Carly Allard, 129 YinD
Stories. Tales. Adventures. Journeys.
Each has a path in one direction or another.
And each is unique and special. As are we.
After all, isn’t life a journey?
One thing after another, adventure or not, strung together with the ups and downs we may refer to as “the whole crazy thing” or a “rollercoaster ride.”
Each bit of our journey is representative of life’s highest highs and lowest lows, the moments through which we’ve lived and learned, fallen apart and pulled together. Along the way, smiles are worn, tears are cried, lessons are learned. Our journey is indicative of the storms we’ve weathered and the breathtaking moments that remind us we’re truly alive.
On life’s grand journey, our time as Peace Corps Volunteers is but one leg. I’d challenge anyone to find a PCV who wouldn’t agree their time as a Volunteer has been life-altering in one way or another. Our journeys in Thailand have indeed included highest of highs and lowest of lows. We’ve struggled and triumphed, all while learning more about ourselves and the world around us.
In experiences like Peace Corps, there seems to be a natural instinct of comparison to one’s peers. Social media posts, pictures, videos and stories are fabulous tools to help preserve memories and highlight accomplishments, but from the outside looking in, those things can sometimes spark feelings of negativity. Sometimes it seems one’s journey is less productive, significant, or wonderful than those highlighted in pictures and posts. We see only the surface — the beautiful pictures, the words of gratitude, the smiling faces — without digging deeper into the blood, sweat and tears that went into whatever those wonderful little memory savers are highlighting.
As my own Peace Corps journey in Thailand comes to a close, I’ve found myself struggling to feel purposeful and fulfilled. After two years in my community, I feel but a drop in the gigantic bucket of change I wanted to fill during my time here. My thoughts often tornado into a mess of “what if’s” and “maybe’s,” mixed with feelings of guilt, self-doubt and disappointment.
With the months and weeks of service winding down, I’ve struggled with this internal battle more than I’d care to admit. I’ve tried my best to focus on the positives and the successes, instead of dwelling on the “could have, should have, would have’s.” Gratitude is often where I find solace, finding balance between thankfulness for the things I have and wishing for things I don’t.
Beyond my personal remedies for positivity, I’ve reached out for help to those near and dear, who’ve offered up advice a’ plenty. Without realizing it at the time, I recently received a nugget of wisdom that, once I thought and pondered over, completely changed the trajectory of my thoughts and feelings: be proud of your journey.
Be PROUD of YOUR journey.
(Take a second to let that sink in, in whatever context resonates with you.)
Yours, not anyone else’s.
The journey you’ve constructed, created, weathered, braved.
The journey that’s brought smiles, laughs, tears, frustrations, and invaluable lessons.
As previously stated, Peace Corps service is but a portion of life’s grand journey. My own service has transformed my life’s journey and its path in unexpected ways. Looking back at the last two years, I can see tremendous growth in myself and my peers, in my understanding of people and cultures, and the world we share. I am more resilient, patient, and confident than I’ve ever been before, and for all that and more, I am so proud.
So, as PC Thailand 129 counts down the days until we officially close our service, I challenge each one of us to be proud of our journeys. Be proud of the people you’ve encountered, the places you’ve explored, and the things you’ve done. Never mind whatever didn’t happen or didn’t work out. Those things weren’t meant to be. In Peace Corps and whatever lies beyond, be proud of your journey, wherever it takes or leads you.