine now, but it was such a bad day. Then the next day was fantastic. I spent hours in a coffee shop with two of my favorite people, collaborating on grant applications and drinking coffee and planning our vacation. (All of which are exciting things, although, Moldova could get on its coffee game a little more if they would sell iced drinks year round.. I'm just saying. I can't be the only one who would love an iced coffee in February.) So I thought, cool, things are great. Had a nice dinner and evening with games, a movie, and even a surprise FaceTime from my grandma, aunt and uncle. Logically, that good place will continue, right? Do you even remember what I've said already? Haven't you been paying attention? No, of course it won't continue. Because you'll have a good day and then that night you won't be able to sleep, and you'll wake up and not want to talk to anyone, and you'll spend the day trying to be sociable and pleasant but you'll get exhausted and just cry in the dark on the rutiera for half your ride home that night (which is a feat in itself when you're traveling two and a half hours back to site). And obviously you don't know why you feel like this, and it's likely nobody's fault, which also sucks, because wouldn't it be nice to have someone to blame? 

Which days are going to be the ones where your biggest accomplishment is boiling water? What about the ones where just saying good morning to someone seems like the hardest thing? Or the ones where you want to pretend you're not hungry so you don't have to sit at the dinner table and talk to your host mom? And then which are the days when all it takes is sunlight to put you in the best mood? What about the days when a village kid will walk you home and smile up at you the whole time, thinking you're the greatest thing? Or the ones when you think, oh yeah, I can save the world today! 

I don't know which is which and I just don't understand why today it's one over the other, and I don't think I'm very good at some of those days. Just have to hope that if I'm on a really bad one, a great one is soon to follow. That's how it works, right? This emotional rollercoaster toughest job I'll ever love? 

I wrote this post while I was on the rutiera back to site, and my last paragraph was not this one that you're reading. It was about how I wanted to end on a positive note, but I couldn't quite do that. Four hours ago when I wrote this, I was trying, but all I could come up with was that I hope that there's a positive note coming for me. And you're not reading that paragraph because there was. I got back to my room and had 6 texts from my best friend, who wanted to Skype with me (which we hadn't done in about.. forever). Talking to her for almost two hoursthere's my positive note. We didn't even talk about all of this and I feel better. So even when you have your bad days, just wait. The day might not be quite over yet and something else can always happen. I'm struggling through some bad days, but there's often at least something to redeem them. Such is the life of a Peace Corps Volunteer. 

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