Roller Coastering

I’m pretty sure this is a real word, and if not, it’s not like I teach English or anything…

Throughout Peace Corps service there are a lot of ups and downs. Sometimes to the extreme. During training, we receive an image called the vulnerability cycle, which shows, based off the experiences of many volunteers past, what you can generally expect as far as what the roller coaster of emotions will look like. For example, most people are feeling great once they arrive in country and at their one year mark hit a slump. While this isn’t true for everyone, at my Close of Service conference a couple months before my cohort wrapped up service, we tracked our own vulnerability cycles and it was fascinating to see them all.

This was mine:


Overall, reflecting back I felt the majority of my service I was feeling really good about things. During those up times, there were always things that happened that made me feel down, but I’d still say the overall was high. There were some low periods, but luckily they never persisted for too long.

Some of the things that made the high points on my list (in no order):

  • Sunsets on the hills of my pueblo and on the wall of Cartagena
  • My World Wise Schools program and Lena coming to visit to meet the students
  • Site mates and neighbors and traveling to visit other PCVs
  • My community classes – my students were awesome and even days I didn’t feel like going, once I got there, I remembered why I was there and felt a lot better
  • Having the freedom to make my schedule
  • Having students share their success stories

Some of the things that made the low points (in no order):

  • Spending hours planning and prepping for a class that only one person or no one shows up to
  • Walking while sweating profusely to get to a meeting only to find out that everyone else had something come up and couldn’t attend. Then having to walk home, getting even sweatier
  • A crazy ear infection thing that took a couple weeks to get rid of
  • Power going out in the middle of the day when it’s unbelievably hot
  • Struggles working with counterparts
  • Missing out on time with friends and family back home

This is real life after all.

As an AmeriCorps volunteer after college, we used to end the day with “something good.” This is just what it sounds like, at the end of the day you finish by reflecting on something good from the day, however small . For example, this bird on a wire. I was walking (and sweating profusely) when I saw this bird silhouetted against the sky which made me feel happy. While I’m sure stopping and taking a picture contributed to the “what’s the gringa doing now?” sentiment that happened often around town, I took the picture anyway. I am what I am!


As I continue to adjust to my third year of service, sometimes I have to stop and remind myself to consider my “something good” from the day. There will always be slumps and down moments, but if I can keep the overall feeling on the upside, I feel like I’m doing something right.

What’s your something good from the day?



4 thoughts on “Roller Coastering

  1. Michelle, I am in awe of all the great work you’re doing! It’s inspiring! It’s interesting that you use the metaphor of roller coaster because I have been using that for life in general. When I hit a low or high point in my life, I think to myself – “Wheee! Here we go again” 🙂

    The practice of looking for good things in a day improves well being, and is based on scientific evidence. The popular name is – 3 Good Things, or in our dharma practice, we simply call it Gratitudes. I have been doing that practice for last 4 years and it has changed my life. In this practice, I text at least 3 things that I am grateful for to my gratitude buddies every night and they respond with theirs. At current count, I have 5 gratitude buddies 🙂 Since you ask, here’s what I wrote down yesterday – I am grateful for 1) finishing the first draft of the thesis proposal, 2) long and short bike rides on this beautiful day, 3) yummy dinner and engaging conversation with a friend at this awesome vegetarian restaurant (Red Lentil). The gratitude practice has changed my mindset to being thankful for all the good in my life, and I didn’t realize earlier that there was SOOO much good in my life 🙂

    May you have a lot more good things in your life! Happy roller coastering!


    • Hi Sunder,

      I agree, roller coastering is through all parts of life! I love the idea of gratitude buddies and it’s so great you have been able to stick with it. It’s something I’d like to start doing, too.

      As for your something goods, 1. congrats!, 2: that sounds lovely, 3. I’ll have to look up Red Lentil.

      Happy roller coastering to you, too!

      Liked by 1 person

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