Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Wisdom to Know the Difference

Those who know me well know I struggle with decisions. I do not take them lightly. I am sometimes *ahem* overly distraught by choosing my entree at a restaurant. I changed my major multiple times during college. I sometimes devote more time to making a decision than it takes to actually carry out said decision. I have been accused of paralysis by analysis.

Last Thursday I made the decision to leave my site in Sololá and move to a new site. I went through a long discernment process filled with many conversations with family, friends near and far, and Peace Corps support staff. Now, I have determined that my best chance to find what I consider to be success as a volunteer lies elsewhere.

I could write a laundry list of justifications, of things that went wrong and ways I tried to remedy the situation. I could talk about problems with my host organization (which has dissolved), with my counterpart, with my host family, with integration into the community as a whole. But, with exceptions where a safety issue arises suddenly, I think these cases tend to come out of a long accumulation of struggles and trials. Any one of these problems might be surmountable, but the aggregation of them has worn me down to the point that I must choose a new path. I have not exhausted all the opportunities in this site, but I have exhausted my own ability to pursue them.

The past several months have seen me move between emotional states of determination, enthusiasm, stubbornness, disappointment, desperation, hopefulness, stress, apathy, frustration, relief, confusion, exhaustion, and many more. There have been small victories and occasional connections with those in the community. The overall trend was moving slowly toward cynicism and resignation. At some point I realized that as much as it was tempting to stick it out here to prove I could, that was a path that didn't serve me, the community, or the Peace Corps well.

I joined the Peace Corps to learn and to teach, to share and receive, to join a community and to serve where I am able.  Before I can do any of these things well, I have to care for myself. There is a reason the flight attendants tell us to first secure our own oxygen mask before helping those around us. Next week I will move to a new site in the department of Alta Verapaz. This is my way of reaching for the oxygen mask.

God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.


  1. good for you to having the courage to make this decision! I've read a lot of blogs by people who were miserable in one site, but didn't want to change out of stubbornness... then they do move and their service becomes much more useful and meaningful.

  2. I know that must have been a tough decision, this far into your stint with the PC. Good for you for recognizing and acting upon this need for a change. I hope Alta Verapaz will be more open and you can meet each other's needs.

  3. Beth,
    You have such courage and poise in the face of a very difficult decisions. I think God has granted you the wisdom and grace to make the tough choices. I hope that your new site will be in the same space you are in right now. We're rooting for you on our end!

  4. You have the wisdom to MAKE a difference, Beth -- if everything else is in place, and it seems that this change might promote the opportunity to do what you came to do.

  5. Thanks for the support, everyone! It helps to know I've got people sending me positive thoughts/vibes/prayers.