In two months and two days, I will be leaving behind my friends, family, country & culture to serve in the United States Peace Corps in South Africa. This was both the easiest and most difficult decision I have made in my life up to this point.
The idea to serve in the Peace Corps was something I have carried with me for most of my life. So as I reflect on the process of getting me here, I want to go back to share with you the story that first sparked my interest in “helping people” and that has ultimately shaped me to this day. When I was a 7th grade student at Blue Ridge Middle School, a horrible tsunami caused one of the worst natural disasters throughout South East Asia. I remember as we welcomed in a new Christmas celebration, hundreds of thousands of displaced peoples searched through murky water and rubble to find love ones and survivors. And as we saw this tragedy unfold on our news cycles night after night, the coverage eventually faded and we moved on with our lives. But even as the coverage dwindled, my longing to be involved and find a way to help those who had lost so much continued to grow. Eventually, and through many challenges, myself and my peers in the Leo club of my middle school was able to raise over $14k for the tsunami relief donated to the Red Cross and UNICEF. This initial taste for service sparked my imagination to what a world of service could be, and the different ways there are to give back. Peace Corps entered my radar that winter as I looked for my next opportunity to serve, but was something that could never have become a reality without the help of my family.
So, here we are. I have left my job in corporate America to finally achieve a life long dream of what I saw in 7th grade as the ultimate opportunity to serve. I am sure I am in for a wild ride, and can not wait to share my experiences with you as I embark on this journey.
The opportunity to work with the peace corps would be an opportunity to serve a community in need, promote cultural exchange, and give back to the world that has given so much to me. The reality of the decision is beginning to sink in as I share the news of my departure with my family and friends. I am sure there will be many ups and downs during this journey, including lack of electricity and running water, learning a new language, missing home, and my horrific fear of spiders and how on earth I plan to keep them out of my home in South Africa. While these are just a few of the items on loop in my head as I prepare for this journey, a more tangible challenge has emerged as I work towards my departure date.
While the challenges I face abroad will be many and often, the reality of hardship for my family and friends back home is something I am beginning to see more clearly. 27 months of learning new things will fly by. 27 months in your normal life with a granddaughter, daughter, sister or friend missing is a tough burden your family has to bare while you are away.
For me, family is everything. I am lucky enough to have a loving family and friend support group that has encouraged me to follow my dreams, even at personal hardship for them. They will be the ones to wonder where I am, and how I am getting on in my new life. They will be spending holidays with one less loved one, and celebrating life’s triumphs with one less pair of clapping hands. So to all of the incredible people in my life, I say thank you. The courage to step out into this new adventure is not something found with in me, but in the love and support of all of you. And as I continue to take in the reality of what will be my new life, and say goodbye to the one I have come to love, I know that the continued love and support from you all is the fuel I need to make this journey a reality. So, thank you.
And cheers to adventure.