While applying for the Peace Corps, I looked at the risks and challenges that come with being a volunteer. Low pay, culture shock, safety, being away from loved ones, language barriers, loneliness. I understood that they existed, but they seemed far way and I convinced myself I could handle them.
As a soon-to-be-trainee, those obstacles are now vivid. I’m nervous that I won’t meet language requirements or fit in with the Nigeriens. I worried about making smart decisions to stay safe and if I’ll make friends. Mostly, I hate the idea of not being here.
Just few weeks after I arrive in Niger, one of dearest friends will be married, a celebration we depicted details for long before the man was involved. It breaks my heart that I won’t be able to stand up at her wedding like we’ve always planned. I’m sure there will be more weddings in the next 27 months, along births and probably deaths. I’ll miss birthdays and holidays and I won’t be there for those sporadic moments that become the shiny gems in our memory bank.
Going into this, I made a decision, rather a compromise, that in order to have this grand adventure I would have to take away from other parts of my life. Yes, that means missing all those milestones, but this decision was apparent in other parts of my life, such as not being able to take a weekend trip to visit a friend so I could pay off my bills and be debt free (well, mostly) which is a Peace Corps requirement. I understand what I’m giving up to do this and that it was my decision, but it doesn’t make it any less painful.
This weekend, I will say goodbye to a majority of my dearest friends. There are some people I’m ready to have out of my life and others I wish I could take with me. Some of them I may never talk to again, others will become better friends and others, those really special ones, will just stay the same no matter how much land and water is between us.
Going to the Peace Corps will be one of the greatest things I ever do, but that doesn’t erase the pain of not being able to enjoy my friends and families lives with them. Nothing can compensate for that. But I do have one thing that will soften the blow: all of their unending support and encouragement. And, letters, lots of letters.