From my personal blog, Ramblings:
I started my Peace Corps application exactly a year ago. I’m shocked by 1) how quickly–yet at the same time, how slowly–a year can pass and 2) how many red-taped hoops I’ve had to jump through to get relatively little information about the next stage of my life. The Peace Corps is a program funded and operated by the US federal government, which means that the application process is a bureaucratic nightmare with no interest in maintaining one’s sanity or will to live. Basically, the Peace Corps is the DMV. No, actually the Peace Corps is like going to the DMV blindfolded because you have no idea when it’s your turn. Oh, and you have to go to the dentist in the process. The Peace Corps is equivalent to a blind-dentist-DMV hybrid of bureaucracy, confusion, and lectures about plaque buildup on your rear molars.
When I got nominated in March (“nomination” is more like a general acceptance into the program with an idea of where I’ll be going and what I’ll be doing; what I’m waiting for now is my placement/invitation which is a specific assignment), I was advised by my next flurry of informational packets and webpages that the placement process would require “flexibility and patience.” What they should have said was, “Just take a buncha Xanax for the next six months.” It certainly would’ve helped through the background checks, fingerprinting, personal statements, physical exams, painful dental X-rays, heckling past doctors for medical records, blood tests, jabbing 8 vaccinations in my left shoulder, and my personal favorite: botched tuberculosis tests. This pre-placement process (I like to call it purgatory) totaled hundreds of dollars in medical fees and a stack of documents as thick as a Twilight novel.
(At this point you’re thinking, “Why are you complaining? You chose to do this. You knew what you were getting in to. Just go get a real job.” You’re completely right. But you should know the whole reason I created this blog is to complain and make fun of things. Now go be happy and reasonable somewhere else on the Internet.)
I ended up making five visits to the health center, three trips just for the dentist, a journey to an orthopedic specialist, went to the police department twice, and thought I was done. I sat and waited with my hands folded like the chipper, patient Volunteer I was supposed to be. Just to give you an example of the series of irritating incidents that occurred after I sent in my medical packet and legal evaluations: In late May, the PC placement office sent me an e-mail saying, “Hey, why haven’t you sent in your medical packet? We wanna place you!” Huh? I called the medical office and they said, “Oh, yeah, we got your packet but we just can’t open it yet.” Whaaa? Well then why did I get that e-mail from the placement office? “Oh, the departments don’t actually communicate with each other.” WHAT. Okay…
This continued for three months. Meanwhile, PC is switching to a new online application process so I can’t even get ahold of a recruiter let alone log on to my account to see my status. You can imagine my frustration–unless you are one of the happy, reasonable people mentioned above–when I got a letter today without a shred of information about my placement, but with copies of several medical forms that were “insufficient” that I had to redo. Basically, since they had taken their sweet time with my medical evaluation, I am no closer to placement than I was when I got my nomination in March. I’m at the point where I’ve been working through this for an entire year, and there’s been so much drama–so much more that took place beyond what I’ve mentioned–that this process has become completely exhausting. I guess I am neither flexible nor patient. And most of all, I started wondering if anything is worth all this trouble. Now I know why the Peace Corps acceptance rate is so low; maybe the struggle is just too difficult.
Whenever I’ve had a setback–and there have been many this past year–I try my best (after venting to my equally sassy friends of course) to keep a positive perspective. I told myself that worrying is pointless, because “everything happens for a reason,” blah blah blah. Everything will work out in the end, I just need to persevere, never take my mind off the goal…right? Isn’t that what sports movies teach you to do? I’ve posted those colorful, tacky little motivational quotes on my Pinterest to try to convince myself that life is a wonderful series of filtered, high-contrast images of attractive people laughing and holding hands under catchy, overused idioms. I tried to be an optimist, I tried to be a Stoic: when people asked me if I had heard where and when I was leaving out of pure consideration, I cringed inside knowing full well that this stage of my life was completely out of my control, but cheerily remarked, “I should find out soon!”
But today I blew a fuse. THIS. SUCKS. I hate waiting. I hate having next to no information about something I’m very passionate about, about something I’ve worked toward for years. Taking a second job to get English teaching experience. Hours upon hours of filling out forms and interviewing and paying my own money to get certificates and documents and tests. I hate having to generate lame, vague responses when people ask about my life, which currently has a very blurry future. But instead of cheerfully destroying myself from the inside out, I am giving myself permission to be angry and disappointed and unsure, and all of the above. I came to realize that this culture of optimism we live in isn’t helping anybody. Sure, it’s great to look on the bright side. It’s great to be flexible and patient too. But sometimes, things just suck, and that’s okay.
Once I allowed myself to admit that this is too much, I felt relieved. It changed the way I thought about the future. I still believe that I’m meant to be in PC, and I still want to go more than anything; it’s still on my horizon. But what’s the harm in broadening that horizon, investing in my life NOW too, considering all possibilities so I can avoid wasting my energy agonizing over one path? Who’s to say that anything I do now–before or even instead of the Peace Corps–would make me just as happy and just as productive? I don’t HAVE to do this. I don’t HAVE to feel strung along if I’m living in a way that will maximize benefit to myself and others, PC assignment packet or not. These thoughts gave me control again. I know now that no matter what happens in the placement office during the following months, I’ll still be me. I’ll still have the rest of my life. And that is pretty cool.
I’m moving from Oregon back to Nevada this Monday after my work contract is up. I’ve always viewed the next four months as a sort of awkward limbo during which I’ll need to constantly distract myself from the fact that I’ll be living like I’m in high school again. Now I realize that my obsession with my assignment has distracted me from what this time should be–from what each day is, really, no matter where or how you spend it–an opportunity. There’s no reason to wait, fists clenched, for some entity to make a decision about my next step in life. That’s my job! I’m going to make the most of my time, whether it’s in Eugene or Henderson or Morocco.
I can’t can wait for my Peace Corps service. Isn’t that flexibility at its finest? Maybe that’s what they wanted me to learn all along.