Thursday, January 31, 2013

On Resiliency

The Peace Corps, among other things, is an exercise in resiliency.

Let’s look at the word – resilient: able to recover quickly from setbacks; able to spring back quickly into shape after being bent, stretched or squashed. Normally, when we think of resiliency we think of children. Children bounce. They heal easily and they remain unafraid, trusting the world always. This allows them the ability to grow, to enjoy, to explore the world continually. With age, some of them will lose this ability. In its place will grow fear and caution, a hardness against a life that won’t always be kind or loving or easy.

In the Peace Corps, we like words like flexible and adaptable - life rarely occurs as we imagine it. This fact reveals itself constantly, less shy and concealed in a third-world country. We are told to lower our expectations, to prepare ourselves for the lack of and sudden (sometimes sad, sometimes surprising) occurrence of many things. Our only saving grace, a fervent friend and lover in any number of difficult situations, is our resiliency. Better yet, our optimism - our penchant for seeking out and finding, no matter how faint or distant, that sliver of light existing behind every dark cloud. It puts the smile on our faces. Despite homesickness and isolation, despite learning setbacks and obstacles, despite the unforeseen and unsettling, we quickly learn that the ability to bend, stretch and spring back is a priority, a daily exercise and something that mustn't be taken for granted.

I've always been resilient - perpetual sunshine - but I have to say my ability to adapt (not only in response to situations but as a trait) has been refined in Ghana. And though it can be applied to many things, it’s had a principle affect on my ability to laugh – to find amusement in even the most inappropriate of situations. All of this keeps me grounded, keeps me positive. It means that random, stationary objects and any number of creatures are supplied with an often hysterical (I admit, it's subjective) running dialogue in my head, but it also means that I don’t take myself too seriously.

All of the stuff in my apartment, excluding my photographs and letters, is just stuff. My job, assuming its specific detail or location changes, is still my job – it still makes me happy. The people who make my life harder, who attempt to derail my day, are just people – they aren't prime movers, they neither create my satisfaction, nor should they ever effect the love I have for the world. They have their own pain, their own battles - perhaps their resilience was also lost long ago. My shouldering of their burdens helps no one, bends me to the ground to the point of breaking, closes my eyes and ears to the world, distracts me from my purpose.

I know these blogs grow increasingly obscure, less a reflection of my immediate surroundings and more a continued introspection, but I hope that you understand that we’re in this together. I hope you find in them some part of yourself. I hope we can make this journey together, learn to accept our flaws in order to revel in them. I hope that you enjoy observing my journey; that it moves you, bends you, presses you tightly and springs you back out into that big, beautiful world.

Resiliency – you will find it in light and shadow, in water and wind, in the earth beneath your feet and the muscle beneath your skin. It is literally all around you, look inside and you'll find it within you.