Tomorrow I fly back to a country I haven’t been to in over two years. I return to a family that has morphed, evolved, and grown while I’ve been away. I circle back to a life that I left and feel like should have stayed the same, but I know will be vastly different. I have no home. No job. No car. No plan in place. Not many belongings. This is the freshest start I could ever imagine having. It’s both terrifying and exhilarating. I feel like I’m diving into a black hole and hoping there’s water somewhere down there and it’s deep enough to keep me alive. But alas, it’s time to stop worrying about what’s at the bottom and just take the leap. Here I go.
This will probably be my last post before I’m home in 2 short weeks!
My service has been one of challenges and I shouldn’t have been surprised that it would end that way as well. It’s not overall bad, but I’m leaving in a way I wish I wasn’t. I wish I was leaving with more that I’m going to miss. I wish I was leaving having felt like I really made an impact. I did everything I could and I know that my students learned something valuable from me, but I was dealt a hard hand. Today a friend and fellow volunteer said that she thought I had had the most challenges in my service. I responded that I hoped so because I wouldn’t wish that anyone else have this many challenges or more. Challenges aside, I had a great experience. I didn’t get the communities and friendships that my friends did. I didn’t have really any relationship with my counterpart in the end. My service was quite the bumpy road, but I did it. I endured, persevered, and stayed resilient through it all.
I dealt with extreme back pain, a gallbladder removal surgery alone and in a foreign country, a tumor diagnosis in my leg (don’t worry, it’s benign and doesn’t pose any threats to my health currently), an eviction, not having a home for 2 months, the death of a close friend, a tiny village with no water/electricity/transportation, a huge village with lots of crime and harassment, nosy and active counterparts, counterparts who didn’t seem to give a shit about me, corporal punishment all around and teachers offering to demonstrate how painful it is on me, other mentally triggering events, and people belittling me and discriminating against me because of my identity. I have dealt with a lot in my life, but this was still an extreme experience. But I also had hours of amazing time with my students, bonding time with my neighbor/sister, great travel experiences, fun times with my cohort, and I have made some of the best friendships of my life. If the only thing I got out of this experience was the love of these amazing friends, it would be enough. I’m happy to leave this village that has tested me day after day, but I will miss the experience and the time in my life. I will miss the people and the things I’ve done here. I will miss Baewyn weekends, and teaching my little sister math. As much as it sometimes doesn’t feel like it, I will miss Botswana. But I am ready to be home.
*Told you it would be soon!*
I don’t really know how to define productivity anymore. In my office, and in many others in Botswana, it’s not about how much work you do, but how long you’re there. I haven’t witnessed a lot of drive or motivation to get things done, which has been challenging for me because I am someone who, in the past, has always felt this need to stay busy. If I was constantly busy, I didn’t have to think about all my insecurities, fears, and other depressing thoughts. I could ignore and run away from my problems. Being here, I’ve found the value of taking things slower. I’m not great at it, but it is nice to not be filled with anxiety over a million deadlines like I used to be. Sometimes that means that I don’t do the things that need to be done finished in a timely manner, because I don’t have that deadline motivating me, but I still get them done. I almost enjoy expecting things to start two hours late because that gives me two hours to sit and read.
In the past few months, I’ve been worried that I won’t be able to work on American time anymore. I was worried that I would struggle at a job and have issues focusing. But in the past couple weeks, I’ve had to actually get things done since I’m leaving and I’ve noticed how fast I can get back into a state of productivity and motivation. It’s only 3 o’clock and I’ve done three loads of laundry by hand, a load of dishes, cooked two meals, packed all of my belongings to take home besides the aforementioned laundry, deep cleaned one room, moved unused furniture into said room, taken out two loads of garbage, applied to three jobs, found four more to apply to, watched two episodes of Buffy, written one and half blog posts, worked on e-mails, packed a couple boxes to go to people here, and sorted my finances. A typical Monday for me in the past couple months would be to wake up around 8 or 9, watch some TV, maybe journal, do some reading, then go to Teen Talk, come home, make some calls, and then go to bed. Not quite the same kind of productivity. So I have hope that I won’t be a completely useless human when I’m home.
I’m still almost always early to things, and I still get things done when they need to be, but I’m no longer the ball of anxiety about everything. I recognize more of what I can and should have control over and I recognize that I don’t need to be busy all the time to prove something. I’m enough at any level of productivity. I enjoy having more time for myself and listening to my mind and body instead of trying to shut it off. And Botswana has given me the time I needed to learn more about myself and become a more confident and happy person. I don’t want to keep living by Botswana time, but I also don’t really want to go back to my insane American time. I’d like a happy medium where I have pockets of business, and stretches of leisure. That sounds beautiful right now.
*This post should have been uploaded last week, but my brain would not focus enough. So expect the one that was actually meant for this week soon!*
You know when you’re trying to load a website and it just keeps buffering or saying it isn’t responding? That’s my brain right now. I have 20+ tabs open thinking about going back to America, the end of Peace Corps, saying goodbye to the place I’ve called home for two years, my family and friends, my travels before coming home, money, finding a job, which city I’ll be living in, that girl I made out with last weekend, Mexican food, cars, more Mexican food, how different I am now versus two years ago, my recent health issues, driving, relationships, grocery stores, PhD applications, living situations, and how insane life is right now (just to name a few). Suffice it to say, I’m getting pretty used to no focus and having my mind in a million places at once. I don’t think this state of mind is going to end any time soon. I’ll be in quite the flux state for the near to somewhat far future as my entire life transitions.
I’m not terribly upset to leave Botswana. This is not a place that I particularly want to live in for much longer, but I have made quite a few friends here and really made a friend of myself. Botswana will always hold a dear place in my heart as the time in my life where I pushed myself almost to my breaking point, but found so much knowledge and strength in that. I have learned so much about myself and realized that I can handle an insane amount of challenges. I’m not scared to leave Botswana, but I am scared about what I’m going home to. I don’t have a job, a long-term place to live, many belongings left at home (I pretty much just left five boxes of books and a dress), a car, a computer, or much else. I’m coming home to a relatively fresh start which is both exciting and daunting. I’ve changed so much in Peace Corps that I’m not really sure what my American self is anymore. Do I still wear make-up? Do I eat out? Do I have friends? Will living with a roommate drive me insane? What will my days look like? Will I have a job that is actually in my field? Will I be able to get back to a ceramics wheel anytime soon? Or even larger questions: Will I be discriminated against more or in danger because of my beliefs or my sexual orientation? Will my state still have anything left or will it all be ash? Am I coming home or to some foreign place that is just a shadow of the land I love? Coming back to the U.S. poses more questions than it answers. It doesn’t really feel like it’s my home anymore, but neither does Botswana.
I recognize that I won’t really have these answers until I’m back stateside. I can try to find a job while I’m still here and that would answer some questions, but the job market is a hard place to break into right now. I can imagine what my life will look like, but I don’t really have control over it. That’s ok. Control is overrated. That doesn’t stop my brain from wanting it. There isn’t much that will stop my brain though. I can rationally say a situation is over and I’ve learned as much from it as possible, but my brain will still say, “Oh, let’s replay that situation.” That’s just how I function and I realize and accept it.
My life may be chaotic right now, but unlike the last six months, it doesn’t feel tainted by depression. I finally feel like the veil has been lifted and I can see things more clearly. Which makes things overwhelming in a very different way. I never expected leaving Botswana to be harder than coming here in the first place, but it is. It’s much harder because unlike when I came here, I don’t have a plan. When I was coming here, I knew I was going to have a job and a secure long-term place to live. I knew that there were things out of my control, but in someone else’s. Now, I feel all the responsibility to find my independence and that’s great. I should have that responsibility and freedom. I’m just worried that once Peace Corps throws me out into the deep end, I won’t fully remember how to swim. We’ll just have to wait and see. I know I’ve lost a lot of my English skills, but maybe I still remember how to swim.
Overall, this is a thrilling time. I’m in this huge transition that marks the completion of something amazing. I have countless opportunities ahead of me and a beautiful new beginning that I can make into whatever I want! I just have to turn this anxiety into excitement and embrace what feels like the biggest adventure of my life. It’s time to break into self-sufficient, non-student, adulthood!