I rang in 2015 with several other Peace Corps Volunteer in the capital of Moldova. After returning from Athens, I took a couple of days in Chisinau to relax, catch up with friends, emails and read to my heart’s content. Meaning by the time New Years Eve came around, I was relaxed and ready to host the celebrations.
The afternoon was spent watching The Interview, with a small group of close friends – while playing a patriotic drinking game and laughing much more than expected — if you haven’t yet seen it, I recommend you do – it’s actually quite funny.
Then more people began to arrive and I started to put together dinner – make your own burritos – a favorite of mine to make for groups here. After eating we enjoyed a dance party, and luckily made it out and to the center of the city in time to catch the beautiful fireworks in the center of Chisinau.
After watching the fireworks from Stefan Cel Mare, just off the central square, we headed against the crowds, into the center and it was a good thing we did. Just after midnight, a DJ and an odd assortment of mascots came on stage, which combined with a light show made for an excellent dance party – outside, in Eastern Europe, with freezing temperatures, on a floor made of snow.
Its been 2015 for a month already and you might be wondering why its taken me so long to write-up the brief update on my night and whereabouts for the holiday. While I could have posted just after returning to site, something about my New Year’s (as I did last year); this year I wanted to reflect a little more and to share that reflection and a somewhat frank look back on the last year, and my hopeful look forward onto the next 11 months of 2015.
The year of 2014 was a year of great personal growth and change – not all of it good; but it was a year that began and ended in introspection.
At the beginning of 2014, just half a year into my service, I had successfully moved across the world – leaving my family for the longest time I ever had and more than the shock of that – I was loving my experience – I felt I was growing by leaps and bounds both personally and professionally. I was happier than I had been in a long time.
Professionally – I had already completed the first round of a successful youth training as a part of a program at the local mayor’s office, that I had helped to design, structure and start; I had already helped my organization apply for and win two large scale grants – totaling almost a million USD; I had begun a successful internship program with my organization; I had helped organize and run a few successful fundraisers — every day (weekends included) I got up excited to continue the work I was doing.
Personally – I had made some Moldovan friends and of course some wonderful new American Friends as well; I had done a few presentations of over an hour in length for groups of youth – in Romanian; I had somehow conquered my fears of being alone all the time, and actually began to revel in it; I had a new boyfriend, who was constantly surprising me with his kindness, thoughtfulness and gentlemanly behavior; I had started running and found I loved it; I was writing and reading constantly and found the enjoyment in both increasing — every day I got up ready to see what Moldova might throw at me.
And then at the end of December of 2013, I took a vacation to Spain. Before I left, everything here had been fresh, but when I returned, somewhere in there this seed of negativity had been planted.
I think the seed was watered in a large part by simply the nuance of Moldova wearing off, my Romanian no longer progressing by leaps and bounds, it being generally dreary, cold, muddy and dark for months (as winters here tend to be) and several other yet to be determined contributing factors – but the outcome was that by the time winter ended and spring began in 2014, I was out of shape, not as enthralled by my work and dealing with the existential crisis of entering my second year of service.
This crisis lead my to constantly debating several questions not the least of which were – What would I do in Balti without my dream team of David and Matt – the two Peace Corps Volunteers who were here the year before me, overlapping with my first year of service? How could I find the time and energy to start running again? How would my host mother in Balti take me asking to move out? How could I be a good mentor and trainer for the new volunteers? How might I make their experience smoother and more fulfilling than my own? How could my second year possibly match my first year in terms of successes? And the more time I spent debating and answering these – the less time I spent introspecting, working forward and enjoying my moments.
The spring turned into summer – one that flew by in a blur of family visiting, old friends leaving, new volunteers arriving, trainings, plans, new projects starting and old ones being put on hold – and then somehow without me even having a chance to blink, fall was here, again and 2014 was almost over.
While that is clearly an oversimplification of the time and doesn’t begin to do justice to the personal and professional achievements during this time period – it is the best way I can describe how I feel about this period, emotionally.
By the time September rolled around and everyone was back from summer vacations, I was beginning to wrap up my small grants project. I had three new Peace Corps Volunteers living and working in my city. I was gearing up for the second round of Salut, Balti youth trainings – without my old partners – the other two of the founding members. I wasn’t taking care of myself – not exercising or eating right. I wasn’t making the same efforts to connect with friends at home (sorry guys!). I was living alone – which while meaning I didn’t have to do the dishes as soon as I finished eating, also meant I had to deal with problems in the apartment myself and often freaked myself out, thinking I heard noises in my large, empty apartment. My life and my service were different.
But the biggest difference wasn’t any of these things above – it was my perspective. This seed had blossomed and was growing in me – I had become a negative and therefore unhappy version of myself — at least a lot more of the time than I had been in the first months of my service.
So in 2015, my first New Years resolution and by far my most difficult, is to stay positive. That doesn’t mean I won’t have moments of negativity, I’m still going to be human in 2015, but it does mean that I will make a constant conscious effort to remain more grounded in the things that keep me happy, keep me sane and keep me able to laugh at the rest of it. I want to get back to how I felt when I was first in Moldova, living in Stauceni, running through fields of sunflowers as far as the eye could see.
As for my other New Years resolutions in 2015, here goes; In 2015 I will….
1. Take time (at least) most days to exercise, not because I have to but because I love it.
2. Read more, watch less TV; even if the books aren’t of high intellectual quality, it still beats TV.
3. Commit seriously to studying my Romanian, to become a better, more proficient, more professional and more confident speaker.
4. Work harder on putting conscious effort into all my relationships.
5. Remind myself of the reasons I love my work more often and make an effort in the moments that remind me of this.
6. I will stop comparing myself and my accomplisments to anyone else’s and I will stop hiding my accomplishments – I will simply enjoy and be honest about the good things and try to laugh at the bad things.
While I hope this list will grow as the year goes on, I believe I am beginning this year in a much more positive, happier, honest and hopefully productive place then I did last year (even if I didn’t realize it at the time) and I look forward to seeing the things life brings me in 2015.