Alone vs. Lonely
To be alone is to simply be isolated, to be away from the group in solitary as the only foreigner among the community. As for my own personality, I enjoy my time alone. I can simply spend my time doing the things that I like doing like roasting my beans, cleaning my house, and trying to learn or read about something new.
But it’s not so far off from being lonely.
Loneliness is a result of that isolation. It’s not a physical sensation, it’s an emotional sensation. It’s the feeling where you feel completely lost in where you are and what you are doing. You start to questions why you ever left the comforts of your friends, family, running water and working electricity. You start to question why you ever decided to jump in to a job that seems to be so far beyond your ability to work as a professional.
This is what happened a few weeks ago.
I was stuck in my mind with all of the fears and anxieties any volunteer might face.
- I never learned how to garden or do agriculture before this.
- I’m unqualified for all of this work!
- I can’t do any of this because the people I work with just don’t understand me.
- I don’t feel like I can do this.
- I’m not prepared enough for any of this because I’m not even close to being a professional. All the people want from me is money, not friendship.
You start to spiral down this train of thought, you begin to question so much of your validity as a Peace Corps Volunteer because of it. But like every Peace Corps Volunteer, they find their way out of loneliness, it’s not by taking your time and figuring it out on your own, it’s by being together with other like-minded people.
As a personal digression, I went through this whole process about three weeks ago. I shut myself out of the world and even took a day off from my work. I wanted to stay home with the feelings of helplessness. I no longer felt the pride and power of who I was, as a Peace Corps Volunteer, to continue doing my work. I felt like I was failing because of a major setback from one of our classes we were teaching.
Our First Entrepreneurship Club: From 100 to 1.
A friend and I were doing a class in the village on entrepreneurship. The community was excited and we were overwhelmed with the positive response from the church we shared it with. To set the stage, we presented this idea of starting an entrepreneurship club at a community church. The church was setup outdoors, attracting over 1000 people to come for prayers on Sundays, spread across the two services. We presented our idea to the audience, and at the end of our initial recruitment process, we had over 100 applications for our club! The response was crazy.
But come to the first day, from that 100+ count, only 15 had showed up.
Well, I thought, that’s not the end of the world, a class of 15 is much easier to teach than a class of 100. We conquered our first class talking about Goal Setting and setting the stage of the life as an entrepreneur. The class, again was ecstatic for the class and the response was crazy. But following the trend of the first encounter, our second class went from 15 students to 5 students.
The morale dipped down a bit, but again we perservered through. It was demoralizing to see the few students, but at the same time, we got to spend a lot of time with them and managed to get a few more ideas and learned from the smaller crowd that we had. It was far more intimate and from that experience, we thought we had a very solid group that really wanted to learn entrepreneurship.
The next class couldn’t have gotten worse could it? By the third class, from the remaining 5, we had a single student show up for the class.
One student. From 100 to 1.
Personally, I was devastated. While the class did go quite swimmingly, we got a lot of ideas down of what we can do with our single student’s crafting business, and we advised her on what to do next. But as for the rest of the students, what did we do wrong? Why were there so few students at our class? Why couldn’t we do better? The thought stream started to roll down along with all of my positive validations about myself as a volunteer.
Can’t Do it Alone
It was this, and so many other little things that accumulated in this emotional bubble that eventually burst and brought me down with it. I thought I was alone. I thought I was the only one struggling with all of these sorts of experiences. Yeah, we don’t all have the same kind of issues because everyone has a pretty unique situation, but the solution seems to remain constant across the board: you can’t do it alone.
You can’t do everything alone. To do it that way would kill your spirit and leave you spiraling further in to a depression.
A friend of mine reached out to me during that week where I was in a deep depression, and honestly, without her help, I don’t think I could have made it to the position I am now. At first, we didn’t even talk about what happened haha, we kind of just hung out in town and did some things that were just nice. And it helped a lot.
I feel happy to be here and feel happy to say that I do have friends that care. I had to swallow a lot of my pride to get to that point, though, but I was running out of options, I had to call for help.
And it wasn’t just her. It was having the support of others going through the same thing in my cohort, and being surrounded by other people that care has probably been the best thing I could ask for.