People ask me all the time if I’m excited or nervous to join Peace Corps. The answer, of course, is that I feel a myriad of emotions about PC that change daily. Primarily, I’m excited. Most of my fears don’t even center around the experience in my actual service, but rather what’s happening at home while I’m gone. Most people think Peace Corps in only one year (like Americorps) and are shocked to find out that it is, in fact, 27 months. Quite a bit can happen in 2 years.
For example, I’m missing the weddings of two of my very close friends during service, with a decent chance that there will be more. I spoke with one of those friends today, Rachel, who has been one of my best friends since my freshman year of college. The idea of missing one of my best friends’ weddings is indescribably awful. Since undergrad, I’ve picked up and moved to DC, then Atlanta, and now I’m heading off once again for South Africa. I don’t do well at staying put for long. Over all these moves, I’ve formed amazing friendships, but I always have a terrible fear that my friendships will fade away when I leave. Sometimes, that’s been true. But overwhelmingly, these bonds have seemed to grow even stronger. We may talk infrequently, but when I hang up the phone, I feel as though I’ve been given a precious gift. Long-distance friendships have their challenges, but they aren’t insurmountable.
This is particularly true also of my parents. I’ve grown even closer to my parents since moving away from home. I think I actually rely on them more now than I ever have before, and I am eternally grateful for their support. I can call my parents any time of the day, and I know that even if they’re busy, they will always make time for me. There have been times over the last few years when my friends and family have gone through difficult times, and it hurts to be so far away. It will be hard not having unlimited access to free therapy from friends and family, and watching all of them continue to grow and do amazing things while I’m half a world away.
On the flip side, that support gives me strength. When I first moved to Atlanta and had only 3 friends in the whole city, I felt the love of many people buoying me up. I feared that I’d become more introverted and wouldn’t make new friends, but luckily, I was quickly proven wrong. As it turns out, there are really incredible, caring people no matter where you go; you simply have to be patient enough to find and befriend them. Additionally, my friends and family have been very supportive of my decision and helped to remind me why I wanted to do PC in the first place, especially during times when I was frustrated with the process. I carry these same fears with me to SA, but I also carry the love and support of so many great people.