Applying for Peace Corps can be a long and arduous process. When you finally (hopefully) get your invitation, it can seem like this insurmountable hurdle has finally been cleared and it’s smooth sailing from here on out. Or at least I did. Remember back here where I talked endlessly (and maybe a little smugly) about why joining Peace Corps was such an obviously “duh” decision? Turns out I bought a ticket to that metaphorical emotional roller coaster Peace Corps is often said to be. Must be six months out from service or sooner to ride.
Mid-June I received my invite to serve in Zambia. I accepted within 24 hours and excitedly told pretty much everyone in creation how excited I was to be going. The conversation typically went like this:
Me: “I was invited to Zambia! Zambia! Ohmygosh Zambia!”
Other person: “Ooooohhhh Zambia? Like, in Africa?”
Them: *a sound denoting their uncertainty at my mental status*
Me: *not listening* ZAMBIA!
Over time, my close friends and family began to get behind the idea of Zambia. Zambia, with it’s potentially scary bugs and big spiders and lack of toilets. Zambia. Zambia! ZAMBIA! It was great to feel the momentum building.
Then, a few weeks post-invite I began to think less about Zambia. About leaving. Maybe it was the combination of lots of travel and seeing distant family and losing my family dog and dear family friend all in one day. Maybe it was being tired from being on the road so long. Maybe it was that suddenly I’m going to Zambia, which last I checked is a longdamnway from anything I know and love. Slowly, my feelings went from “Zambia!” to “oh yeah, Zambia” to “uh…yeah. Zambia.” After a while, I didn’t talk much about it at all.
I began to question, “Was this a good idea?” I began to ask myself why I felt this need to always be running off. I came up with a long mental laundry list of all the reasons it would be great to stay in Alaska and work rather than head off to Zambia. Zambia, where I will be broke as ever and a long way from any house-buying, fish-picking, winter-Christmas dreams I might have entertained. Zambia, far away from the people I love, food that doesn’t give me the runs, and words I can pronounce. Zambia began to sound less like my dreams and more like another two years of hard work, remedial living conditions, and time just waiting to be free to do what I want. Suddenly, I didn’t like the sound of Zambia. I began to peruse job sites; “I’m just looking,” I’d say to myself.
And then, by happenstance, I found a job that I wanted. That I really wanted. And suddenly I had applied and was dreaming of what life would be like if I didn’t go to Zambia. To make a long story short (and less tedious and angst-filled), I hemmed and hawed and asked many a patient friend their advice (/should I stay or should I go now/) about which direction I should go. Stay in Alaska? Go to Zambia? Honestly, there were great arguments for each choice, and it was really the uncertainty of which to choose that caused the unhappiness.
People are just happier when their path is certain, I think. I certainly am. I fought this decision hard because I could not hear what my heart wanted. It seemed strangely silent, as though instead of a gut to guide me I had to trust in what I already knew about myself. It was hard. Damn hard. We need our internal guides to help us when our mind is clouded and confused, and mine chose that time to be silent and, in a way, test me to know who I was.
In the end, the job went to someone else. In the span of a couple of days, my uncertainty and angst vanished and just as suddenly as it had been clouded, my path was clear as the day after rain. I realized how happy I was to know that Zambia would be my choice, and in that same moment my heart became vocal again, praising my decision. I am going to Zambia. It will be the hardest thing I’ve likely to have ever done, but it will be the right choice for me.
It’s still hard to say to close friends, “Yeah, I’m definitely going to Zambia,” knowing that it’ll be years before I see them again. I will miss them just as much as ever. I’ve never been away from my family for more than maybe six months between visits, and now we may go years. But still, Zambia! Zambia. My excitement level has taken flight, and all I can think is Zam-Bee-Yuh! Like, I-can’t-sleep-at-night-because-I’m-too-busy-dreaming-about-all-the-awesome-things-that-will-happen-in-Zambia.
I think I’m glad that this (in)decision was hard. That I had to face other opportunities, and that the road to choosing Peace Corps wasn’t for lack of other options. Peace Corps is hard. Choosing it is hard. Serving in it will be even harder. I can’t imagine another path more perfect for me. I can’t wait for Zambia.