Erin Hardin, 128 YinD
Two years is a long time, and it’s hard to put this experience into words! So, I have decided to compile a go-to list that I can share with people when I return home.
- Keep your mouth closed while riding your bike. A bit of a silly and maybe obvious one, but I have swallowed more bugs and inhaled more exhaust fumes than I care to admit.
- Let things go. Figure out what your priorities are for your service and your personal life. Some things are worth fighting for, others are not.
- Compromise is key. You may end up helping with preschool when your focus is middle school. You can use that to negotiate creating a club or getting a certain teacher to help.
- Stop questioning. Some things happen here that I have yet to be able to really explain why, whether it’s because of culture or whatever, and sometimes you just end up at Disney on Ice your first month at site.
- Have neutral expectations/go with the flow. I am not saying don’t have any expectations, just prepare yourself so it won’t devastate you when – yes, when – things do not go exactly the way you were hoping; things rarely go as planned here. That being said, I have been pleasantly surprised when things have turned out completely different than what I was planning, and it was still super fun!
- Be realistically optimistic. You want to stay grounded, but you can also hope for the best.
- Find your space in your house or out in your community where you can just sit and reflect. I personally found mine outside by the river on the outskirts of my town.
- Nothing is the end of the world. Things may seem dark and difficult at times; keep in mind that you get a clean slate every morning the sun rises.
- Find what is behind the negative emotions/reactions. Sometimes you find yourself feeling like crap or wanting to yell at anyone and everyone who even looks at you. Take a step back and check yourself. This hit home when my kiddos where being particularly rowdy, and I could feel myself heating up. I didn’t want to yell at my kids, so I took a moment, I thought about what in the situation was the most frustrating, and I realized it was my lack of language – something I could not immediately fix – so I used what I had to try a different, simpler game. As soon as I got home, I emailed about getting a tutor.
- Success is relative. You could have the most wonderful activity and a great lesson. The kids aren’t necessarily going to remember that lesson; what they will remember is how much fun they had with you!