All I knew is that I wanted to be in Africa and that is all I needed to know. I put entire faith into an agency and I was too naïve to believe that wasn’t a good idea. Where they told me to go is where I was meant to go.
And so I went, to two different African countries that most people in the United States have never heard of nor can pronounce properly. They both stand towards the top of the world’s poorest countries and they have little to offer those with full pockets and itchy passports. They are small dots (figuratively, not literally) on the map but I went to them for a reason. I found a piece of myself that couldn’t have been exposed anywhere else.
During my final months in Lesotho, people – at home and in Africa – asked me what I would do next and where I would go. As an unconditional cheerleader for South Dakota, most expected that is where I would go but my sites were broader. In a pact between God and myself, I told Him I wouldn’t worry about the job search until I was home and that I would leave the choice up to the Universe. Whatever I needed to do that would be revealed to me.
I guess I expected the Universe to speak quicker and bolder. I assumed I would apply for different kinds of jobs all over the country and the one that stuck would be the exact dot my journey that I needed to go next. It’s kind of my method for buying clothes, gifts, anything more than $5 – I will know what I am looking for when I see it.
But the “real world” tells me it doesn’t work that way. That I must pick a place and an industry and connect with people who can get me through the door. It’s not something up to chance, but real, real hard work. I thought that not having a plan would lessen limits and that red line on the map would present itsself clearly, more so than ever before.
Now I wonder if that line even exists. I can’t tell what I want to do or were I want to go because every possibility is soaked in fear. Each day I fight between what I should do and what I can do, living up to my potential and being happy. I wish all of those could come together at one point, but life is not that neat.
An old friend reminded me of a chat we had in Brookings many years ago when I told him about my aspirations for the Peace Corps. A sweet man, he probably thought I was crazy and living off the fumes of an impossible dream. Maybe I, too, felt that I would never actually leave my job and suitable life behind for places I couldn’t have pointed out on a map.
Yet, I did. Like now, I walked through my days in a zombie mask wondering if I would find the light and passion in me. I didn’t know what I wanted then, and it sure wasn’t living in buckets and working a job that was impossible to succeed in.
I need to remind myself of those moments because I was once lost and directionless but I came out OK and I will again. And for me to actually be OK and I need to believe it.