Interview on Friday!
May 26, 2010
I’m going to preface this entry by informing everyone that I’m going to sound like a horrible Peace Corps applicant. I know that many people have the idea that anyone applying for the Peace Corps needs to be completely selfless, be willing to give up their entire life for 27 months with no questions asked, and not care in the slightest what work area they are put in and what country they are sent to. I would love to say that I’m one of those people … but unfortunately, I’m not.
What I am is an individual who was born to help people. I’m a woman who has dedicated her entire life to being there for others and putting other people first. I’m a woman who feels unfulfilled in her current life and wants to do more to help those who really need it. But I’m also a woman who knows who I am, what I can handle, and how that plays in to the Peace Corps application process … hence, the remainder of this entry.
My interview is on Friday. I turned in my application last Monday. That means in the course of eleven days I will have filled out an application, sent it in, received follow up documentation, turned that in, and conducted an interview … and hopefully soon after that receive a nomination. That’s a pretty quick turn around if you ask me … especially when my decision to join the Peace Corps happened in about 24 hours. Let me explain.
I know the majority of people think about joining the Peace Corps for a long time. They get the idea when they are young or in college and hold on to that idea until they have time to actually put in their application and serve. I am a different story. I’ve thought about it before in the past, but never really entertained the thought for very long. The idea of leaving for 27 months seemed crazy for me so I just let the thoughts go.
The last two years though have been ones of transition for me. I was unhappy in my job, discontent with my living situation, and overall feeling very unfulfilled. I have spent the last two years trying to figure out how to fix that – a new job, a new place to live, maybe a new city. Then, two weekends ago I had a random thought about the Peace Corps again … and this time, the idea stuck. I chatted with my best friend who basically told me it was an incredible idea and that he’s surprised I hadn’t come up with it sooner. After that conversation and a few more hours of research, I decided to apply.
So the idea is still very new to me. I’ve spent the last ten days or so thinking about the program nonstop. I’ve read every page on the website, scanned every country for the programs I’d like to be a part of, read through journals and blogs of those who have served, and spoken with a friend who just returned from Tanzania two weeks ago. Through all of that though, I’ve still been hesitant. The excitement is there, but it’s not overflowing like I read in the posts of many other applicants. I’ve been worried that maybe that means I’m not meant to serve … but yesterday, I had two realizations.
First, I don’t want to teach. From day one I assumed that my only option with the Peace Corps was to teach. I’m an English teacher here in the states so why wouldn’t that be what I do overseas? Seems logical. The problem is, that isn’t what I want to do. Yes, I teach as a profession, but I don’t enjoy it. I’ve realized in the last two years that teaching is not what I was meant to do.
My passion is in helping the kids. I teach because it opens doors to coaching positions, tutoring positions, and after school activity positions. Those are the things I love to do. My passion is serving on boards and committees for youth programs. My passion is teaching my leadership classes, not English. So in reality, I want to work in Youth Development. That is where my passion is … but they need teachers. Will they listen to that request? I have qualifications for both, but will they really listen to my desire to work in that area? That I’m not sure of … and that worries me.
Second, I’m not one of those individuals who can pick up a map, point a finger, and go anywhere. I would really love to be one of those people who could say “send me wherever you want, I’ll take it,” but I’m not. I know that’s what being in the Peace Corps is all about … applicants are supposed to be willing to go anywhere they tell you to and do so with excitement and enthusiasm. I can’t do that.
The reason is because I have a history of anxiety. It’s not something that will get in the way of medical clearance; I haven’t had an anxiety attack in nearly five years and have been off medication for two, but the fact is it is still a part of my past. The reason I have been so successful in keeping the anxiety from returning is because I’ve learned about myself and what I can and cannot handle. I’ve found ways of living my life that keep me grounded. And, the one thing that I have realized I need in order to keep that grounded feeling is access to my family.
They could put me in any living conditions, in any program, and I would do well. Throw me into a new culture, new language, new traditions, and I’d love it. Give me a job with no guidelines and I’d happily create them on my own. I don’t care about awkward, uncomfortable, or unknown … I can handle all that, as long as I have access to my family and my support system. The thing is, I don’t really even need to see them. I could go the entire two years without seeing them and be just fine. All I really need is the comfort of knowing that I have access to them if it becomes necessary – if someone in my family gets sick, if I decide I want to take a vacation home with some of my leave, if my family wants to come and visit me. As long as I know that those things are options, I would flourish. But, that means I’d need to be placed where I could afford a plane ticket home, or my family could afford a plane ticket to me … and that limits the places I could go.
Now I know many of you applicants are reading that and saying “if she has restrictions like that, then she shouldn’t serve … she shouldn’t feel that way … she doesn’t understand the true mentality of a PCV,” but I completely disagree. In reality I absolutely know the mentality of a PCV, what it means to serve, and what our job would be … I’m being honest with myself. I know what I need in order to make it the entire 27 months without leaving early or feeling like I can’t do it. I know how I function and how I flourish. I respect the Peace Corps enough not to take the chance of going somewhere, getting overwhelmed, and packing my bags for home. Or worse, staying the entire time but not doing the job to the best of my ability. I’d rather go in with preferences or restrictions and be told no than go in with none, be given a nomination, and not be able to do my duty the way it should be done.
So, I go into my interview on Friday with “preferences,” a sin in the eyes of applicants and recruiters. I want more than anything to serve as a volunteer. I want more than anything to go help in another country, learn a new culture, appreciate what it means to be unique or less privileged … I want this to be my life. I just hope they see that desire and give me a nomination.
I guess we’ll find out on Friday.