If at any moment throughout the day I could write down the fleeting impulses caused by my upcoming departure (in 34 days), psychoanalyzing my anxiety would be much simpler.
Exactly when I got it into my head to join the Peace Corps is something I wish I could remember, probably because I was more articulate about it then than I am now. How many times have I heard people half-heatedly proclaim,
I’m joining the Peace Corps? It’s enough to make me vomit.
Somehow the collective social consciousness thinks of the Peace Corps as a French Foreign Legion but for conscientious objectors. Are you failing in college? Out of jail with nowhere to go? Unemployed but unwilling to live with your parents? Hell, join the Peace Corps.
What I’ve learned about Peace Corps volunteers is that they are a group who, as a generalization for example’s sake, have their lives in order, insomuch as they are willing, transitory expatriates; however, I can’t deny the opt-out factor. At a time when future plans are discussed openly at family functions, joining the Peace Corps is an easy decision (usually answered with a breaking
I’ve never met anyone who has joined the Peace Corps (or U.S. armed forces for that matter) because they had an immediate future planned out. And as I put behind my college life, I realize that the rest of life isn’t necessarily any different than before. I’ve chosen a cheap, unique, and moderately elite graduate school: I turned in applications, went to interviews, and even took a few tests.
Just as I was nervous leaving for college, so am I now. Just as I met smelly people who could hardly read or write, so will I in Nepal. My worries are no different than at any other time when I moved: nervous about making friends, retaining ties to old friends, adjusting to a new lifestyle, and the terrible realities of pending dysentery.
I’ve been lucky to have the support of friends and family, which hasn’t gone unnoticed. My good friend Randy sent me a farewell card and wrote on it a few quartets from T.S. Eliot’s The Dry Salvages:
Fare forward travellers! not escaping from the past
Into different lives, or into any future;
You are not the same people who left that station
Or who will arrive at any terminus.
When I arrive in Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport, the newness of everything will invigorate me. Thinking of it now gives me an anxious sense of happiness. When the waters are still, let us mock the storm.
Maybe I’ll just join the French Foreign Legion if this Peace Corps thing fizzles. It’s just the first entry, of course.