Mentally preparing for the Peace Corps is a fascinating roller coaster. At this point, I’m my own personal case study. One morning I’m terrified. 12 hours later, I’m exhilarated. Some days I’m proud or nervous or regretful or apprehensive or intrigued or excited or prematurely sad or exhausted by the prep and most days, I’m a combination of at least 3 at the same time. This is a BIG move. It’s wild to experience such a wide range of emotions for so long, and then remove myself from them and coach myself through them. Humans are weird, dude.
It’s been a lot but it’s okay. As of recent, I’ve been excited on most days and it really kinda feels like the Universe is on my side. Here are few examples of events and realizations that are helping me feel really good about my decision:
- I was going through a particularly terrified phase when my coworker google hungout (?) me to let me know she was leaving GOOD in order to move in with her boyfriend of many years in Arizona. She’s scared of her decision too. There’s a lot of uncertainty ahead and she’s leaving her whole life behind. In reflecting on her own emotions she said to me,
“The antidote to fear is faith. We leap into uncertainty time and time again and the bottom never does fall out from beneath us.”
Beautiful wisdom unintentionally delivered in perfect timing.
- Kelly (one of my closest friends from college who is currently serving in Peace Corps, Moz) is a blessing. I’ve kept a running list of questions ranging from “What’s the coffee situation,” to “Is the political unrest and economic debt affecting your life,” and recently had the opportunity to ask all of them. We chatted for over an hour (perfectly clear and the call only dropped once!), catching up, laughing and asking and answering questions. She is so happily thriving in Moz. I can feel it as she breezily swaps out English for Portuguese. To my delight, she’s even worked out when she’ll be able to visit me during my training. I can’t wait to see her beautiful face on the other side of the world and I’m so grateful to be able to lean and count on her.
- This Tuesday, I completed my registration for Medium, another blogging platform just because. Wednesday morning was a little tough. For some reason, I couldn’t stop a wave of nervousness and began second guessing my peace corps decision. I got to work, opened my inbox and inside found an email from Medium recommending blogs I might like featuring an article titled, “To the graduate who wants to work in international affairs,” by Morgan Courtney, Alliance Builder at USAID. Her second piece of advice reads as follows:
Get field experience.
Many field jobs in international development require prior field experience. It’s a Catch-22. How do you get field experience if jobs require you to already have field experience? There are a couple of different ways.
In my estimation, the very best option is Peace Corps. Stop shaking your head — I know what you’re thinking, but two years is NOT as long as you think. I know it might feel like an eternity now, but the first year is all about building trust and learning the language well enough to do your job, and the second year is when the magic happens. On top of that, they give you housing, skills training, language training, health care, and a stipend that’s enough to live on. Basically, it’s a whole experience, packaged and with a bow on it, that will enable you to get field experience. Bonus: my unscientific observation is that about 40% of the people who work in international development NGOs and the U.S. Agency for International Development are returned Peace Corps Volunteers….and that is a powerful network.
- I dragged my dad and Jess to a documentary screening at Patagonia Meatpacking without having any idea as to what the film was about. I simply wanted to be a part of grassroots organizing in the brick-and-mortar manifestation of a brand I believe in. After wandering around the store a bit, I bought a raffle from a group of people and inquired about the cause. To my surprise, a girl explained that the raffle benefited Legado, a nonprofit in Moz. I gaped and mentioned I was moving there with the Peace Corps. Turns out, everyone there selling the tickets was a returned or current PCV from Mozambique and the girl who sold me the ticket knows Kelly. Overwhelmed and slightly confused, I joined Dad and J only to discover in total amazement that the documentary detailed the plight to conserve Namuli, the second tallest mountain in Moz. My skin tingled and my eyes filled with tears as the beautiful landscape unfolded on the screen before me.
- Thursday morning I went to the gym for training. From time to time I bump into Richard, a wonderfully spiritual fellow, a retired pediatric oncologist and a pastor who radiates love and positivity. On Thursday, he struck up conversation. Billy, my awesome trainer who is determined to get me ready to ‘run away from the lions’, mentioned that I would shortly be departing for the Peace Corps. “New Hyde Park to Africa, well shit!” he joked, and then seriously considered the life changing adventure around my corner. With my consent he knelt down, gingerly placed a hand on each of our shoulders and prayed, eloquently asking Jesus to protect me, and to bestow upon me strength, hope and resilience. I am not particularly religious, but was overwhelmed with emotion and gratitude for his deeply thoughtful blessing and for the beautiful moment shared between us three.
- I’m getting good at leaving. My spontaneous decision to go to Bonnaroo with a set of a set of wonderful almost-strangers prepped me for a solo backpacking trip to Europe which prepped me for leaving to study abroad in Australia. These experiences, combined with constantly coming and going between North Carolina and New York, have taught me how to be strong in the face of Goodbye, how to shift focus away from inevitable what if’s, how to appreciate and enjoy today and how to manage ambiguity. Two years has flown by before and will fly by again.
My family has set aside a couple of weeks in August to take one big family trip. All of my best friends from home have planned a weekend trip to Seaside to celebrate my departure (Kait and her mom have already gone shopping for Safari themed decorations). My aunt is flying home to visit. Work is consistently and wonderfully supportive. My closest friends are equal parts excited and sad to see me go, but exude pride in my decision and are always checking in, asking the right questions, and giving pep talks when they’re needed. Everyone I tell or who finds out is so excited for me – immediately jumping at the chance to connect me to a friend’s friend who served or offering to support in any possible way. It truly feels like the entire universe – from my family to my friends to total strangers to my-unfolding-self over the past few years – is conspiring to make me feel good and right about this next adventure and I am beside myself with gratitude.