There are several reasons people join the Peace Corps. Your reasons are often made fun of as in here. There seriously are so many types of people, and some do not always mesh with the group/community/Peace Corps/humanity but many do. One thing you will not always be prepared for are the hours that you spend alone with yourself. This is where coping mechanisms really come in handy, people!
So why did I join? I liked the idea of going to a very foreign place and learning to fit in among the people there. I loved the idea of travel. I loved the idea of cutting all remaining ties to where you are from most of all. You see I have much pain in where I came from. I loathe going back there, I do not even call it home, it never was home. I get great anxiety about stepping foot out there. I could look back and blame this on my mother/father/whoever else, but ultimately I have to stand up and stare in the mirror, where the blame really belongs. This is what life as a Peace Corps Volunteer has taught me. That (wo)man in the mirror is who you ultimately must face, and you best like them because they will never leave you!
If you have never sat down and listened to John Lennon’s Imagine, do so now, I can wait!
It is the most amazing work of music ever written. This one touches my soul, and it inspires me to a place that nothing else ever has. It spoke to me as a child. In all my hatred towards home, this song always gave me a sense of reason and a place to find solace. Something that most people search for their whole lives is that sense of purpose. I too, searched for many years for this. I finally joined Peace Corps as part of a dream but also looking for that sense of purpose.
What does purpose look like? How do you find it? When do you know you have found it? These are all pertinent questions in our search for self. One thing for certain is that as long as you stay busy and surround yourself with distraction, you will never find it or know you found it. I tried for years to distract myself, marriage, raising kids, college, parties, friends, just about anything to distract myself from this feeling of uselessness. When you become a volunteer you seek those times of silence and solace. Being always on is exhausting and for me I spend most nights home alone. In my situation there is a large distance to travel by foot to get to and from my home to the community. In the past I have had persons escort me but this turned out badly for me. (No threat to myself, just uncomfortable with the affections presented.) So to avoid a potential danger I keep myself home at night. The amazing thing about this is that eventually you have to face yourself. You cannot hide from yourself forever. In my quite moments at home I have had time to look very deep and very hard at myself. I still have much more to depth to see but I am beginning to see past the hurt and anger.
Over the next few months I hope to engage my neighbors in some games of dominoes and Yahtzee. The kids will be home and up later and the neighbors work at the schools so they will be home more often than not. I look forward to really cementing these friendships with fun and games.
In these long months of nights spent home alone I have learned a few things about myself. On top of losing weight, (30lbs yay!) I have also done some soul searching and healing. I have confronted my biggest problems with where I come from (continual sexual harassment) and my weight (again sexual harassment, it was an emotional protection), my hatred for my past, my lack of confidence, and my insecurities. It sometimes is a lot of baggage to carry around and it feels so much better to have found a way to address these things. The more time I spend with that (wo)man in the mirror the more I like them. I find them sincere and thoughtful. I find them compassionate and passionate. I find them very human. This is the greatest thing I have gained from my service. This ability to like myself and to see my true self. For years when I looked in the mirror I hated what I saw. I saw a very insecure little girl with no ability to defend herself. That same girl who went home and cried every day of high school, until the last few months of her last year when she would have beat the holy crap out of anyone who touched her.
That last statement needs some defining: In my high school days two boys, sometimes more, would drag me into the locker room and try to strip me violently everyday! One would touch my breasts daily and if I tried to make him stop I was sent to the office because I was a distraction. It was frustrating. It was maddening. It royally pissed me off. A week before graduation I had had enough of this BS! One day I opened my locker and a fire extinguisher fell onto my feet from my locker. I threw my books down and screamed my biggest tormentor’s name picked that fire extinguisher up and ran down the hall after him. Years later he told me he had never been so scared in all of his life. He thought I was going to kill him, he is lucky I cannot run so fast because I am positive that I would have bludgeoned him to a pulp if I would have caught him. See I can empathize with the school shooters in a way most people cannot. I know what it is like to be tormented non-stop for years without anyone ever stepping up for me. I understand pain and helplessness all too well. This has fueled my adult life. I have been in three fights in my life all of them were with men trying to abuse me in some way. In all cases I knocked the snot out of them. Do I regret this? Hell no! I am no longer going to be the victim, the only things I regret are staying in relationships long enough for them to escalate to this point.
All of this has made me a much stronger person, because I know how to defend myself, I know when to walk away. I know who I am and that I am not that weak girl in the mirror. I am a warrior and I am also a advocate for others. I like who I am, but I did not always, even when I started my service I did not really like who I was. I hid these insecurities in many ways, alcohol was one of my biggest friends. It made me numb to the feelings I could not accept. It is only now in my times of clarity that I can see this. I still love alcohol, but I do not need it all the time. I cannot afford it all the time! I also cannot afford to be in a fog every day! I need that clarity and once you find it, you can function so much better. I now see the gifts I have, and I also see my service so much clearer. I see my role not as a savior but as an advocate and delegate. I am not a leader, I am the person that finds the leaders! There need to be more of those types of people in the World! People who can sit on the sidelines and find those who can lead.
I have healed many of my old wounds during my service. It has been liberating. I used to think that my pain was useful to me, that I would never forget and it would drive me. It did drive me but it has served its purpose and it is time to move forward. It is time to strip off that layer and expose a whole new being. One who will shine in a different light. One who will find more energy and strength in more positivity and less negativity. This is my final battle, letting go of that broken little girl in the mirror. Letting go of the pain and the anger and finding peace and joy instead. It has not at all been easy, but the journey is not one I would change for one single second. By the time my service is over I will be ready for the next phase of life and that is something I am almost ready to embrace.