Preparing to leave

With other volunteers, I like to joke that preparing to leave is harder than preparing to come to Peace Corps.

And that is true, but leaving is harder.

There is a stack of paperwork to fill, plane tickets to purchase, projects to be handed off, items to be sold, given away or sent home and the emotional mess of leaving a place that was foreign now familiar and returning to what was comfortable but now no longer.

When invitees write me about frantic packing questions, I usually tell them to relax and to spend less time worrying about the little details and more with family. Now, past the two-month mark, I repeat that same advice to myself.

I have loved Lesotho and serving with the Peace Corps, but every ounce of me is ready to move on. This has been a magnificent, at times chaotic, chapter in my journey and I’ll always cherish it, but, as Peace Corps has been my main focus for the last five years, I am ready for something different.

Yet, I am not done. If I was meant to be done, I would be.

As thoughts of home and those first few days back creep into my mind, I try to focus here, to be present. I spend a bit extra time with my family, trying to capture their laughs for my memory bank. I save my computer work for after school in order to hang out in the staff room and pick up on my teachers’ random conversations. I walk a bit slower to school, soaking up the morning as if it was my laugh. I let the children coloring on my porch stay a bit longer. I want every ounce of this experience.

At times, I am sad. Maybe I didn’t do enough. Maybe I wasn’t friendly enough. Maybe I didn’t take advantage of every little moment and mine it for all of its joy like I should have. But that mental marathon isn’t a race I can win, so I reassure myself I did OK and then I look to the smiling faces around me.

This is it, I think. Two months are all I’ve got and it doesn’t matter how I spent the last 25 because this is my gift now.

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