Sunday, February 19, 2012

Blues turned Colorful

Would you believe that Paris, Guangzhou, then two weeks of PC IST (in-service training) got me out of my depressed funk? 

Knowing that negative criticism rises to the surface more often than positive feedback due to people's personal frustrations leading to constructive complaints, I tried not to worry so much about pleasing as many people as possible, yet IST was still a responsibility anxiety.  Surprisingly, it still somehow refreshed me.  Other than having to deal with daily tiring things, IST was overall enjoyable.  I liked learning Chinese 2-4 hours a day.  I liked meeting and talking to people.  I discovered new things in Chengdu- an anime convention, a bar that hosts independent artists, a 6 RMB waffle shop, and a new community of people I've hidden away from over the past 6 years. 

Over the past 6 years, my Peace Corps service has mostly been a peaceful, lovely journey except for the months when I struggled with break-ups and rejection.  I thrived in the isolation and depression rarely reared it's ugly head.  This past semester though was one of my biggest challenges.  Taking on the added responsibilities of "real" work in a faster paced office with deadlines and meetings was stressful.  I struggled with having a "real" job on a volunteer's allowance.  It was weird how money, something I never cared about before, had somehow entered into the equation these past few months where I felt my worth would be better measured with a paycheck.

I love being a volunteer where I find my life meaningful through donating as much time as I am willing and receiving the rewards of exploring a culture and of feeling the students' happiness as they learn.  I use my leisure time to refill my need for alone time by coloring, reading, and biking.  This past semester though I was working for a machine, keeping the gears oiled, but in the ambiguity of doing a minuscule part to keep the organization working.  I liked the work.  I really did, but the rewards of seeing the happiness of people I interacted with was lacking.  For the work of sitting in front of a computer 8 hours in a day, I think I prefer a reward of money.  If I could do such work with sufficient leisure time, the leisure time would be a reward and I would care less about the money.  As a full time volunteer teacher commuting and living on 2 campuses with a part-time American job, I got worn out.  The leisure time was no longer leisure time, but recuperation time.

Today though after a month and a half of vacation, I'm rejuvenated.  Instead of hiding away in my flat for days depressed, knitting a million hats, and trying to escape the cold while recuperating from the anxiety of fulfilling responsibilities, I am back to exploring the town, finding new restaurants, coffee shops, art galleries, and music.  I visited Ya'an and explored a new city, finding a sword shaped bone in the head of a local fish speciality.  Today I discovered a new Starbucks and a DQ opening a block down the street from the other one, both in my neighborhood.  Today I met with an amazing local couchsurfer who is only 23, but has already travelled to 2-3 other cities in China looking for new experiences, working part-time jobs just to make enough money to live far far away from home.  I am coloring reading, and writing letters.  I feel happy with my productive leisure time.

Monday though, school starts...

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