The first

September 10, 2010

Today, there are only 32 of us.

We all knew it would happen, it’s a natural part of Peace Corps, but we never could calculate when or who would be the first. Cattily, we made predictions about who would be the first, but this particular name was never mentioned. It was always an option, but, like many hardships in life, I naively believed we were invincible.

Monday morning, we were informed that one of our fellow trainees has decided to go home for personal reasons. Within about 48 hours of alerting the training director, this person was on a plane back to the United States to resume American life.

And that was it. Now, we are one person less and there is a small hole in the family that we’ve been building for the last two months. I know the trainee made the best decision in order to be happy, but I can’t help but feel like that person died. What hurts most is there will likely be more.

The option to leave, or early terminating once we are volunteers, is now more real than before and, naturally, the absence caused me to look at my own happiness in this country and role. Am I happy here? And I ready for the challenges ahead? And can I make it till September 2010.

Yes, yes and yes. It’s not a huge secret that I was miserable for several months before coming to Niger and that I desperately longed for an adventure. Days here aren’t easy and I am so frustrated with my language progress, but I am content. It’s a challenge most minutes a day, but I thrive in these challenges and am starting to see traits of my best self grow, traits I wasn’t sure I possessed. And as my former boss used to quote from a particular movie about women and baseball, “It’s the hard that makes it great.”

Every day, I find new confirmation that I am supposed to be here. The trainee who left made the best decision for that person, and the best decision for me is to live my life to its full capacity in Niger.

Since this was written, two others have left. Thirty of us were sworn in.


One thought on “The first

  1. Although the struggles are minor compared to yours, there was a very similar feeling to this during the first weeks of law school. They drug us through orientation, a bunch of academic rock stars all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready to excel at this new chapter in our lives. And then they hit us with the reality of the situation…this material is hard. You will be studying all of the time. Some of you will fail. Anything special about you in undergrad is now a joke. The fear crept into our eyes, and the question of success was no longer assumed, but doubted.
    But even with all of the overwhelming warnings, they kept giving us advice– how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. To look to the future (in my case, several hours of studying, brutal finals, three years of hell, all ending with a whoremother of a bar exam…and in your case, 2 years of being away from loved ones, learning a new language and creating a new life), is absolutely overwhelming. You question how in the hell you’re honestly going to survive it all.
    Which is why I only take it one week at a time. One day at a time. One chapter at a time. And pretty soon you’re getting it. Just like you will take it one week at at time. One day at a time. One scary new vocabulary word at a time. Because the biggest challenges of life are meant to be terrifying…otherwise you wouldn’t feel the reward of endurance.
    I hope the people that left the Peace Corps will ultimately be happy with their decision. Maybe it wasn’t for them. But I hope the rest of you can see the forest for the trees, and love the experiences you were ultimately achieve– good and bad.
    You were made for that, Heather Mangan.

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