Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Changed Forever

            So, the news is out.  After months of debating, thinking, drinking, and soul-searching, I’ve decided to resign from the Peace Corps and move home.

            It was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make.

            I think I spent about three days lying on my back in my bed, staring at the straw ceiling and anticipating every regret that I would have.  Between classes, I made pro/con lists and evaluated them.  I applied for several jobs to see if an opportunity would fall into my lap.  I asked for advice from at least seven or eight people and thought and rethought what they recommended to me. 

But a string of unfortunate events within my last three weeks led me to conclude that I had made the right decision, and I couldn’t be happier with where I am now.  

Over the course of the fifteen months that I served in Peace Corps, I realized that the work I was doing was not leading me down the path I had hoped it would.  I always wanted to go into development work, or join a non-profit organization, or maybe even keep teaching abroad.  I love living abroad and experiencing new things.  I love the feeling of adventure while you’re hitchhiking in the back of a pickup truck down a winding African dirt road.  At times, I lived that ideal image of Peace Corps life that many people see in advertisements or Facebook photos. 

But I didn’t join the Peace Corps to drink with Americans and backpack around southern Africa every weekend, however “romantic” that may sound.  I joined to make a difference in the world and to be a volunteer.  I soon became very jaded with the idea of development work, especially with the Peace Corps and especially in Lesotho.  That’s not to say that there are many volunteers doing amazing projects and positively impacting their schools every day.  I loved my school, and my students, and my teachers, and my principal.  They showed me love and acceptance like I’ve never seen before.  But I didn’t feel that the work I was doing was sustainable.  Five, ten years down the road from now, what kind of legacy would I leave behind, besides some great stories and a crumbling house?

For a succession of days, which turned into months, I woke up unenthusiastic about the day ahead of me.  I was lacking the passion that I had when I first joined Peace Corps.  I wasn’t excited about anything.  After feeling like this for too long, you have to make a change.  I realized that it wasn’t worth dragging myself through two years of melancholy, just to say I had completed two full years or just to be tough or to “build character”.

By no means does this mean that my decision was easy.  Remaining quietly in misery to protect your pride is much easier than throwing in the towel and calling it quits early.  More than anything, I was afraid of what other people would think.  And saying goodbye to my American and Basotho friends was one of the hardest things to do. 

But in the end, I made the decision that was right for me.  I will forever be grateful for the time I spent in Lesotho.  I’ve become a much better person because of it.  I am more patient, whether it be waiting in lines or talking with people that I don’t much care for.  I learned to be generous, because all good things are much better when they are shared.  I think twice when I see someone who is different from everyone else, because I know now what it’s like to stand out in a crowd.  I’m appreciative of everything that we were blessed with in America, just because we were born into wealthier circumstances.  And I’ve learned how important it is to cherish your family and friends—in America, Lesotho, or anywhere in the world—because in a lot of places, life is cut short much too quickly. 

I would highly recommend to everyone to join the Peace Corps, or at least to donate some time and work by volunteering in a place where the people are less fortunate than you.  You will learn more than you could ever imagine.  You will be changed forever.  

1 comment:

  1. I hope you still read your blog comments and blog posts, too. You are a great writer--your words capture emotion and paint a picture of your experience. As a PCV in another country... I appreciate your words and your service. Congratulations on time well spent! PS, I was near tears at one of your posts.