Friends and family have asked me how I am feeling about the departure to Lesotho, trying to get at something that I only reserve for those special to me. I try to explain to them this muddled mess of emotions swimming through my body, but the words come out as unclear as the feelings themselves.
I do have doubts, I am scared, I do not know what to expect.
When trying to sum up my thoughts, I’ve told people that it’s harder this time. I’ve compared to a false start in track or swimming. The stretched feeling in the stomach seems to pull harder the second time.
Anyone who hears this reassures me that I will be fine. I will go there and be great because it’s what I am supposed to do, they say. Although I appreciate the support, I still don’t know.
While packing, I was sifting through a drawer that I kept leftovers from my first service for my second one to make sure I got out all the necessary Lesotho items. In it I found a brown leather journal with hemp stitching. It was a birthday gift a few years ago from my friend Roxy and it’s full of writings from different stages of my life. I grabbed it, another journal (that one a gift from Lucy) and my computer and headed to a coffee shop. I wanted to digest its contents in a place where I could shutoff the environment and focus on the memories bouncing from within.
The journal begins at a dark time, when I just started my website and really struggling with my place in the world. Sadly, it continues on and off that way for the next pages although months lapse. There are random lists thrown in there, pros and cons of why I should go to the Peace Corps and phone numbers and address of friends and family.
Then, I hit the Niger section. It’s full of short stories about small encounters with other volunteers and villagers in my training city. It has a few weeks of dates, each with bulleted events of the day that made me smile. It was laced with the same enthusiasm and fear that’s currently in my heart.
There was one entry that could’ve been written yesterday, today or tomorrow. It was an exact replica of my state right now. It was a letter that I wrote to myself on the plane from Paris to Niamey July 8, 2010.
In a few hours you’ll land in Niamey and will be taken to your training site. This day is here, the one that put you to sleep at night and gave you reassurance when you couldn’t figure out life. You are now fulfilling a dream to be a Peace Corps Volunteer. You left everything behind for this dream and now it’s a reality.
Right now parts of you are scared. You have realized what little French you know and how uncomfortable this will be. In the last few days, you’ve seen some of the realities of what this job will be like and what it’s going to take of you.
When you boarded the place to Niamey, you were scared and nervous. For the first time since you received your invited you felt your stomach drop and those anxieties flush through your body. Soon your whole world will flip upside down and you’ll be more scared than you’ve ever been. But as you sit here on this plane with my customs card and contemplating how to ask the flight attendant for a band aid to cover up your tattoo, I have things I wan to ask of you and remind you of for the next 27 months.
First, please remember why you are here and what you want to do. You chose this path just as much as it chose you. Your friends told you over and over that your meant to do this. So do it.
Keep patience. You’re never been one to sit and wait, but you need to do that. With that comes the ability to laugh and be flexible. Keep those three in mind you’ll be able to get through the next few months.
Don’t let go, Heather. Keep holding on and keep that optimism. You can do this. I know you can.
Be happy. Regain your faith. Make new friends. Connect with the old. Live comfortably outside your comfort zone. Be honest. Be grateful. Smile. Be the person you want to be and the person you can be.
Good luck, Heather. You were meant for this.
What I’ve been missing the last few weeks was faith from myself. The girl who wrote that had now idea how the last 15 months would play out, but she did know one thing – that I could do anything. She had faith in me then and she has faith in me now. That’s all I need. Being scared and having doubts is part of the process and I’m allowed to feel them. Yet, they are sidebars to this grand adventure that I truly know I am meant to live.