How I Found Self-Love and Respect By Advocating For Myself

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Before Peace Corps, there were many instances where I sold myself short, took less than I worked for, bent until I broke, and became a designated floor mat. I would shrink in situations that made me uncomfortable and gravitated towards being a peace keeper instead of being true to my core and exigencies. By being a peace keeper and labelling myself level-minded and conscious, I sold off bits of who I am to appease others and now as I sit in a small room in a country far away, I see how desperately I needed those pieces I so freely gave away. It became essential to me to rebuild my fortitude.


“I want to be virtuous and live with integrity,” I said many times before. “I want to empower other women and inspire those around me,” I said more times than I can count. Yet, I was passive and behaved in a way that didn’t align with my essence and the goals I had for the woman I was creating. I’d apologize when I didn’t need to and frankly, I got tired of hearing the word ‘sorry’ come out of my mouth when it wasn’t called for. It took me so long to get on board with the idea, not all relationships, friendships, and connections can or should be salvaged and restored. I had to release the desire to control what was out of my grasp, and work on areas of my life that would bring me peace and self-respect.


I wanted to empower women to be their best self and to be go-getters and dreamers and doers, yet, I was staying small and keeping my voice to a whisper in the background. It’s taken months of reflection, conscious writings, and deliberate changes to my behavior to understand my place in this world and where my soul feels most alive, but it’s here and now. As I write, I see more clearly. My journey in Peace Corps has forced me to break away from the shell I gladly hid behind; I saw that my voice and perspective is meant to be shared and adds values to the conversation. By advocating for myself and my ideas, I have a greater respect for my truth and capabilities.


It happened gradually, then one day, I looked around me and everything in my world was different. I wasn’t content with mediocrity or lack of consideration. I wasn’t content with ‘this is the way things are done’. I began to question power, procedures, and my new norms, and by having open and honest conversations while being cognizant of other’s perceptions and realities, I witnessed a pragmatic shift in my interactions, my confidence, and my relationships.


I was no longer searching for validation or affirmation. I gave myself the endorsement to go after what I want, to speak up when I am uncomfortable or have an idea for the betterment of a system, and to know that I am capable, valuable, and  decisive. By advocating for myself, I created the self-worth that I had always dreamed of having. It’s not easy getting to a place where you feel comfortable sending query emails, raising your hand, interjecting into conversations, sharing a different point of view or belief, but it’s so worth it. I spent so many years biting my tongue, but I want to walk the walk and talk the talk that I preach. I am so ready to take on 2020 with a focus on self-love, self-respect, and leaving everything I touch better than I found it.

Island Hopping Guide to Grenada’s Carriacou

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I live on the beautiful island of Grenada, which is only 100 miles north of Venezuela and located in the Eastern Caribbean. Grenada is only 12 miles wide and 21 miles long with a little over 100,000 residents. Living the island life very much so comes with the small town vibes of knowing your neighbors and seeing familiar faces no matter where you are on the island. Grenada is south of St. Vincent and the Grenadines which are made up of 32 islands and cays. Grenada claims two of the Grenadines islands,Petit Martinique and Carriacou. 


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A few weeks ago, I took myself on a quick solo trip to Carriacou. The island’s name equates to “Land of Reefs” and is home to only 8,000 residents. It’s a very quaint, quiet, and beautiful island. It was very easy to get to from the mainland of Grenada by plane or boat. I prefer ferry because it’s very reliable and allows you to have different views of the island, and SVG Air cancelled my flight home.


So I took the Osprey Lines ferry; it docks in the Carenage and departs everyday at 9am. You can’t buy your ticket online, so you just have arrive a little early to purchase one.  It’s 80EC, so it’s less than $65 for a roundtrip to go island hopping! Then, it’s just a quick two hour boat ride, and you can easily get a taxi once you arrive in Carriacou. 


Once I got to Carriacou, I booked at a cute, boutique hotel that was right on the water. I spent my entire time there lounging in a beach chair, swimming, reading, and eating so much food at the hotel’s restaurant. It’s without a doubt one of the most relaxing and serene places I’ve ever been with the kindest locals and I hope everyone gets a chance to do a little island hopping. I am going again mid December when my dad comes down, and I will updated the blog with more activities, restaurants, and museums to visit. I have every intention of going snorkeling and exploring more local events!

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If you have an questions, leave a comment or message me. Enjoy! 

6 Life-Changing Realizations I’ve Had During 2019

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There’s only a month left of 2019, and my 23rd birthday is quickly approaching. I’ve had a lot of revelations this year because I am living outside of my comfort zone and experiencing so many differing perspectives. This year, I graduated college, joined Peace Corps, and moved to a Caribbean island. I now know that I don’t have to be who I’ve always been, and I can heal wounds, forgive myself, and move forward. So here are big realizations I’ve had this year:


  1. An eye for an eye (revenge) is not how I’m going to live my lifeWhen someone does me wrong or I get my feelings hurt, I remind myself that it’s not personal; people’s decisions, opinions, and actions are often a reflection of how they feel about themselves or are formed by baggage that they carry. {Whether we choose to be transparent or not, we all have our own hurts, pains, insecurities, and shortcomings that we can either fall victim to or work through and heal; I’m choosing the latter.} When I can forgive and repair, I do it willingly, but there are times when it’s best to forgive, move on, and release the burdensome pressure. I’ve learned it’s best not to have long-term resentment, aggression, or anger towards others, it just hurts more as time passes. All in all, I believe in people and we’re all just doing the best we can, but when we know better, we must choose to do better. When it’s said and done, I know I have the power to remove myself from toxic situations and relationships.

  2. Letting go of things/people that I’ve outgrown has allowed me to spread my wings and recenter my thinking. When I set my mind to something, I invest wholeheartedly, but sometimes, the reality doesn’t match the truth inside my head. I’ve had to spend a lot of time working, growing, and learning about false realities I wanted and created to get to the root of my ideologies and beliefs. When I let go of the delusional of all the what if’s or could be’s, I started to have a clearer picture of my reality and the more positive direction I wanted to move towards. I realized I didn’t have to stay in the same state of mind I’ve always been in.

  3. Saying ‘no’ is so powerful. Setting boundaries is refreshing, and serves so many purposes in my life. Going off into the Peace Corps this year has taught me the importance of setting boundaries early on while also voicing my opinion and considerations. It’s allowed to me to devote my time and energy to my passions and do away with time fillers and wasters. I am not beneficial to anyone when I am over extended or a scattered brain. By setting boundaries and using my voice, I have shown others that I value myself, my time, and the work I’m dedicated to.

  4. Trusting in the season of my life has allowed me to breathe and find peace in my now. There have been many times where I feel unsettled and restless, wanting to know what’s next or why x, y, or z hasn’t happened yet. I have many short-term and long-term goals for myself, and at times that gives me a false illusion like I know what my future holds or what the next stage holds. I’m in an amazing chapter of my life right now, and I’m learning to just enjoy the moments as they come. I still challenge and push myself, but I’ve given up trying to ‘play God’ and map out my entire life. It’s okay that I don’t know what’s next. It’s okay that I’m single. It’s okay that I’m in this season of my life in another country.

  5. Hard work always pays off, tenfold.  Growing up in Indiana, I had many factors in my life that taught me about being disciplined, having great work ethic, and the value of genuinely helping others, and eventually, I developed the work ethic I have now. While in college, I took on so many jobs, internships, and extra curricular activities. I loved being a part of things greater than myself, being a team player. By working hard, I have developed skills and a value adding mindset that I’ll carry with me no matter where I go, and I learned the value of communicating well, showing up, and always doing the best work I am capable of. So if you ever feel like your work is taking you in circles, recenter your thinking and know that being a smart worker is a valuable asset.

  6. In order to grow, I need to invest in myself. As a volunteer working in the education sector, I have fallen in love with learning again. I am gaining knowledge from the time I get up until I go to bed. I apply myself, and believe I am capable in all that I do. That belief has allowed me to get positions within Peace Corps that allow me to enhance my ability to write and edit, it’s allowed me to get accepted in an online MBA program, it’s allowed me to read more books in a month than I ever thought possible. When I invest in myself, sky really is the limit. I hope you invest in yourself too and see just how capable you are. 

 

 

These views are my own and do not reflect those of the US government or Peace Corps.

5 Books I’ve Read During Peace Corps & The Purpose They Serve

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I’ve done a lot of reading and writing over the last five months since joining Peace Corps, but these are the top 5 books that have shaped me and reiterated key moral values that I hold near and dear to my heart. I hope they positively impact your own personal development, like they’ve done to mine. 

 

  1. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl Unknown one of the most impactful books I’ve EVER read. This book gave me perspective and another way of looking at experiences throughout life. Dr. Frankl endured life in extreme hardships inside the walls of Auschwitz, and despite the meek and dehumanizing environment, his outlook and his views on life, one’s purpose, and the spirit of the human condition is one that inspires me in all that I do. His voice and actions brought light to some of the darkest  times in history, and he showed that believing in yourself and your meaning is vital. I’ve read it a couple times now because it’s so noteworthy and commendable, and you should too.

 

  1. Moment of Lift by Melinda Gates —  Unknown-1This book gave me guidance and reassurance that this life is meaningful, and you have to take baby steps before you can run. There’s so much I want to do, and see, and be a part of, and I have great respect for the Gates Foundation for their contributions to the betterment of life around the world and also willingness to learn to understand. I have always had been an advocate for education and being a lover of knowledge, and by Melinda Gates sharing other’s stories and experiences, it reminded me just how important it is to have school and education. In order to have education, there are many things to work on— health concerns, cultural norms, equality, etc. It’s a very eye-opening book that intertwines faith, triumph, and human connection. 

 

  1. The Alchemist by Paulo CoelhoUnknown-2This book gave me ease to trust in my journey and in myself. I was reminded that all twists and turns, ups and downs are all a part of the process and should be valued. It is not so much about the destination, but how we go about getting there. There are so many people we come across and connections we make along the way, and those are true gifts in this life. We grow throughout our journey, and the truest treasure isn’t things or places or even other people. You will find out what the truest treasure is.

 

 

  1. The Leadership Crisis by John AllisonUnknown-3.jpegThis book gave me confidence to trust in my own abilities and qualities. It reminded me that I can learn the technical objectives in a career, but there are already true qualities engrained in my character and being. John Allison is a libertarian, but even if you don’t agree with his ideologies or political stances, his book has great philosophies and strategies that hinge on honesty, transparency, team work, and personal responsibility. I recommend it to anyone in management or leadership roles, or anyone with an interest on taking on more personal responsibility. Great and challenging read!

 

  1. Four Agreements by Don Ruiz (also referred to as the wisdom book) Unknown-4.jpeg—  This book gave me tools to reflect on my own agreements, ideologies, and perceptions, and to be able to work through some of shortcomings. It’s a short read, but the book holds so much meaning to me and working towards my own personal freedom. You may have differing religious beliefs than Don Ruiz, but the 4 key concepts are virtues that I carry with me. These agreements have helped me be more loving, forgiving, and kind to myself. A must read!

 

 

 

For more recommendations, message me or comment below!

My Song Recommendations for Any Occassion!

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Here are the top 100 songs that I have on my playlist. The ones that are bolded are my all time favorites. I love a good mix of everything from rap to country to alternative, so enjoy this playlist I’ve put together for you!

  1. Girl named Tennessee by NEEDTOBREATHE
  2. Ocean (Remix) by Karol G & Jessie Reyez
  3. You and I by Barns Courtney
  4. I Think I’m Okay by Machine Gun Kelly
  5. Lover by T. Swift
  6. It’s Not You, It’s Me by Naaz
  7. Cigarettes on Patios by Baby Jake
  8. Blossom by Nate Traveller
  9. Stubborn Love by The Lumineers
  10. Catch Me if you Can by Matt Walden
  11. Phone Numbers by Dominic Fike
  12. Hollywood by Lewis Capaldi
  13. Someone You Loved by Lewis Capaldi
  14. Perfect by Ed Sheeran
  15. Barcelona by Ed Sheeran
  16. The Way Life Goes by Lil Uzi Vert
  17. Body by Loud Luxury
  18. River by Leon Bridges
  19. Down By the River by MOWE
  20. Jealous by Labrinth
  21. Make Me Cry by Noah Cyrus
  22. Phoenix by Fall Out Boys
  23. Sugar, We’re Going Down by FOB
  24. Fast Car by Tracy Chapman
  25. Ophelia by Lumineers
  26. Sleep on the Floor by Lumineers
  27. Electric by Alina Baraz
  28. Saved by Khalid
  29. Lose You to Love Me by Selena
  30. Stacy by Quinn XCII
  31. Without You by Avicii
  32. Be Alright by Dean Lewis
  33. Peer Pressure by James Bay
  34. Slide by James Bay
  35. If You Ever Want To Be In Love by James Bay
  36. I Guess I Just Feel Like by John Mayer
  37. Worth It by Danielle Bradberry
  38. Issues by Julia Michaels
  39. Good Things Fall Apart by Illenium & John Bellion
  40. Come Down by Noah Kahan
  41. Someone Else by 1975
  42. Poison & Wine by The Civil Wars
  43. If the World Was Ending by JP Saxe
  44. Favorite Song by Chance the Rapper
  45. Cold Showers by Chelsea Cutler
  46. Lucky by Chelsea Cutler
  47. Vienna by Billy Joel
  48. Work Song by Hozier
  49. Someone New by Hozier
  50. Washing Dishes by Jack Johnson
  51. Never Gonna Like You by Be a Miller & Snakehips
  52. Cool Girl by Tove Lo
  53. I’m Better by Annika Rose
  54. Steven by Jake Miller
  55. Lost Without You by Freya Ridings
  56. How Do I Get Close by Nick Wayne
  57. Eyes on You by Chase Rice
  58. More Hearts than Mine by Ingrid Andress
  59. Lady Like by Ingrid Andress
  60. July by Noah Cyrus
  61. My Way Up by Molly Kate Kestner
  62. Rest Your Eyes by Goody Grace
  63. Boo’d Up by Ella Mai
  64. Beautiful by Walker Hayes
  65. Higher Love by Kygo
  66. Better Luck Next Time by Kelsea Ballerini 
  67. It’s You by Ali Gatie
  68. Let Go by Judah & The Lion
  69. Take It All Back by Judah & The Lion
  70. Green Eyes by Judah & The Lion
  71. Soul Searching by Bazzi
  72. Proud by Marshmello
  73. Death of a Hero by Alec Benjamin 
  74. Make You Feel by Alina Baraz
  75. Trouble Letting Go by The Avett Brothers
  76. I Don’t Think So by Ben Phipps
  77. Rollercoaster by Bleachers
  78. I Can’t Make You Happy by Brendan Bennett
  79. Used to You by Dagny
  80. A Closeness by Dermot Kennedy
  81. Undrunk by Fletcher
  82. You’ve Got the Love by Florence & The Machine
  83. Don’t Matter Now by George Ezra
  84. Only a Human by George Ezra
  85. You’re The One by Greta Van Fleet
  86. Tie Me Down by Gryffin 
  87. Have It All by Jason Mraz
  88. Comethru by Jeremy Zucker
  89. Love on the Weekend by John Mayer
  90. Found You by Kane Brown
  91. Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself by Jess Glynne
  92. Better by Khalid
  93. Messy by Kiara
  94. You Say by Lauren Daigle
  95. BITCH by Lennon Stella
  96. How Can I Forget by MKTO
  97. Space for Two by Mr. Probz
  98. Guiding Light by Mumford & Sons
  99. Hell or High Water by Passenger
  100. In Between by Quinn Lewis

Enjoy, drop some of your best in the comments.

How Moving Abroad Reshapes Your Mind and Challenges Your Beliefs

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I left the US 4 months ago, and this is my month #4 reflection with the Peace Corps. Throughout the rest of September and the entirety of October, something special happened. 

To start— this month has been the most eye-opening and testing one yet. The reality of what I’ll be doing day to day has set in, and it can feel so daunting to accomplish and do all the things I’m meant to do here. It can feel overwhelming and isolating, but it’s also invigorating and I’ve found the purest joys here. This journey I’m on has called for the most advantageous version of myself; it’s required me to become more vocal, present, and understanding. It’s demanded that I listen to unravel the realities of other people and to leave any and all discernments at the door. I lived a more sheltered life growing up in small town USA; therefore, there are so many truths I’ve never been exposed to until now. 

You know that saying, you don’t know what it’s like for someone else until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes; Well, I don’t believe you can even truly understand then. You may have more compassion for them or can grapple with their candor, but when you can return their shoes after that mile trek and move out of that reality, it’s difficult to comprehend the longevity and lasting impact of their experiences. 

This month has been special because I’m beginning to truly grasp how little I know about the world around me, differing cultures and belief systems, and the people who occupy all the beautiful spaces around the globe. It’s inspired me to learn, to seek to understand, to hear, to observe, and to ask questions. 

Being inside of a classroom all day and teaching first graders, I’ve seen first hand the power of educating the upcoming generation. It’s been so exceptional for me because I’ve fallen in love with learning again, and that doesn’t mean in the formal sense of going to school to just learn during those specified hours. Any chance I get, I’m picking up a new book or finding a new topic I’m interested in or downloading a new podcast.

I want to learn more so I can understand more, and that’s what I’m working to teach the children I come in contact with. I want them to fall in love with learning and gaining knowledge, the way I have because education and the things they learn are something no one can ever take away from them. By learning, they are investing in themselves and that is the best investment they will make in this lifetime. 

So many of my kiddos tell about how they want to be teachers and doctors and police officers. They tell me about their dreams and their ideas because I ask them and keep pushing for them to expand. I never want them to lose their sense of wonder and creativity because those qualities will take them so far in life. Month #4 has reminded me that I am exactly where I am suppose to be with who I am meant to be here with. If you are ever contemplating moving to another country, do it, you’ll grow in unimaginable ways. 

It has been filled with adventures around Grenada, many beach days, and empty evenings filled with Netflix and writing, but nothing really compares to being in a place where I can share my heart and learn about others in such a vulnerable way. 

Thanks for following along my journey. I am always open to hearing other perceptions, truths, and beliefs, so feel free to reach out. 

*** disclaimer: all my views are my own, and do not reflect the views of the US government or Peace Corps ***

 

Month #3: Peace Corps Eastern Caribbean Reflection

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This has been a substantial month with many highs and lows, many realizations and conversations, and countless A-ha moments.

I’ve been living in Grenada now for two months, and initially when I first arrived and the following weeks, I felt like a tourist who was so caught up in trying to figure out my new norm that I was missing the whole point of my early transition and integration stages in a new culture. Through writing and honest conversations, I was able to identify some of my shortcomings and rectify them as this was a whole new avenue I had never been down.

I understood better that adapting and integrating while still holding onto the core of who you are isn’t a walk in a park; it challenges you in ways you never knew possible. 

I was hard on myself for that reason; I wanted to know and do it all right away, but I’m only human and things take time. Now two months later, I see the beauty in easing in and making genuine and authentic relationships and connections with those around me. 

At the beginning of September, I began working at a local Roman Catholic school in Grenada. On the fourth, I was officially sworn in as Peace Corps Volunteer by our Program Manager and the Ambassador of the Eastern Caribbean, Linda Swartz Taglialatela. All the training we had done for the last two and a half months in St. Lucia and Grenada was now worth it because we could be do actual meaningful work in our schools and around our communities. 

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The hands on learning in the Grenadian classroom from the kids and with other teachers has been so vital in my adjustment process. Yes, I’m here to help wherever I’m needed, to be a human resource and promote sustainable practices. I’m here to co-educate and share my knowledge, but the truth is, I am learning more everyday from these kids, fellow teachers, and community members.

I’ve gained an even greater appreciation for education, learning and sparking kid’s interest in gaining knowledge in all aspects of life.

The teachers I work with are so resourceful and creative, and I admire all that they bring to the table. I love sharing ideas and collaborating as we have great conversations about implementing new strategies, games, activities, standards, and classroom management.

I’ve started to explore my community more and take myself on walks (even though sidewalks are very scarce and these twisty rainforest roads make my heart drop). I greet every passing face with a smile, and often times, they already know me as Ms. DeBoer or Teacher Ashley. I talk to the baker about her baking tips and the shop owner about his saltfish bakes. There are a lot of side stands where people cook/ grill out and sell all kinds of BBQ food or Oildown, and I am constantly making new friends because I love food, but hate cooking. God bless, WhatsApp to stay connected. 

This life has required a new version of myself— one that speaks up, says hello first, leaves fear at the door, and steps miles outside of an ever expanding comfort zone.  

As a PCV, there are internal struggles you endure. You are no longer the person you were when you boarded the plane, bright eyed to take on this endeavor, and said goodbye to your loved ones. It can be very isolating at times to undergo so much self-realization and self-actualization that put your convictions and beliefs through the ringer. You’re stripped of your masks and comforts, and you have to face the person you are at the core. While I’ve been unpacking my own upheavals and fallibilities, I am learning to be kinder to myself and more appreciative of this journey. 

Month 3 has been a whirlwind where I’m actually in the school and living on my own, making lifelong connections with host country nationals and other Peace Corps Volunteers. I’m reminded that making human connections that are sincere and genuine is what life is all about! Thank you for following along my Peace Corps experience because it’s a goal to share Grenada’s culture and beauty with you all too. 

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**these thoughts and opinions are my own, and do not reflect the thoughts of the US government or Peace Corps**

Reflection of my 2nd Month Abroad & 1st Month in Grenada

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After completing over 440 hours of training in the Eastern Caribbean, I am just days away from being sworn in as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Sitting here in my own space writing this piece, my mind is going a million miles a minute while I reflect on the last 60 days. Truly, it feels like it was another life since I was graduating college and goofing off with my friends. The reality is, I’ve been through so much in such a short amount of time. 

In a matter of months, my life has been twisted upside down and turned sideways, and yet, it has me feeling more at home with myself and fuller than before.

Time moves as quick as lightning here, but sometimes, the night lingers longer than I’d like. My thoughts gravitate towards the notion that, I’m not the same girl I was when I boarded the plane in Miami in the beginning of July; I was timid, had an anxious mind, and worried that I wouldn’t find my place, my people, myself. 

Boy did I have to pony up quick to become an advocate for myself and unpack all my baggage. 

Especially in this last month/ phase 2 of my training in Grenada, I have experienced a whole new level of trials around and within me. Whilst on this journey, personally and professional, you’re pushed, you’re challenged, you’re lonely, you’re new, you’re doing, but sometimes failing, you’re vulnerable, you’re questioned, but at the end of the day, I look myself in the mirror and remind myself that I’m capable, here for a reason, and that I will show up better tomorrow.

I’m human though. I’m not invincible to the uncomfortable moments and the changing of the tides. My mindset keeps evolving in a healthy way to uplift my spirit and remind me of the goodness everywhere I look and the goodness in me. And that’s been my greatest takeaway from my 2nd month in the PC:

We don’t have to be who we’ve always been—we aren’t stuck in a bubble or under a rock. We are meant to be stagnant. We are meant to grow, learn, and blossom, and become the person our soul knows we are at our core. This PC journey has evoked so many important revelations like, who I really am, my convictions, and how I want to share my heart with others. 

I’m reminded the importance of this—there needs to be a correlation between how you truly are and what you portray to the world; there needs to be a parallel, a consideration that runs from your core to the surface, or else you’ll wither away under the stress and speculation when you don’t walk the way you claim to. It isn’t easy always acting, putting on a show to pretend to be something you’re not. 

When you show the world your colors, make sure they are your true, undeniable colors to show because eventually onlookers will see past the facade and you’ll only be shambles of the person you claim to be. We get this idea in our head of how we are suppose to act, look, behave, and speak to fit into a tiny box of what we believe others want to see. Quite frankly, none of that matters at all, if it doesn’t match what’s in your heart. I’m learning the importance of just being, unapologetically myself. 

All my quirks are part of me. I don’t have to dull my shine or play it down. This life is big, beautiful, and captivating, and I don’t take that lightly. It truly is the little things in life that I enjoy the most, and being on this journey reminds me to love deeper, speak kinder words, and appreciate every interaction. 

It’s a beautiful life and I hope you are creating a life you love too. 

Thanks for following along my journey with Peace Corps Eastern Caribbean! 

*** Disclaimer: These thoughts and views are entirely my own, and do not reflect the views of the Peace Corps or U.S. government ***

The Importance of Having Friends Who Are Loyal, Inspiring, and Go-Getters

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As I grow, see the world, and learn, I always come back to one main purpose to life and that’s making connections. Who we love, know, and grow with matters and who we care for, share with, and inspire is just as important. 

I spent most of my youth living in Indiana, growing with the same kids I had known since kindergarten; those friendships I created on the playgrounds, at pop warner football games, and inside the classroom have been forever imprinted on my heart. Through ups and downs, parent’s divorces, lost loved ones, break ups, detentions, and so much more, I understood the importance of valuing the people in my life who showed me love and loyalty at a young age. 

I never wanted to regret not loving big enough, so I loved my friends fiercely and as if they were my own blood, my own family.

I could see the beauty in each flawed friend I had— I took note that we all have our quirks, and questionable characteristics, but the ones who are the most peculiar, most far fetched often need the most love. 

Then when I moved to Florida, I took my mindset about having quality friends over being friends with the masses. It’s wonderful to be kind to each passing face, but it’s also vital to choose people who choose you, and to show up for them, be a consistent motivator and supporter.

It’s easy to stay surface with friends, to gossip, to barely graze over the sticky situations; the challenge is finding people who are on the same wave length, who want to get deep and go beyond what the world sees. When I shared my heart, people began to share theirs and that’s when I built friendships on the foundation of trust, perseverance, and inspiration. 

As an adult, I see the importance of having friends who are not only genuine and authentic, but also have the ability to evoke your passions and inspire you to do and go for your dreams.

The day to day can be filled with chaos, dramas, or letdowns and let’s be honest, life gets in the way at times, texts go unanswered, weeks go by, but the most beautiful friendships and connections aren’t defined by how often you talk or hang out. It’s about how real and deep your energies vibe and connect;  it’s about having friends in your life who give you their perspective, who uplift your spirits, and inspire you to stand back up when you stumble. 

I am so lucky to have those friends from all walks of life with various interests, passions, and goals, but despite our differences, they show up for me, root me on, and I do the same. I love people I connect with fiercely because it really is that deep and those connections are one in a billion. Also, a lot of the most genuine friendships I have made, especially in adulthood, have been because I put myself out there, tore down my walls, made plans, and had 20 seconds of courage to just smile and say hi. So it’s so worth stepping out of your comfort zone to make life-long friends. 

So this is a little reminder to hug your friends a little tighter, say ‘I love you’ a little more often, and to put in the extra effort every now and then. 

Thank you to my best friends, and people I adore more than anything. Shout out to Livia for the FaceTime call that inspired this, you are my inspo!

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Peace Corps Eastern Caribbean Interview #1 With St. Lucia PCV Jamelyn Ebelacker

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Interview was conducted by Katie Anderson with Kat’s Eye View and Ashley DeBoer with Thoughtful Blonde

Katie and I prompted questions and Jamie answered, so all the answers will be recorded in first person. 

Interviewee’s Name:

Jamelyn Ebelacker, you can call me Jamie. 

Quick background on Jamie: Jamie is currently serving in St. Lucia, but she began her service in Dominica, where Jamie along with her fellow PCVs were later evacuated due to hurricane Maria 2 years ago. After months of rebuilding and recouping, she had to change her assignment to work in St. Lucia. She is the Peace Corps Eastern Caribbean social media guru and a great mentor to many trainees, as she is the Peace Corps Volunteer Leader. We are so excited to share her thoughts and advice with you all! 

Educational Background on Jamelyn: 

I went to a very small high school in Anchorage, Alaska at Steller Secondary School. That was the beginning development of my ability to work independently and create projects on my own. Then, I went to the Institute of Native American Arts in Sante Fe, New Mexico, where I got my BFA in New Media Arts. My background is a big driving factor in what I do on the island as far as my projects go, digitally and artistically. 

What is your title/ role in the Peace Corps?

My title is English Literacy Co-Teacher, but you wear many hats here. Some other titles that are used are Literacy Support and Literacy Specialist, but essentially, you are working with a counterpart teacher or two, and then working on different projects and committees. 

 What does a typical day look like for you? Where do you spend your days?

When school is in session, it’s basically wake up, get ready, and then my school is almost in my backyard, so I just walk on over as the bell is ringing. I get there as the kids are lining up then it begins with morning songs, prayers, and then depending on how many teachers are there, it’s a matter of morning exercising, getting the kids settled, and easing them into the day. After that, the day is utter chaos, but it’s FUN. It’s both fun and frustrating, but that’s part of the challenge for the volunteer to make it more fun than frustrating. 

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Why did you choose to serve in the PC/ go to the Eastern Caribbean?

Eastern Caribbean was actually my third choice because I didn’t think I was necessarily qualified for the position, but something drew me to pick the EC as my third choice when I was applying. I’m so happy it did. I think rather than me picking this post, this post picked me. That’s how I’ve continued to feel throughout my service. There’s a continuity of kismet that underlies my service, things that just feel right. Those things remind me that I’m in place that I’m meant to be. 

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

In my family, I have two places where I draw my inspiration from. First, on my dad’s Native American side, I can come from a very long line of powerful women, matriarchs that really carried the family through tough times and I try to draw inspiration from their struggles and their triumphs. On another part of my family, the multigenerational members of the armed services, I come from a long line of military— both of my parents, grandparents, their parents, and so on, both on the native and non-native side. I knew I always wanted to serve and give back, but I didn’t want to be in the military or be in a position where I may have to harm someone. So I figured this is the best possible outcome: I still get to serve my country in the Peace Corps and spread the love, instead of the hate. 

What’s your favorite part about service?

Every single day is something new! For someone who gets easily bored or distracted, I love that. I love that I never know what’s going to happen day to day and there’s always something new to learn and try. That’s a beautiful way to live life. 

If you could give a new peace corp trainee any advice knowing what you know, what would that be? 

In my wise second year of being a PCV, the best advice I could give to a trainee is that your service isn’t going to look like anyone else’s and you can’t compare it to anyone else’s. You can’t go into your site and look at what the previous volunteer before you did, and try to uphold that same standard for yourself. You have to do your own time and create your own path, and not be so hard on yourself if your service doesn’t look like your neighbors or another volunteer’s. And that’s the beautiful thing about it, service is different for everyone. 

What is the most challenging aspect of service for you?

The most challenging part was dealing with hurricane Maria and how that really affected me on so many levels. You never think you’re going to join the Peace Corps and then you’re going to go through these experiences, but it’s been both good and bad. I learned a lot about myself, especially how I am and how I react in emergency and desperate situations. Even in the face of those situations, I’m proud of my response. People can choose “flight or fight” during those challenging times or shrink under the pressure, I’m proud to know that I could remain strong and step up for my Peace Corp family. That was a big challenge because that was my family in the moment, and not having control or the ability to take care of them as best as I wanted to, that was the hardest part. I’ve learned a lot about being prepared ahead of time now and taking things seriously, and being sympathetic to everyone’s situation. No matter what happens to a volunteer during their service, I know it’s not easy, and I’m here for you and whatever you need. That’s the biggest lesson I got out of that. 

***Hurricanes are a reality for us on Eastern Caribbean, and things can change in a blink of an eye while living on the island. PC provides evacuation/ consolidation routes and preparation sessions during training**

Greatest achievements during service?

Another PCV we interviewed Emily chimed in about Jamie to give credit where credit is due, and Jamie is responsible for getting all of the social media started for the Peace Corps Eastern Caribbean. She has grown the social media pages through her art, vision, and consistency. 

Jamie: “PC Eastern Caribbean is one of the oldest posts, yet we don’t have a facebook, instagram, youtube like these other posts. Where is ours? Why don’t we have those? It blew my mind, so it fell at my feet to make it happen with the support of other great volunteers. I’ve built on that with my expertise and I feel as though I’ve built the foundation for something that will last long after I’m gone” 

Peace Corps Eastern Caribbean Facebook Page

Peace Corps Eastern Caribbean Instagram

What are some projects you’ve been involved with and never expected to outside of the primary literacy project?

There two different categories for this— the at school projects and the community projects. At school, I never expected to be wearing an apron in the kitchen, baking up bakes and doughnuts for fundraisers and hanging out with the cool ladies in the kitchen, but here I am. In the community, I never expected to be taking over St. Lucia’s longest running beach and community clean up, helping it grow and bringing it up to a whole new level, but it’s been a beautiful way to feel as though I’m giving back. A few other things I do are mostly online by sending newsletters, emails, and running the social media. I take on a lot of digital projects, and although I didn’t expect to do that when coming down here, I’m glad I get to put my degree to good use and give back way in a way that was unexpected. 

Top things you think are essential to pack/ couldn’t live without!

EXTRA cords (phone cords, headphones, battery charges), you’ll need it. Hot sauces. ASS WIPES. 

How did you budget your money on a peace corps stipend?/ do you have any budgeting tips while in the peace corps?

You’re always going to run up against that low number in your account towards the end of the month, unless you eat like a bird and never leave your house. One of the things I do to combat that is I ALWAYS within a day or two of the money dropping into my account, I go and take out the money that I need for rent, gas, electric, fix bills, and stuff it away in a safe place until I can pay it. Being able to break it down and you get a VICA that breaks it down for your costs/ expenses is extremely helpful. Even if you aren’t the best at planning, make a rudimentary budget to see how much you can really spend on going out, travel, the extra things, until you are able to self regulate. 

Be thrifty and channel your inner recycler. I wear things will holes in them and then sow them up when they get too bad. I make my own furniture out of rum bottles. I just keep reusing and repurposing things, which helps stretch the budget. GET CRAFTY!

Why did you decide to extend your service for a 3rd year? What are your intentions for your close of service?

I decided to extend because I fell in love with St. Lucia. I fell in love with the food, the views, the people, and the culture. I realized when we had to make the decision to extend, I wasn’t done. I wasn’t ready to start saying my goodbyes and that I had more to contribute. By extending, it would allow me to continue my projects and make sure they were ready for my locals and host country nationals and neighbors to take them over when I leave. I really wanted to spend more time living on a tropical island. 

My intentions for COS, I am still thinking about it. There’s so many things I want to do, but I’ve narrowed it down to get a MBA and/or applying to work for the National Park Service. That sounds like a dang good time! (side note, peace corps has great connections with fellowships). 

Thank you so much Jamie for sharing your heart and experience with us all at Thoughtful Blonde and Kat’s Eye View! Stay tuned for the next interview!