Where to Begin

Laura Hyde, 130 YinD

I went to bed last night hoping I would wake up inspired. The morning comes and I still I don’t know where to begin.

I sit staring at my computer. Chest tight with guilt of not having already written this piece. Worried about who I have disappointed. Having broken my promise to have completed an article on the agreed upon date yet again.

This is not new; undergrad and grad school, now the committees and the online magazine. I am stuck in the cycle of not turning things in for fear what I write won’t be good enough then feeling overwhelmed by the guilt of my failings. I remind myself that other PCVs have been understanding in the past, things don’t always happen as planned. I remind myself of the praise I received last time I wrote something. Then I wonder if this piece will be as good as the last ones, what if it’s not? I tell myself I am a good writer, people want to read my writing. Sometimes I need reminding.

As time ticks on my frustration with myself grows and it is so easy for my thoughts to go from I cannot write to I am failing at my job, among many other things. The self-doubt spiral starts to swell and grow as I sit alone in my room, my blank word document taunting me. I start to compare myself to other volunteers, ask myself why I haven’t done this project or that camp yet?  Why haven’t I studied Thai more? Why don’t I exercise? Why have I put off doing laundry another day? Why don’t I clean my house more? Why do I sit and wallow in self pity so many nights? Why don’t I get out of my house and do things that I know will make me feel better? I move my cursor and open Netflix, my usual strategy to muffle the negative self talk. But that’s what I did all day yesterday so today I exit out again.

I remind myself that I am dealing with imposter syndrome. I remember the book I read about imposter syndrome by Valerie Young, maybe I should re-read it? I tell myself many people deal with this, you are not an imposter, but you are smart and capable. I chide myself for even needing these reminders.

I exhale.

I pull up my document that has pages of blog ideas. It ranges from a paragraph-long description of an interaction with my host mom to just the word “colonialism.” I start reading through, hoping to feel drawn to one idea or another.

  • I could write about race and being white in Thailand. How I’ve seen so many white tourists take advantage of how hospitable Thai people can be. I know this piece requires more time and nuance, I fear I cannot do it justice.
  • I could write about my mental health struggles and my experience seeing a therapist during service. My fears and increase in anxiety since living here. How Bangkok, once an exciting place to visit has become a place I dread going. How navigating a big city seems so overwhelming in ways it didn’t before. This feels exhausting, I have no nice conclusion for this one.
  • I could write about being fat in Thailand, and how fat discrimination exists here too, but affects people differently than in the states. I worry about writing anything negative about Thailand and Thai culture, how I must make sure that if I do I contextualize it. I do not want my readers leaving with only negative impressions of Thai culture.
  • I could write about my sexuality and dating in Thailand. This feels too fresh. So many questions I am still asking myself, still healing.

I remind myself that Peace Corps staff might read what I write.

There is so much I could write about, that finding where to begin, how to find the words to describe my experience to people back home feels overwhelming, and nearly impossible. It feels easier to not try at all.

Someone once told me that it is hard to tell your own story while you are in the middle of it.

As I read through my list I am struck how each topic is deeply personal and leaves me very vulnerable and exposed. Living in Thailand I feel vulnerable and exposed constantly. At the moment, I don’t want to expose myself even more through my writing. I am tired.

I exhale.

I reassure myself. This will be late, but the time it takes me to complete this does not determine my value. My writing skills do not determine my worth as a human being. Even if I never turned anything in or turned in something terrible no one liked I would still be OK. It is not the be all end all. I have survived every day up until now. I tell myself you are worthy of love just as you are. I say this to myself, and even though I’m not sure I believe it, it helps a little.

I exhale.

As the day ends I flick off the lights and close my eyes. I tell myself tomorrow will be different. Tomorrow I will know where to begin.

Read Laura’s previous articles and contributions.

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