The New Year is upon us, and I have a little over one month left before I take my first step towards beginning a new chapter in my life. Just as we gallantly stride into the New Year with our fresh starts, I will soon stride, humbled, onto a plane that will take me to a place I do not know, full of new friends, new beginnings, and the daunting realization of not knowing what lies next. As 2016 went rumbling out the door, I began an opened mindset of a reflective nature, thinking of where I am now, where I have been, and how ready I am for my departure.
To start off with, over the past year, I have had the great fortune of getting to know fantastic people, peers and leaders alike, that have blessed me with their perspectives of their Peace Corps service. They have told me what their time was like, they have told me what their village and neighbors were like, but most importantly, they were making it abundantly clear that my time was in no way going to be reflective of theirs.
If I’ve learned anything, it’s that common, principle feelings will befall all Peace Corps volunteers, such as homesickness, adoration, at times loneliness, anxiety, humility, and boundless joy. Little did I know how much of a blessing that was, as my peers made sure I had no preconceived notions of what stepping into the sublime was like. I figure that’s the grandeur of it, though.
So as I ventured into the process of getting ready, I naturally had anxious thoughts. Will I be good enough? Am I qualified enough? Can I actually do it? As I progressed with those thoughts, I thankfully had those friend’s voices in the back of my mind, allowing me to humble myself with the foresight and beauty of unpredictability.
Needless to say, during my preparation, both mentally and physically, I have faced most emotions one could possibly think of when pondering time away, and have been consistently confused on what I should be feeling. All of these emotions, though, have hit me at different points in the year. As I graduated college and took on an ambitious job full of growth and renewed posture, I thought I knew how my life was going to unfold, despite the looming presence of an unpredictable two years.
But then December 14th came. Starting that day, my family and I spent days and nights in hospital rooms, awaiting the results per my mother’s sudden hospitalization.
As it turns out, she suffered nine strokes, and has a buildup of calcium in the mitral valve of her heart. This event would utterly devastate any child, as it certainly did for me, but as I am soon to leave the country for two years, this made me question every move I had made up until this point. The night after it happened, I came home and revisited my AmeriCorps application, and started looking for jobs, internships, and Masters programs here in North Carolina. My excitement became anxiety, and my anticipation started to wane. I struggled to find that spark. I didn’t know what my next step was, and this wasn’t the sort of unpredictability I had learned to be okay with. If anything, I now wanted everything to be as predictable as possible.
It wasn’t until my mother brought me in close one evening in the ICU, and with a whisper, beckoned me to stay with the plan, no matter what was to happen. She challenged me to get my “start.” I didn’t want to accept what she was telling me. How could I leave the country at a time like this? That question kept churning in my brain, as my overwhelming love and worry for mother were the only thoughts I could muster. As it turned out, those few words were the freedom from my perplexities that I didn’t know I needed. No longer is this my mission, this is the mission that my mother and family intends for me to go on. I have found depth, love and profundity in that concept, and I now know that I am embarking on a shared journey. It took so much love for my mother to say those words to me. So much so, I am entering this experience with a new, opened set of eyes.
My mother is getting stronger, God bless, and my departure date is drawing nearer.
As for now, I am trying to ease back into my normal routine of falling asleep. I’m trying to ease back into that unpredictability.
I lie in bed and transcend to my Zambian hut. I hop on my bike, and cycle past the garden. As I wisp through the knee high grass and caress the unknown land, I gaze up from my handlebars and wave to the neighboring man, speaking the language that I shall soon know. As these images and preconceptions will likely be a very different view than what comes from reality, I’m just going to call them my “nicotine patch” for now. My dreams are just holding me off until I get there.
So as I sit here trying to conjure the words that appease my mindset, I do so thinking of the one month left that I have to pack two years of my life into three bags.