One of the best pieces of advice I received just as I was leaving for Thailand was to go outside every day. Go outside, they said, to keep from spiraling in to a pit of loneliness. I knew immediately that this was worthwhile guidance and tucked it away for when I needed to hear it. I knew I would need to hear it.
Surprisingly, my Peace Corps journey has been less about working with others and more about working with myself than I could have imagined 6 months ago. Yes, interpersonal work is at the crux of everything we do as PCVs– without people to work with, what is the point? Yet every interaction I have with others hinges on my ability to have first been kind to myself. To have been patient with myself. To have taken care of my mental and physical wellbeing in the days and weeks prior to every interaction.
I am learning more about being alone than I could have ever guessed. I am alone when I return home from school each night, but really I am alone always, the lone English speaker for hours in any direction. I am alone in my tastes and preferences, even while finding the occasional commonality with another.
The alone-ness seeps in to everything that I touch and think– and yet, by some miracle, I do not feel lonely. Singular in some ways, sure, but I’ve been following that solid advice I received (see above) and I’ve been going out every day and I’m learning to walk this fine line between these two worlds. It would be deliciously easy to submit to the lonely feelings– it might even feel good for a day or two to really own that experience. But I resist this temptation because I do not think loneliness is sustainable for the pace I am trying to keep.
Spending time with the folks I live with here in Thailand is saving me in so many ways. I will never be a Thai person and I will always feel alone in this regard. But I do not have to feel lonely, as I am finding out– I can instead choose to engage more, struggle more, and love more alongside my family here. I am learning more and more about just what human beings are capable of, and there is nothing lonely about that.
“If you wanted to do something absolutely honest, something true, it always turned out to be a thing that had to be done alone.”