Today is the day that my dream comes true.
I am waiting in an airport, nondescript and warmer than is comfortable, populated by impatient travelers and stiff, blue leather benches. On the other side of the door is the first leg of a long journey to the other side of the world. It is by no means the first, but it is a significant step to me becoming a Peace Corps Volunteer.
I have dreamt of this moment for a very long time. I have anticipated and feared it, imagining what I would feel in the packing and re-packing (and re-packing the re-packing) of my life, the first discussions with my fellow volunteers, and the stale, canned air of the plane that would take me to wherever I would serve.
It is so much more than I expected. After a hurried day in Philadelphia; seeing American history, introducing myself to 38 incredible strangers giving two years of their lives to be a part of this dream, talking about what it means to be a member of this organization and this project of building “world peace and friendship.” Dreams pale in comparison to the harsh and bright lights of the moment it happens.
There was a moment in our training we applauded and cheered, welcoming each other into a Philly hotel’s basement conference room, but also signifying the shift from being only a Peace Corps Invitee to a Volunteer in Training. I looked around me and watched it dawn on everyone’s faces – this thing we have talked about with family and friends and random strangers in taxis and coffee shops has become real. No more waiting for something to happen. The time is now.
As the day drew on, I listened to the people around me. Every one has different motivations for joining the Service, different goals. But we all shared the same anxieties and ambitions – we feared being ineffective volunteers, poor adopters of the language and the culture. We all feared the squat toilet and the rarity of showers. But we also were eager to begin building relationships with our communities and learn about the culture of a place few of us knew about before we were invited to move there for 27 months. It felt good to not feel alone. It felt good to be embraced by strangers who I know will be irreplaceable in the short history of my life.
I love the people around me. I can’t explain how incredible it feels not to have to qualify the importance of service. I am surrounded by a group of individuals who have come together to be a part of something greater – not only to join the legacy of Peace Corps and its thousands of members of service, but also the ability to carve out our own space in that legacy. That we are representing all that is best of America – the belief in community, in generosity, and that a group of determined people can come together to build something that will stand the test of time.
I could not do this without the support of my family and friends, who have faith in me, know me, and trust me to leave them for so long. I am lucky to have so many people in my life that support my crazy dreams.
Everyone around me understands that without question. It inspires me and excites me to be one of them. I am honored to join their ranks, and the ranks of so many before me who have idealistically ventured out into the world to be a part of something bigger than ourselves.
I am a Peace Corps Volunteer, and this is the beginning of my journey.