Last Monday, a two-year journey ended.
I knew that day was going to change my life forever, so I planned ahead and took the afternoon off. I was to pick up a package, one I had hope to get sooner but didn’t thanks to UPS’ inconvenient hours, that contained this life-changing information. Of course, I spent most of the day in Brookings, so I had 50-minute drive from the end of my work day to picking up that package. I played loud music and podcasts to quiet my wild thoughts, but I couldn’t concentrate on anything but that package.
Once I arrived to the UPS store, I made a promise to myself not to open it there. I wanted that moment to be somewhere special, or anywhere that isn’t a UPS parking lot. I thought about Falls Park, but since it was pouring, I decided on maybe a coffee shop or bar.
My hands and voice trembled a bit when I told the woman behind the counter my name and gave her my ID. I signed for the packaged and gripped it tightly, not believing it was real.
Making the drive cross town, I realized that I didn’t want to be in a public place; I’d rather be in my apartment, so I compromised with a trip to the liquor store for a beer to stop the trembling, which was still flowing through my legs and hands. I bought a six-pack of my favorite summer beer and went home.
Once I got home, I cleaned a few dishes and changed my clothes. These are things I don’t normally do when returning home from work, but I did them because I wasn’t ready to open that package.
Two years ago, I began the process to become a Peace Corps Volunteer. I applied in June 2008 and was told that I needed to wait because funding was on hold. That August, they told me I need more specific skills if I wanted to be a volunteer, despite all the experience I did have. So disappointed and discouraged, I withdrew my application and looked for a new path.
The aspiration lingered in the back of my mind as regret, yet I still had the power to change. After a mini life crisis last April, I reopened my application. The interview came in July, nomination in August and medical clearance in February.
Then, silence. Months of silence and not knowing what would happen to me. I went on with life and almost removed this goal from my future. I kept working on The Post and start to examine routes to put my life in a better state. Yes, I still wanted to be volunteer, but I couldn’t continue to put my life on hold.
One day, notice came that a package was on its way. I didn’t know what was in it, but that it was coming from the Peace Corps Headquarters. It seemed like it would never come, but there it was, on my coffee table. It just seemed too monumental to rush through opening.
After stalling for 20 minutes, I grabbed a beer and opened the package. On a white folded piece of paper was answers. For the first time, I had answers.
The piece of paper wanted to send me to Niger, Africa, leaving July 7. It asked me to become a community and youth educator/English language educator. The rest of the package was filled with forms and information booklets, but I couldn’t take my eyes of that piece of paper.
Soon after, the decision making began. I called my parents and friends and gorged the Internet for information on Niger. I ran through possible scenarios and imagined how hard it was going to be to leave my two amazing jobs and all of these wonderful people.
The Peace Corps gave me 10 days to make a decision. I needed 10 seconds. I knew I was going before I opened that package. This is what I wanted for so long and I could finally have it.
Before accepting, I talked to my boss at the Foundation, my cohorts at The Post, my parents and a few of my friends. I spoke to them as if I hadn’t made a decision, but they all knew I had.
I accepted on Wednesday and have been in a whirlwind of resignation letters, visa applications and visits with friends (oh, and the 2,000-word story I wrote for The Post and the two-day conference that came with it). Now that a few major things are behind me, I am starting to really tell people about the Peace Corps as the decision sinks in. I still have paperwork to do before I can start to pack, but the weeks leading up to my departure will be filled mostly with friends, family and preparation.
That package did change my life, and I wanted it to. Remember, I asked for it. It took some time to get here, but I am glad it did. I needed all that time to be ready to open it.