A year ago today I had just sworn in as an official Peace Corps Volunteer in Ukraine. Yesterday, the most recent group of trainees was sworn in as official Peace Corps Volunteers. In the past month, I have also seen people I know ending their service and going home. A few have chosen to extend their service, but most have gone home, back to the lives they interrupted to join PC.
It makes me wonder where I will be in a year. The life I left is not one to which I am in a hurry to return. I had been unemployed for a couple of years, and while that time was useful to me in that I had plenty of time to re-examine my life and decide that it was not headed in the direction in which I wanted it to head, it was also an extremely painful and difficult period of my life. I had to sell my house, give up my most beloved of loves, and leave a life that I knew was not the right one for me, but was difficult to give up nonetheless.
I decided to stop looking at, and living in, myself so much, and to do something that would not only help others, to serve others, but that would hopefully also help me get to my long-term goal. I was tired of focusing on myself so much and wanted to focus on something larger than me, get some perspective.
Has it been a fabulous year? Well, my service has not always been a bed of roses – it would not be Peace Corps if it was easy! But overall, I feel like I am finally doing what I wanted to do since I first went overseas at age 17. I have good days and bad days, and sometimes some good and bad weeks. Overall though, because this IS voluntary, if I was miserable all the time, I would not stay.
My one-year anniversary finds me in a somewhat surreal position. I have become so accustomed to a rather austere life that when I temporarily step back into one that is somewhat “normal”, it feels strange, and I feel as if I do not belong. I am 40 years old and still feel as if I am searching for my place in life. At least now I have figured out what I believe is my purpose, or what I am drawn to do. Does that mean I am halfway to happiness? After my service is over, will I be forced back into living in a box, or be able to live the life I saw for myself since I was a youth?
I have spent the first year of my service learning some extremely difficult lessons, trying to help my community and other PCVs, to share my knowledge and experience, and to help organizations and individuals in my community. I am still doing what I can to reach out to my community, to learn the language they speak, to try to understand the unspoken, and to build my own skills while also helping build those of others. I wonder what the second year will bring? It seems to have started out on a positive note, so I hope this continues, and I am able to accomplish a great deal (and to be able to speak that way I want to) in year two.
I have no idea what the answers to these questions will eventually be. For now, I am still living in the moment, for the most part. I do some planning, and always have what happens after service in the back of my mind, but I am still trying to focus on getting done what I can in the time I have left.