I haven’t been writing much lately. To be honest, I’ve been avoiding reflection of any kind. Reading, listening to podcasts, watching all the episodes of Arrow Season 1 (oh the abs!)…anything to avoid deep thinking.
Why? In 5 weeks, Peace Corps Colombia for Emily comes to an end. Post-PC becomes a reality. After two years of Peace Corps here-and-now, the idea of Post-PC is just a lil too weird to be comfortable.
I’m not going to go off on too many of the many ways I’ve changed, or how see the world. (Or at least not yet?) But as Close of Service preparations ramp up—from writing my Description of Service that will be stored in the Library of Congress FOREVER, to dropping off an obscene amount of stool samples at the local lab—I’ve thought about some of the bigger things.
One giant thing that’s different in my life is that, as I get ready for Post-PC I’m putting aside a love of my life – creative writing – in favor of doing other things. And this is big. All my life, my life choices have revolved to some degree or another around working on my novel. I’ve struggled to balance career vs creative writing vs doing something worthwhile vs doing something for me vs personal values, etc… I always thought that at some point in my life, I’d fight my way into a top-tier MFA program, write a novel that would change the world, and teach writing to other aspiring writers. This, because creative writing and writing workshops are things that I love, love, love. I’ve always had the goal of writing a novel. I never wanted to be that person who was always “writing on a novel” and gave it up.
I’m here to say that I’m contentedly working on applications for graduate school—for international communication.
The reasons I’m doing this—and not as a second choice, but a first—come from experiences I’ve had working in Barranquilla, Colombia. I’m pretty excited about it (fingers crossed I get in!). The point is, one PC service later, the changes in my life goals are huge. It’s not that I’m going to stop writing my novel. It’s just that I’ve decided it’s not the only life goal I have that matters. So, this is big.
But here’s the deal. As I come up to the end of Peace Corps, in some ways I feel totally different. How different from two years in any other part of the world, though? Who knows. And I’m realizing that even if my life goals are different, Peace Corps hasn't actually haven’t changed me. Not fundamentally.
Anyway, I guess this post was spurred by the fact we’re preparing for the swearing-in of the latest bunch of volunteers. As we prep activities, the training director handed me something I’d written two years ago. It was how I’d measure the success and challenges of the years to come. One sentence I wrote stunned me. I said,
“…I expect that each month I will set goals that will change, develop, modify, and realign with reality as it continuously manifests itself—and my ability to constantly and consistently reevaluate will also measure the ways in which I will succeed and measure my success in these years.”
See, the thing is, I’ve thought about how each month, everything was different, and I’d learned to deal with it in new ways and reevaluate accordingly. However, I thought that realization was something I’d learned over the last two years. Turns out, I’d been expecting it (even if I didn’t quite get it). What shocked me was that on some level, I’d been able to predict that. So if I'd done that from the start, maybe I haven’t changed as much as I thought I have, for better or for worse.
So here’s my (slightly Arrow-inspired) revelation: That ultimately, I am my own crucible, no matter what experiences I decide to put myself through. The things I choose to do help shape me. However, consciously or not, I’m the one who’s been choosing, through a series of small and big decisions and reactions, the ways in which they do. Ta da! Maybe not, really, so startling a thought. Still, it's been on my mind the last few days.
My hopeful take on this: that the end of Peace Corps doesn’t mean at all the end to seeking out meaningful experiences and applying them to my future. Peace Corps ended up a space where I could do a lot of thinking about this. And my dreams have changed because of it. Me, intrinsically? Maybe not so much. Except for my deep and abiding appreciation of air conditioning…
Five more weeks of Peace Corps left…off we go!
Happy Halloween, from me and Zany.