Graduating from college, I said that those were the most important four years of my life up to that point. “Graduating” from Peace Corps (that’s how we joke about it anyway), I might say that these have been the most important two years of my life up to this point. And somewhere down the line, something else might come along that will irreversibly change me. Regardless, if I break certain segments of my life into chunks, I can more easily think back to what I thought before and what I think after.
Since doing Peace Corps, I have learned:
1. Every person does his or her own part to contribute to the world. Not everyone will contribute the same, but everyone’s part keeps things in working order.
2. It’s always worth daring. Most of the time, the most gutsy moves turn out to be the greatest successes. Acting wisely and looking foolish are not mutually exclusive.
3. Confidence is golden. The more confident I am in trusting my instincts, the more authentically I can carry out my life.
4. Friendship has no age limit. My closest friends are often 20-years-younger than me or even 40-years-older than me and both perspectives are fresh and wise in their own ways.
5. The world is filled with problems and there is no way all of them will go away through the efforts of any single person. It takes lots of people doing their parts to support even a single person and even more people to challenge or defeat a greater issue or problem at hand.
6. Sometimes I can be altruistic, lots of times I’m selfish.
7. I’m a strange person and so is the next one. And that is what makes people interesting.
8. Material things are material and will inevitably break, get lost, or lose value down the line, so it’s more important to invest in the intangible. Community triumphs.
9. Efficiency has its place and so do prolonged events with no end in sight. Being completely present is usually the most effective means of working and living.
10. My life doesn’t have to follow a specific timeline. Everything usually falls into place at the perfect moments. Patience is a discipline.
11. I can endure more than I thought—from boredom to trauma.
12. Life and death are inevitable and I am not invincible.
13. Maintaining a relationship is a job, whether it extends across countries or a few neighborhood blocks. Part of the maintenance includes communicating, sitting in silence and solidarity together, laughing, crying and being reliable.
14. I can be alone and be comfortable being alone. So much of college centered on constant contact with others and so much of Peace Corps centered on constant contact with “me, myself and I”.
15. Thinking back on it all, I wouldn’t change a moment, because each moment brought me to thinking what I think now.
It’s gone incredibly fast and suddenly it’s ending. It’s been a wild ride!
And along with thinking a little differently in respect to life and how I want to live it, after 27 months in another country, everybody looks a little different for the wear. Two years is a long time, but it wasn’t 15?! My departure on January 6, 2009 was a lifetime ago.