Four weeks from today, I’ll be boarding a plane bound for Ulaanbataar, Mongolia. Once I land, I’ll be on that side of the world for the next two years. TWO YEARS! It feels impossibly long on this end. And how do I feel about this finality? Most people like to chime in “Excitement with a capital E?!” but I think what I’m feeling on a day-to-day basis is closer to Fear with a capital F—. Fear about the little things like will the food really suck? how many awkward situations a day will I face? how long will it be before I feel comfortable again? how bad is it going to be using an outhouse everyday?
My greatest fear though is what if I don’t make it? What if the acclimating is so much more difficult than I expected and the waves of homesickness are too much to handle? What if I cannot get a grasp of the language and start to regret my decision? What if all I ever feel and want to do is say, “Screw this. I’m going home!”
I have always been scared about doing Peace Corps for the same reasons everyone else is afraid or unsure. It took me 3-4 years to finally submit an application and when I received my invitation, I frantically wrote down all the reasons why I didn’t think I was ready to go:
- At least five of my best friends are slated to get engaged soon. That’s five prime chances to be in a wedding party.
- I’m just starting to get good at fencing! If I stop now, I’ll have to relearn so much.
- My fencing coach is AWESOME and I need him.
- My soccer team is AWESOME and they need me.
- I want to live on the West Coast before it gets too expensive to live on the West Coast.
- I want to get a job and make decent money for once in my life.
- The shelter dogs need me to adopt them.
- I don’t want to be “late twenties” when I get back from Peace Corps. That feels like my twenties just happened and I took no part in it. (This is weird logic, I understand, but stay with me).
I don’t have any fairy princess, magical ending to this post. I’m still struggling with fear and everything I mentioned in the list above still holds true. But the reason why I haven’t rescinded my acceptance is because I don’t feel like I can start my life without doing this first. The narrative of my life – long-term partners, adopting a dog, moving to the city with plans to stay put, beginning my career, grad school – all of that takes place post-Peace Corps and it always has, since the first day I considered it.
So here I am, collecting as much long underwear and fur hats as my budget allows, preparing for my Peace Corps service to MONGOLIA. Follow me. (Like really, please follow my blog).