It was only a few weeks ago that I was in the middle of a remote village in Nicaragua, standing and watching the man of my dreams play soccer with local children. The sun was scorching, the mosquitoes buzzing, and the smell of cow dung was potent. As I looked around the open field, I thought to myself, “This is NOT the fairytale dream life I had manifested.”
I had arrived in Nicaragua three months earlier full of energy, ready to love, and to be loved. I had finally reunited with the man who had changed my life, and I was ready for us to come together to positively impact the world.
That being said, I had never experienced living in such remote conditions, and the only volunteer experience I had, involved writing a check. I was anxious, nervous, and also excited to find the new ways I would stretch my comforts, and to really see why the man of my dreams loved this life so much.
My ‘MAN’ifestation, who was no stranger to getting his hands dirty, took the lead in finding us a place to live, a means of transportation, and connected us with a community where we would volunteer twice a week for the next four months. Week after week the El Remate and Ajal children eagerly awaited for our arrival to teach English, practice yoga, and play games. I quickly learned that effective volunteering is about consistency. Even on days I felt miserable, I had no choice. I needed to show up not only for the kids, but because there were also 14 people coming to Nicaragua on an upcoming retreat, and I was the bridge to their experience.
The beach was terribly quiet. The loudest sounds I heard came from the demons of fear, anger, and negativity that lived in my mind. I was bored, so naturally I questioned every decision I had made in the last 6 months.
The light and excitement I felt about going to Nicaragua was far-gone. I single handedly allowed my purpose, and the thrill of the adventure to slip away.
I couldn’t find happiness in my day-to- day life. My yoga practice suffered. My relationship suffered. My mental health suffered.
Then after 3 months of going through an emotional whirlwind it was time to lead 14 eager volunteers through an epic Nicaraguan adventure.
All the tears and hard work had come down to the next 10 days. I was angry, frustrated, broken, and confused. How could I possibly guide people through an experience that I had not enjoyed? How could I show them the beauty of a country when I didn't see that beauty? How could I ask them to open their hearts and embrace the children of the villages when my own heart had never fully opened? I had very little light inside me to give.
I did the only thing I thought I could do; I put my pride aside and confessed my struggle to the group. I asked them to help me see Nicaragua through their eyes. I asked them to share with me their light and their love.
Living remotely and doing work I had never done, broke me down in such a way that even now, several weeks after leaving Nicaragua, I am still mending my shattered spirit.
If you asked me now, I still don't know if I would ever revisit Nicaragua. I don't know if I could ever live in such remote conditions. I don't know if I am equipped to handle volunteer experiences like the one in the Nicaraguan Villages.
I do know now that living in Nicaragua forced me to confront the darkest parts of my soul.
Here are some other life truths I've learned from living in Nicaragua.
1. It's ok to speak your truth.
When I came clean to the group about my struggles in Nicaragua it alleviated the pressure I was feeling. I no longer needed to pretend that I loved every moment of the experience. Sometimes when you speak your truth, you realize that others may also be feeling the same way.
2. Having expectations is like creating a roadblock for your life's miracle moments.
I expected Nicaragua to look, feel, and be a certain kind of experience. I expected myself to be and become a certain woman in Nicaragua. I never allowed the miracle moments, the unexpected surprises to reveal themselves because of my unrealistic and limiting expectations.
3. Losing control will make you lose your mind.
No matter how much you’ve seen or done or how many life experiences you've had, you can be brought to your knees when you feel scared, out of your element, and out of control. I had to allow life to bring me to places, people, and experiences I may have otherwise never come across. I had to allow myself to lose control.
4. Getting what you wish for is different than getting what you need.
The dream life I manifested didn't look like the Nicaraguan reality I was living. But what I was needing in my life, more than what I was wanting, was a moment to look in the mirror and really examine who I was becoming and how I was going to get there. In Nicaragua I could no longer run and hide from the woman in the mirror.
5. Misery does NOT love company
Just because you are drowning in your own despair, you cannot pull others down with you or expect them to suffer on your behalf. Those that love you will hold your hand when you're crying and confused. But NO ONE, not your boyfriend, your best friend, or even your mother, can save you from you.
*Bonus lesson from my beautiful friend Kelly-Ann
6. Success is relative
When my entire life changed and I was struggling to find my new identity, I had to redefine what success meant to me. I wanted to fit in to my new role, do purposeful life-changing work, and make money. When things didn't exactly happen that way, I felt like a failure. I’ve learned that I need to measure my success not in how much money I'm making or how much praise I'm getting for my work, but in how many miracle moments of love and happiness I can experience daily and share with as many people as possible.