“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I've learned, the hard way, that some poems don't rhyme, and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next.
I think the most valuable lesson Peace Corps has taught me so far is that sometimes the things you plan out so well and think will work out do not, and other things that you never would have expected to work out or happen do, and that is ok. I think this is an important lesson that applies not only to this experience but to life in general. I remember when I decided to leave my MSW program at NYU after one semester because I felt I needed more work and life experience first I felt so guilty. I had spent so much time wanting to live in NYC and my plan all through college had been to move there for grad school right away. My dream had come true, but I was unsure and unhappy. At the time it didn't make any sense, and I was so angry with myself. It took a long time for me to except it for what it was and move on. My Peace Corps experience has not been what I previously expected. I pictured myself living in a hut, using a pit latrine my whole service, and having infrequent communication with my family and friends. Even when I first got to my site, I had these big plans for this sponsored camel ride and my idea of what I'd be doing in my social work office was more like social work in the United States. I was so very wrong and so many of the projects I originally planned when I first got here failed miserably. Things here have not been so "stereotypical Peace Corps". Not everyone has been so friendly or welcoming. Not everything I've experienced here or every project I've tried to work on has had a happy ending. However, I feel so differently about that than I did about my "failed" NYC experience. This time instead of feeling guilty or angry that things haven't worked out the way they were "supposed to", I've learned to embrace that and appreciate things for what they are. I've had experiences here that I never thought I would have had, some good, others not so great, but all of them have taught me something. I'm more grateful for those moments when things do work out and for the positive experiences that take me by surprise.
Currently I find myself "taken by surprise" by a couple of events that I never really would have anticipated getting to plan. One of these is a "Guys Leading Our World Day" for the teenage boys in my village to be able to talk about issues that impact them in an open environment with guidance teachers and PCV volunteers present. Some of my guy PCV friends will be there to help facilitate discussions. In the U.S, I worked mostly with teenage girls so I never really would have expected to be planning an event for just boys in my village, but it is a need here, and I think it will be a rewarding experience. The other event is "Teddy Bear Day". An organization in the U.S. is donating 100 teddy bears that will be given to orphans and vulnerable children in the care of my S&CD office. There will be a teddy bear ceremony at the kgotla , followed by a parade to the S&CD office, where I work. The plan is for the event to also create some awareness that these children need the support and kindness of the community. I'm really excited about both of these events.
I'm trying to remember all of this as I start to think about what my life after Peace Corps will be like. Part of me is terrified to think about that at this point. The other part of me knows it will be ok because of this lesson I've learned here.