Growing up, I always had options: in elementary school, I could choose between taking karate, dance, or music lessons. In middle school, if I needed a new top for the critical first-day-of-school outfit, Target or Marshall’s was always just a 10-minute car ride away. In high school, I got to choose between a couple of schools, and the one I ended up at, I got to design my education (and meet the fabulous Gianna). There has always been a multiple choice for anything I have needed or wanted.
Fast forward to moving into the Peace Corps life, where getting by is consistently challenging. Rather than a life of multiple choice, it is more of a matching exercise, where there is one pairing available. When it comes to the weekend, I’m able to pass the time sitting idly on the front porch, reading a book to keep occupied. When it comes to the workweek, options are just as limited—show up to a workspace, and try to pass the time with project work or hanging out with colleagues. There aren’t really outings unless you head to the city. There aren’t places to hang out by yourself or with others. It is, in short, a very simple life.
This very simple life is also one riddled with scarcities. This is especially apparent when it comes to water—something that parts of the USA can relate to. There have been countless days when I want to shower, but water just isn’t available for 2-3 days. I’ve gone weeks where my laundry just keeps piling up, and no way of washing due to lack of water. You begin to get more efficient with a lot less. Collecting every drop of water possible is now habit, and let me tell you… I can shower with a gallon or less of water on the reg 😎.
Water scarcity has been one of many things to become used to—and that sense of scarcity bleeds into all other aspects of life. Some days, I’ll want to squeeze the bandwidth of my cellular data and watch YouTube for a half an hour, but then comes the nagging thought of the limited megabytes of data I can afford. Will I use up my week’s worth of Internet in half an hour, or stretch it to go all week? Just about every time, I choose the latter.
In addition to this, I am a person who has a tendency toward constant anxiety, so put that together with constantly having to decide how to use my resources… oh man. Deer in the headlights, ALL. THE. TIME. Self-care is made more difficult when you are in a scarcity mindset, and even more so when you are in a stressful environment. Sometimes I feel like I don’t have time to work out or meditate or cook a good meal, simply because every decision here feels critical. But again, this is the scarcity mindset. Somehow, amidst limitations, you gotta create a sense of abundance.
So, maybe I can’t soak in the rays of the Internet pretty much ever (did I mention only about five places in the entire country offer Wi-Fi?), or gorge myself with the equivalent of a pint of Ben & Jerry’s, or spend the whole afternoon goofing off/wandering around in a bookstore. None of this is available to me. However, since moving into independent housing, I’ve been becoming more creative with our limited resources and making them work for us. That, and a little book a fellow volunteer gave me has been helping me out.
I know that especially young adults tend to struggle with feeling as though we have enough, and that we don’t need to constantly stretch our dollar. While I might be living a more extreme version of this scarcity, it affects everyone at any level of it with increased levels of stress and negative thinking. It is so important to cultivate a mindset of abundance—and it will make you feel more satisfied with your life. Take it from someone who has been making the switch (slowly, very slowly). I spend less time worrying about every decision I need to make, and more time on taking care of myself, and my body and mind are thanking me for it.