Thursday, August 19, 2010

A foreshadowing of emotional ups and downs to come...

Since my last blog entry, I’ve felt like I’ve had emotional ups and downs connected with going into the Peace Corps. I've thought that, in a way, it has foreshadowed how I’m going to be on an emotional roller coaster during my service as a Peace Corps Volunteer.

To give a full recap since my last blog entry, I had my last day at my now previous job on July 7. When I left my job, I stopped working with a lot of wonderful people. I also stopped doing work which I felt it was time for me to leave behind. But my last day at work was also another reminder of how much time it takes to wrap things up. That day, I was at work late sifting through things, figuring out what to keep, what to discard, what to leave behind. So, if you're a future Peace Corps Volunteer reading this blog entry, I suggest that you start sorting through your belongings long before you need to do so.

After my last day at work, it took me a while to move out of my apartment. Even though I had started sorting through my papers and property months earlier, I still wasn't ready to move out the day after my last day at work, which had been my original plan. And, even with all of the extensive and generous help of my friend Darcie, helping me pack and clean and move, I still wasn't ready to leave San Francisco until several days after July 8. So, again, if you're planning on going into the Peace Corps, I recommend starting to sift through your things far in advance.

On July 13, I left San Francisco. In the early morning, before morning rush hour, I drove my car over the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, packed to the hilt with many of my possessions. Then, heading east on Interstate 580, I drove over the crest of the Altamont Pass, which I consider one of the outer edges of the San Francisco Bay Area. Near the area of the pass, I lost the transmissions of Bay Area radio stations. So, at that point, I put on some music of my own, choosing to listen to the band Coldplay. Once I reached the bottom of the far side of the pass, I entered the Central Valley of California, having left the San Francisco Bay Area behind. At that point, I was listening to Chris Martin sing the song entitled “What If,” about making life choices which lead certain people to not be next to you. And then I lost it. I started sobbing. More than that. As I was sobbing, I was literally gasping for air. I had left so much behind in the San Francisco Bay Area: people who love me, including friends from college, friends I made on political campaigns, friends I made through other friends, friends where I had just stopped working, friends I made at church; so much else which had become familiar, and thus comforting, to me, including neighborhoods, parks, and all the many other amazing offerings and opportunities which San Francisco, the Bay Area, and California have to offer. And, I didn’t know when I would be back, if ever, since who knows what the future holds.

And then Chris Martin started singing about choices you make in your life, and whether they’re mistakes. And then he sang the encouragement to take the leap. To be bold, and courageous, and jump into what lies there waiting for you. And that helped me transform my deep sorrow, over having left so much behind, into renewed commitment to make the change of entering the Peace Corps.

As I drove across the country toward the east coast, I got used to the idea that I would no longer be living in California. During my cross-country road trip, I also got more used to the idea that I will be going away.

Toward the end of my three-and-a-half week long road trip, I coincidentally drove through towns and areas where I spent a lot of time when I was growing up. When I was a high school student, I was a member of an improvisational theatre troupe, in which I had helped write and act in short plays addressing social issues affecting teens, including drug abuse, HIV and teen pregnancy. Years later, when I was on my cross-country road trip last month, as I was driving through certain towns, I remembered how I had performed in those plays in those particular towns with my high school peers. Driving through those towns, I thought of how I had told the Peace Corps of that theatre experience, since it could be relevant to my job as a Youth Developer in the Peace Corps. Then I thought that I started gaining experience relevant to my upcoming position in the Peace Corps back when I was in high school. And that made me think that I have made a wise decision to go into the Peace Corps, because long ago I started gaining experience relevant to serving in the Peace Corps.

And then, not too long after that, it became a little more real and unavoidable. As I finished my road trip and since I've started spending time with family members, it has hit me, in a more urgent and thus undeniable way, that I'm going to move outside the country. Don't get me wrong; I'm not reconsidering my decision. I know for certain that I'm going into the Peace Corps. I'm just starting to realize in a more immediate, and inescapable, way, that my life is going to change in some major ways. Ways which I had previously realized, but now it's just hitting me more, and it’s being brought to my attention more.

And then, with a little more time, I have begun to feel that, yes, I’ll be leaving everyone I know, but that I’m OK with that. On the flip side of being deprived of the company of, and frequent communication with, so many people I now know and love, I’ll be welcoming so many new people and experiences into my life, and my life will be forever transformed. In ways that it would not be shaped if I had not made the very recent and major changes that I’ve made.

So, it was with great gratitude for the love of many wonderful people I now know, as well as with confidence that I’m making the right decision, and that all will be well, that I recently celebrated with my extended family. Less than a week ago, my dad threw a fantastic celebratory going away dinner for me, mostly with our extended family, and also with some friends. It was wonderful to see so many loving and caring people, who are all so supportive of me entering the Peace Corps. In a way, I think that the “bon voyage” send-off message I received this past weekend will be mirrored by the “bienvenue” greeting I will receive when I arrive in Morocco. Both characterized by genuine love, support and encouragement. Which is why, in the end, I’m not all that worried about going into the Peace Corps: because there’s love where I’m leaving, as well as where I’m going.