There are a lot of adjectives to describe the multitudinous emotions that flood over you once you hit the SEND button on your on-line Peace Corps application. I hit that button in April 2012. I kept that information and the accompanying emotions to myself for most of the first year of my ensuing wait. Many things can happen to derail plans and good intentions, and heading the procession was the fact that I simply may not qualify and the Peace Corps wouldn’t want me. I’m over 50 you see. After I retired from my job and career of the past 35 years I waited to hear encouraging news from the Peace Corps. And that wait dragged on. And on.
During this languishing period of little or no news, my mind wandered. First it headed to a far off culture with me sitting in a grass hut beneath a mosquito net after a long, hot day in the community’s one-room classroom teaching eager, wide-eyed little scamps, then it turned to me swatting mosquitos streaming through the gaping holes of my netting, sweating and feeling sorry for myself because the once eager, wide-eyed volunteer wasn’t able to convey the daily lesson to the hungry, inattentive waifs because of his poor communication skills. Somewhere around the one year mark I slowly began sharing my plans and dreams and angst with a few people. Then a few more. One person in particular has mentioned on several occasions that I can quit this pursuit, if I choose to, that I have the freedom and the ability to put a halt to this commitment and endeavor. That is his opinion and while I can’t deny that that option exists, it simply does not exist for me.
Six months or so after I first sent my application to the Peace Corps, the recruiter sent notice that at that particular time, there were no assignments available that I qualified for and that, if I wanted, I could continue being considered for service in the subsequent rounds of assignments, or I could opt out of consideration and resubmit my application later, if ever. The thought process lasted only a few seconds and I immediately responded that my interest was genuine and I was committed to my original decision to serve my country in the Peace Corps. I would wait. I would wait happily. And I waited for another year before I was officially invited to serve.
In that year my commitment did not falter, although there were up days and down days, days filled with hope and angst, and nights filled with troubled tossing. Granted, I did not wait happily the entire time. The year was waited out with qualms and queasiness, consternation, questioning and cold feet. There were bouts of episodic concerns of competence and capabilities. Waiting can do that. But not once during that time did I doubt my resolve to do what I’ve long-believed to be the right thing to do. This was something I simply had to do.
This is not a decision I have taken lightly. This is not a choice with an escape clause. My decision does not have a secret hatch that can be opened at will to allow for a safe passage to freedom. This venture is my freedom. It involves taking risk and facing my fears. And facing my fears will free me from the bondage of self. There is no second-guessing, there can’t be. I question my abilities daily but not my resolve.
I was a child when the Peace Corps was born and I watched it develop into an independent being as I was becoming one as well. I longed to be a part of the mystique and the adventure and dreamed of serving my country in Peace, not in War. I nursed that dream for fifty years, held it close, away from the light and now the time has come for me to gladly follow that dream, to walk into the light. Shoulders squared, head up, sure steps forward. I am ready.