Coming off my great experience in El Salvador, I was excited to volunteer here in Nicaragua. I was excited to meet up with my awesome friend working here with the Peace Corps and to do a bit of traveling.
But everything went wrong.
There was my arrival in Managua with the two-hour taxi ride from hell. I spared most of the details, but it really drained me. For example, the night in Managua I had to sleep on the floor. There was an air mattress, but the pump didn’t fit the hole. So I slept on the floor.
Given how tired I was after getting up at 3am for the journey and given the lack of meat on my bones (I’m down to an all-time low weight of 123lbs/56kg), I didn’t sleep well. Oh, and there was a cat. I’m allergic. I was miserable. But I was couchsurfing and I am grateful for any and every experience where someone allows me to enter their home and share a part of their life with me. It just didn’t go well.
Then in Granada, my contact at the organization I was to volunteer at was completely unreachable the past two weeks. I finally called, but still I couldn’t reach her. I gave it one more try and we connected a few days before I arrived.
Well, when I got to Granada things didn’t go as expected/planned. The calls to my contact where I was to volunteer went to voicemail all day. She thought I was coming the day before, she was out of town at the moment, etc. It was just the straw that broke the camel’s back. It just seemed very disrespectful from their side and I finally said “harto”, the Spanish word for fed up/enough. My gut isn’t one to stand up and make an announcement, but it was screaming “it’s time to move on as this place isn’t for you.” And it’s a shame since I really was looking forward to being here.
I recently listened to an excellent podcast from the guys at Freakonomics on quitting. It was amazing because we/I come from a culture that praises and reinforces sticking with things you hate because being labeled a quitter is bad. There is a veneer of responsibility showered upon people who are stable and grind through things.
But as the Freakonomics guys demonstrated, those who know when to quit are usually happier and more satisfied. It’s one thing to run away from something because it’s too hard. But knowing when to cut your losses and move on is definitely a skill I’d like to hone as I think I usually stick with things.
In my case, I wrestled with this a bit because my word is like gold. I don’t like committing to something and then backing out. In this case, I feel more like the social contract between me and the organization was broken by the lack of organization, respect, and planning on their side. But still.
When I think back to how many times I didn’t listen to my gut and then dealt with the inevitable negative fallout that followed, this is really the one time in my life when not listening to my gut would be stupid. I have no responsibility, more or less, and part of being free means listening to yourself and your gut. Things didn’t feel right. I left. Case closed.
Are you listening to your gut?