Three years ago

As I have alluded to several times on this blog, my favorite television show is “How I Met Your Mother.” My hopeless romantic side indulges in Ted’s quest for love, often indentifying with the ups and downs of dating in your late 20s. It can be cheesy, and the overt sexual references are a bit much at times, but it always makes me smile.

I haven’t seen a new episode in a year, the last being the Christmas episode of season 7. Around then, my external hard drive broke so I could never get newer episodes from other PCVs. Well, after all of my electronics broke in the span of a month, I was nervous that my computer would be next and was able to get another hard drive so I could back up my internal. Recently, I was able to get the second half of season 7 and most of season 8 (I missing the last four episodes, someone please help!).

It took less than three days to watch it all; I was excited. As per usual with this series, there was a theme that got me thinking about my own life. In college, Marshall and Ted make a pact to watch the Star Wars trilogy every three years. When they get together to watch it, they envision what their lives will be like in three years. During there 20s, they never come close to those ambitions, but as they age their life leads them to what truly makes them happy.

I stopped to think about where my life was three years ago. In late June 2010, I was less than two weeks away from leaving for Niger. In that month, I had quit my job at the Foundation, handed The Post over to transitional leadership, moved out of my downtown Sioux Falls studio and temporarily into my parents’ home, sold most of my belongings, flew to Nashville for Bonaroo with friends and then slowly said goodbye to my beloved ones. I was excited and terrified, one of the best emotional combinations. I saw this adventure as an off-ramp from a nice life to an amazing one.

There was nothing at the time that could have predicted that three years later I would be sitting in hut in Lesotho. But, as Steve Jobs said, you can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backwards.

That grand adventure lasted seven months and then I entered one of the darkest moments of my life. I drank nearly every day and was 20 pounds heavier. I had to work harder than expected to get back to Peace Corps and each day I had to fight through the fear that I might not make it.

Little did I know that my path wasn’t closed, just being repaved.

Niger still feels like a dream and I likely did think it would be a magical adventure. Coming to Lesotho, I knew better. There have been lots of struggles and challenges but I am thankful for every single one of them. I’ve changed from the girl desperately seeking an escape that her paradise was the Sahara Desert to a woman who understands herself better and has found not an exit in this African nation but a home. It’s hasn’t been the tidiest 36 months, but I’ve lived more in these three years than the 25 before it.

I am not worried about life after December because I know that I will land on my feet. That type of confidence is not something I possessed three years ago, maybe not even one year ago. Where and who I will be in 2016 is still to be determined. I have a few ideas but my focus is not on the future.

Right now, I am in one of my happiest spots of my service. I wake up each day smiling, thankful to be in Lesotho and to be Heather Mangan. Work is good again, after months of struggle, and I feel strong mentally and emotionally. I have five months left and I plan to use them up and wear them out. It doesn’t matter what happened three years ago and what will in three years, because everything is exactly the way it should be now and all I can do is celebrate it.

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