As the New Year approached and passed I spent a lot of time thinking about the goals I initially made for myself professionally as a Peace Corps volunteer and personally as a young adult. I reevaluated some of the projects that I have set in place and looked into what other things I originally wanted to implement, but haven’t started yet.
In 2013, during my initial six months at site I started two courses at the Culture Center. I had a class for beginning English that met once a week and a class for Dance that also met once a week. For those avid readers, you may remember that I originally had some issues with these courses. Some of the issues being sustainability – I did not have an Albanian counterpart who was helping me run the courses, lack of materials/supplies for the English course, behavioral problems with the students, and inconsistent attendance. After holding these courses for six months I decided that with the New Year that I would end these courses and begin to focus my energy into other projects. This was not an easy decision for me because I went into these extracurricular activities with the highest of hopes, but as time continued on I realized that these projects were not working out for one reason or another. Even though these classes did not necessarily work out I consider them to be “successful failures” because they have allowed me time to grow and have given me perspective and experience. Now I know what works and what doesn’t work. This knowledge and experience will help me to lead more sustainable and successful projects in the future.
Another setback for following through with some of my original goals has been my own mental state. For a long time I felt constrained by society here and felt like I was “put in a box,” whether it be restrictions because of my age, gender, health volunteer role, placement, cultural differences, etc. As I have taken time to meditate and seriously consider this “box,” through much thought I have realized that it is not society that has placed me into this box. I have placed myself into this box because I am afraid of what I am truly capable of and I am afraid of failure – just like everybody else (whether we want to admit it or not). This box followed me from America and continued to have an effect on my life here in Albania. I am trying to make small steps towards stepping outside of this box, but still avash avash. For a long time I was worried about having coffee in my community alone because it is not something that women do often. I am beginning to do more things on my own, whether it be grabbing a coffee, networking in the community, etc. I was also worried about interacting with members of the opposite sex on the streets because I did not want to give off the wrong impression. I have realized that a friendly hello makes all the world of a difference. I am trying to talk with more community members and spend more time outside of my house. Slowly slowly, I am feeling more connected and integrated with my community and neighbors.
In 2014 I have several major goals that I want to implement as part of my service.
- Start an Outdoor Ambassadors youth group at the high school
- Do a community volunteer project in my city
- Hold a beach clean-up over the summer
- Begin a short “Write On!” creative writing course for students at the high school
- Network with other members of the community outside the Health Center
- The Center for Children with Disabilities
- The Cultural Center
- The high school life skills teachers and psychologists
- Other health agencies – local NGOs, Red Cross, etc?!
- Write a grant
- Commit myself to the volunteer committees that I serve on
- Anti-Trafficking In Persons Committee
- Volunteer Advisory Committee
- Outdoor Ambassadors Committee
- Run a successful GLOW “Girls Leading Our World” Camp over the summer
It is time for me to step outside the box and really begin making a difference. These successful failures are serving as stepping-stones to integrating in my community and having thriving community projects in the future. I am very excited for 2014 and all the new challenges and successes.
Personally I am also trying to take time to grow and have begun working out daily again, riding my bike to new places, following the Blogilates calendar, practicing yoga (I may even have a community yoga class in the making – we’ll see!), and taking time to meditate and becoming more self-aware. I have started a “365 Grateful Project” where I document one thing everyday that I am grateful for. This project has already helped me realize all the wonderful things that I have to be grateful for in my everyday life. I think this project will help me become happier and healthier person that is more aware and appreciative for the little things in life. You can check out my 365 grateful blog “Becoming a Piece of Everything that Grows” here.