I met Andrew through Nancy, a fellow volunteer in Lesotho. One of Nancy’s greatest strengths is making new friends. She comes across a person, pulls them into a lengthy conversation, and they are instant friends. That’s how she met Mick and Andrew, who became some of her best friends through out our two years. I first met Mick and Andrew when Nancy invited me to stay at a lodge near Mt. Moorsi, in the south part of the country. We spent our days hiking and nights sitting by the fire telling stories.
Andrew, a Philippine man in his 60s, claimed Australia as his home but had volunteered all over the world. He did two-year stints in Africa, South America and Asia, always going home for at least a year.
“The trick,” he told me as we sipped wine near a glowing fire, “is to go home for a while. Make some money. Let the people you love know you love them. Then you go back out.”
Initially, I took that to mean that the years at home were an obligation to please everyone else. I didn’t think that he, or any full-time vagabond, would actually need the lull between adventures.
My life – from the outside – is good. I have a job I truly love, I am in city that feels like home after a month, and I have a busier social calendar than one would expect for someone who knew exactly two people before moving here. Yet, there is something else going on underneath the solid shell.
Going into the Peace Corps was a huge leap for me. It was completely unexpected for those that knew me and it took me an awful long time to make it happen. But I did it. I turned left instead of staying the course. I broke the mold.
I went to resetting up my life because that’s what I thought I should do and that’s what I’ve done. I have a job and I pay my bills. I go to parties at homes of people who bought them (not renting them) and filled them with babies. I read less. I run less. I write less. My evenings after work pass so quickly I forget the next day how I spent those hours.
Sure, my life in Chicago is different than it was when I was living in South Dakota, pre-Peace Corps. But there are enough similarities that I am scared that the mold is reforming around me and that my courage to do something big was just a fluke. Maybe I am a one-hit wonder.
Or, maybe I am just someone landing then finding her footing before launching into the next grand thing.
The other didn’t I was asked about my ultimate goals and I didn’t have a concise answer. I really truly don’t know.
Recently, I read this article about Jonathan Harris, an incredible artist who, in his 20s, produced incredible project after incredible project. Then he left his home in Brooklyn and traveled a bit, to gain more insight into his art and himself. He eventually came back to Brooklyn and did little of anything. He slept, wandered around the city and didn’t create much. He had to regroup and process what had happened in his life before he could go into the next thing with confidence that it was exactly what he wanted.
I think that’s what Andrew meant when he said that one needs those breaks at home. One needs a year or two to process the experience and the emotions so there is a solid foundation for the next thing.
I may not know what I want right now, but that isn’t a curse and it’s likely not permanent. Peace Corps was my goal for five years and it’s perfectly natural for me not to have another adventure lined up. I know that where I am right now is a good place to be and maybe that should be my focus – right now.
The person I was in Lesotho and the courage I had to be her is not used up, but it’s OK if it’s a bit quiet these days. Maybe I just need a good chunk of time to figure out what’s next – and really know, like I did with the Peace Corps – and then that courage, it will be pulsing.