What level of passion does one need in order to be involved in a program like this? What kind of drive do you need in order to survive one year in a foreign culture? What kind of a person does an experience like this take?
Passion is an interesting thing. I’m not about to dissect what I think it means to be passionate about something, instead, I’m going to discuss the different levels of passion that I feel as if I’m experiencing each day I’m in Guyana. The short answer is, you need to be one helluva passionate person in order to exist down here. The long answer is a little different. I just realized recently that I’ve been positioned uncomfortably for the past 7 months between two types of people, those who are not as passionate about the work/service they are doing in Guyana, and those who are more passionate about the work/service they are doing in Guyana. I didn’t recognize until recently what an impact this has had on my experience. Of course, anyone stepping into an intensive year like the one I’m currently navigating is bound to assume being as passionate as possible about your experience is the best road to be on, but I’m not sure. Is there such thing as being too passionate? If your passion makes you too involved, care too much, cross a line…do you then have a problem?
I like to think that I’m invested in the work that I’m doing, that I care about the kids I work with, that I’m trying to experience Guyana from many different angles. But sometimes I look at how committed other expats/volunteers are and I wonder where they’re getting their energy and drive from. It’s almost discouraging to listen to the things that they do. I shouldn’t be comparing, of course, but it’s hard not to do.
On the flip side, those volunteers who exist down here, who are scraping by, waiting for the experience to be over, they don’t help my mental peace at all either. It’s so easy to get dragged into a negative mindset. I’ve found myself grumbling about small problems so frequently, consistently. These individuals make me feel a bit better about my commitment to the things I’ve come down here to do and to experience, but they also shed light on what volunteering abroad for a year can be. All of this, it can be for almost nothing. It can be simply for boosting a résumé, bragging rights, or proving to oneself that you’re capable. I don’t think any of those things are near enough.
So, is there a happy middle ground? I don’t know. I almost want to say that there isn’t, because if there were, only certain types of people would find themselves venturing out to do this kind of thing. There is no textbook amount of passion required to do volunteer work or international service, a spectrum of people are going to do this kind of thing, and you can only hope your levels of passion match up…and don’t drive each other insane.
Passion…How much does it take?