When I started this process, I didn’t think I’d get in. “There’s no way,” I told a friend. “I’m not qualified enough.” There was nothing he or anyone else could have said that would persuade me otherwise. The Peace Corps was a longshot; a pipe dream, and I was not about to get my hopes up.
But as I started compiling my experience and my references I began to feel that maybe, just maybe, I stood a chance.
Here I am, one full year later, after a tedious and nerve wracking application process, bound for Jamaica. I am humbled, shocked, excited and scared. It’s still sinking in that I’m getting this opportunity. I’m still in disbelief that I made it this far. My expectations have never been higher, but as consequence, if I fall, I never would have fallen further.
Feelings of animosity aside, I’m surprised I’m not shouting from the rooftops. During the past year, I’ve found support from my family, friends, employers, and colleagues. Together, we held our breaths in suspense, waiting for a small group of people in Washington D.C. to decide my fate. During months of long silence, I was constantly asked if I’d heard anything yet, and my response would always be, “when I know, you’ll know.”
So why am I not bragging about my accomplishment? I’m proud of myself; this is a dream come true. And since I know there are a great number of people who would be thrilled for me, what reasons do I have to hold my tongue?
I’m afraid to talk about it because I still worry it will all fall through. Like so many of the opportunities in my past that slipped through my fingers I can’t shake the fear that I’ll lose this one too. It isn’t over; I’m still afraid I’ll jinx it.
More pressing however is the fear that I’ll reveal too much. I’m incredibly disappointed I’m being kept so close. I was willing and eager to go anywhere in the world, medically fit to serve in any location, and excited about the idea of living without even the basic amenities like electricity or indoor plumbing. I suppose it was just too convenient to send me three hours south of where I grew up.
I wanted an adventure, and instead it feels like I am camping in my backyard. I anticipated hours of travel to help me disconnect. I wanted the distance. Adventures, you see, don’t happen close to home.
But before I discredit my entire volunteer experience without having first given it a chance, allow me to spend some time talking about what I am happy about.
The job. Everything about my job description is right up my alley. I’ll be teaching kids to read and write English. Instead of a classroom of little African students, I’ll have a classroom of Jamaican students, which in all honesty is just as exciting. I’ll also be working with children who require Special Education, as well as developing youth groups. This is everything that I’ve spent my life preparing for. Who ever would have thought that 10 years of summer sleep-away camp and a couple of other odd jobs with kids would make me the most promising candidate for the position? I certainly did not.
I’m excited about learning Patois. When I was taking Hebrew in college, it felt so cool to slip into the language. It helped transform my identity. Suddenly, I felt like two different people! I used to change it up mid-conversation just to see who was paying attention. Having those skills with me while I was in Israel only helped to enhance my experience. Plus, it’s cool as hell. How many people do you know that speak Patois?
Regardless of location, I’m psyched that I’m going anywhere at all. I have the rare opportunity to immerse myself in a different way of life. I think there’s something beautiful about leaving your comfort zone and trying something new. I can’t wait to shed my American culture, wrapped up in tragic excuses for entertainment, politicians who are trying to rule the world, and people who can’t put down their phones long enough to share a meal. I’ll miss sleeping in some mornings, but I’ve been dying to rise with the sun and really make the most of my day.
I’ve fallen in love with meeting new people. Somewhere along the way, little antisocial april grew up and learned how to make friends. Like the Peace Corps, I woke up one morning and realized my life was filled with people that I love, and I felt I was richest woman in the world for it. Friendship took on a new meaning for me, and suddenly my future seemed so much brighter. Now I get to go to Jamaica and make friends there. =]
Most importantly however, I know that I am doing something worthwhile. I can’t stand this monotonous system we’re living in. We’ve become so blinded in our advancement as a species (and our culture) that we’ve forgotten the basic principles. People are people. We breathe the same air. We all have feelings, and we all have friends and family. We also need to remember that we’re not so different from animals. Intelligence is the only thing that significantly sets us apart. How different the world would be if everyone understood that and gave just a little bit more of themselves… At least this way I can feel like I am doing my part.
Without veering too far off topic, let’s come back to this adventure business. Here’s what we know: Adventures require uncertainty. They require unfamiliarity. They require an openness to explore, both your surroundings and yourself. They will draw your strengths from within you and their very nature will test your faith. An adventure will put you through hell, and then reward you with riches. We also know that you cannot choose your adventure. You’ll have the one you were meant to have. Expected or unexpected, we know that you’ll grow from it.
Now consider Jamaica. It’s not exactly where I had in mind, and there isn’t a whole lot of “adjusting” that needs to be done. (I will have electricity, after all.) But, I was selected for Jamaica because that’s where I needed to be. I’m not sure what fate has in store for me (remember, adventures happen for a reason), but whatever it is, I need to be in Jamaica in order for it to happen.
And while we are drawing comparisons, I didn’t get to choose this adventure either. I might not get to go to Africa, but I do get to go to Jamaica. And that is just as much of an adventure. It’s a new land. It’s uncharted territory. It’s a place I’ve never been. I have absolutely no idea what’s in store for me, but I do know that I will face challenges, and I know I will overcome them. At the close of this journey, I know I will have grown from it. The lessons I’ll learn will change me forever. Maybe keeping me so close to home is how I’ll be tested. Destiny is throwing me a curveball and it wants to see how I handle it.
In any case, Jamaica can still be the adventure I crave. I just need not to get hung up on the fine details. What’s important is that I’m doing something that’s right. I’m doing something that’s good. The 27 months that I’ll spend overseas will be the most rewarding experience I’d ever hope to have. I am confident that this is where I need to be. I am confident this what I was meant to do. This is my calling.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I have joined the Peace Corps.
Read my Aspiration Statement, if you haven’t already.