A Selfish Sadness

Two volunteers from my group left Paraguay recently to return to the States—one might come back, but until then we’re down two (plus the two who already left). Those who left filled a specific niche in my group of volunteers that will remain empty until we all finish our service.

Peace Corps has turnover just like any job, so these departures from my group may seem routine. But, they don’t feel that way to me, one of those left behind.

I know when volunteers leave it’s because they are moving onto something better for them. I also know that those of us staying in Paraguay have good reason to carry on proudly. Despite this knowledge, it’s a confidence shaker each time someone decides to go.

When volunteers leave early, I find myself asking if I still believe in what I’m doing. I find myself wondering if Peace Corps is truly what I want. I feel a selfish sadness—selfish because I question whether their absence will impact my ability to finish my own 27 months. It’s a selfish sadness because I know they are returning to the States where they have their family, their friends from before, and their mother culture while I’m staying in Paraguay where I have none of those things.

As one might imagine, the sting of losing a group member fades with time. However, with these two recent cases a doubt as to whether or not the circumstances of the departure could have been avoided lingers. This doubt has come to faintly tint my view of the Peace Corps. The departures are a reminder of how I am facing many of the challenges of life in Paraguay alone. My feeling of aloneness led to loneliness. The loneliness will pass, but I don’t think the semiconscious feeling of aloneness will.