Defeating the Mid-Service Slump

Nhi Le, 130 TESS

Have you been feeling low? After one year into your service, did you think there would be more progress? Do you feel hopeless and depressed? Well, you came to the right place! Here is my step-by-step guide to kicking that Mid-Service Slump to the curb and getting back to being your awesome self!

Step 1: Remind yourself you are a wonderful person.

Step 2: Remember this job is hard.

Step 3: Carbo load with all of the rice in your cupboard. When you run out, sneak over to your neighbors and steal theirs.

Step 4: Commence fetal position.

Step 5: Insert thumb into mouth.

Step 6: Say goodbye to adulthood.

Step 7: Revert to being a baby when life was awesome.

Have you finished all seven steps? Perfect! Being a baby should be everyone’s goal in life.

Thinking back to PST when Kathryn gave all of the PCTs the Cycle of Vulnerability and Adjustment, I remember thinking to myself: “This won’t affect me nearly as much as it will other PCVs.” I wasn’t being arrogant. Truly. I honestly thought that my coping mechanisms had been tried thoroughly before.

So this year, as we approached the Holidays, I met it with gusto. I was doing camps, holiday events, weekend trips with friends, the occasional surprise conference, revamping my classroom structure, and signing my kids up for TYT and an international pen pal project. I had side projects to do for the committees I had joined in my “off” hours. Needless to say, my dance cards were all filled and people were shoving extra cards into my hands.

With all of these extra projects going on and the excitement beaming from my students, I still hit a wall. I was giving my all, 3000%, and I wasn’t seeing any progress with my counterparts or students. My classes kept getting canceled and all those lesson plans meticulously crafted with scaffolding collapsed in on themselves and I saw myself failing. I was juggling all of those dance cards to the point that I was being stretched to my limits. So by the time Christmas rolled around, I was so burnt out, so exhausted, that I no longer had any energy to give to my counterparts or my students. I could feel myself withdrawing from my community.

In retrospect, I realize that I was filling my time to counteract the lack of productivity I felt from last term. I didn’t give myself time to breathe so I could miss home or the space to feel any emotions during the holidays either. My first free weekend since October was in the middle of January. Those months of lows gathered and snowballed until they finally steamrolled me. I stayed in bed for most of those two days trying to cope with everything that is Peace Corps.

Come Monday morning, I still wasn’t ready to go back to school but I peeled myself out from under my covers and dragged myself to class. After a lackluster morning, I went to my P1 class where I was met with so many high-fives and fist bumps. By the end of the class, I was surrounded by a sea of little seven year olds all trying to hug me at the same time. Their exuberance and joy brightened my mood. As I slowly walked home at the end of the day, I headed to the school cook, Pii Ying’s house to play with her new puppy. What was supposed to be a five minute stop ended up being an hour visit. Pii Ying and I have bonded over our love of travel and food. We talked about her upcoming plans to climb Doi Ithanon and comparing our climbs up Mt. Fuji. It was wonderful and I left there feeling slightly rejuvenated. It was a good reminder of why I enjoy being in Thailand and this makes me hopeful that the slump is now curving up.

So here is my real advice on getting yourself out of this Mid Service Slump. Take the time to feel those moments. Be sad when you need to be. Enjoy the relationships you’ve already formed and fostered. Remind yourself that being a volunteer will never go as expected. There are better days on your horizon and so many hugs from your P1 students in the future.

Read Nhi’s previous articles and contributions.

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