It’s not easy moving to another continent where you don’t know anyone, away from your family and friends.
It’s not easy Skyping with loved ones while they’re celebrating holidays or birthdays together, pretending that the pixelated image of your face puts you there with them.
It’s not easy seeing people living in poverty every day, and then feeling bad for complaining that the internet is too slow.
Living in Africa is not easy, but at this point in my life, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Why? Because I’m using one trick that I believe can get you through anything in life:
Remember your purpose.
Before moving to Senegal, I knew it was going to be hard living in a completely different culture, surrounded by people speaking different languages, all while starting a new job. So before I left the US, I made a list of the many reasons why I was moving to Senegal (to do a job I genuinely liked, to speak French, to broaden my perspective, to learn new skills…). I thought that if things got hard, I could just look at this list as a reminder of my purpose for being here.
Now, I’ve gotten to the point where I always have my purpose in mind, so any challenges I face are a heck of a lot easier to get through. Not only that, but facing these challenges makes me feel fulfilled, because I know there’s a reason for them. Example: trying to find a decent apartment while speaking a language I’m not yet fluent in and dealing with people who are probably going to try to take advantage of that. It would be easy to get frustrated at the situation, but that wouldn’t do anything for me. Instead, I think about how situations like that are only going to help me learn the language better, learn to deal with people like that, and in the grand scheme of things, be a more competent, independent person.
For anyone going through struggles of any kind (who isn’t?) I would highly recommend reading Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. Frankl was a holocaust survivor and psychiatrist who explains in this book how one of the reasons he was able to get through the brutality of concentration camps (not “Holocaust centers”—looking at you Sean Spicer!) was because he kept in mind his purpose: to finish writing his book on the psychology of prisoners in the camps. His main message particularly resonates with me at this point in my life:
Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’
When you start seeing the purpose behind every challenge that comes up in your life, you will be able to get through anything, no matter how difficult. And this doesn’t mean to just “see the glass as half full” in the situation. Instead, it means to acknowledge that you’re struggling, but to think about what you’re getting out of the struggle and how you’ll grow as a person.
When my power goes out or my water cuts off, instead of letting frustration get the best of me, I think about how much more I appreciate always having those things in the US. And I think about how much my values have changed in just a month of living here, which was one of my reasons for moving to Africa.