It's important to me that I establish the following as an undisputed fact before I begin: Children's Books are not just silly stories, they are life lessons wrapped in magic layers of adventure and escapism. They are one of my greatest passions, hobbies, and the objects to which I have devoted more time, and money than travel, clothing, or anything else I profess to love. The closest people to me buy me Children's Books as gifts, and I have three bookshelves dedicated to young adult literature, not to mention picture books. It is extremely important for me to establish this because it might explain why I was so troubled by a recent moment in my life.
A couple months ago, sitting on a couch with three children, I burst into tears while reading "Oh, The Places You'll Go!" out loud. It's okay. You can laugh. I did.Why was I crying? Well, that Waiting Place that he warns about? That "most useless place"? I saw myself there. Right in between the skier waiting for the snow to snow, and the child waiting for the pot to boil, there I sat with my day planner. There are many things I can tolerate in life, the discovery that I had fallen victim to an evil that Dr. Seuss had warned me of? I can't tolerate that.
Last year, January 2013, a few days before I received my diploma, I submitted my application to the Peace Corps. Now, 14 months later, here I sit, flipping through unfilled pages, wondering if I'll hear from someone soon. Most of the time, it feels like waiting for the snow to snow. And so, for the last year, I've seen myself as mentally occupying that waiting place, and feeling sorry for myself. I've avoided questions, avoided telling people, avoided giving more than the basic, sarcastic, vague answers to all who ask me what I've been doing with my life. Keeping my mind filled with excuses. Then, a few days ago, when I once again shook my head sadly towards someone asking me if I had heard back from the Peace Corps, they smiled and replied: "Well, at least now they can see how dedicated you are!"
I don't know why, but that's how it clicked. I'm not stuck in that Waiting Place. I'm not just sitting there slowly turning into another funny doodle of a scary and slightly depressing Dr. Seuss allegory; I'm moving forward slowly, and I'm learning how much I really want to travel, to help, to meet new people, to teach. I need to stop being scared to tell people I've applied to the Peace Corps, fearing that they'll tell me about their friend who did the whole thing in a couple months. I need to realize that I should be proud, I'm working two jobs I enjoy, I'm living my life. I'm not JUST waiting for the phone to ring or the snow to snow. I'm working, playing, running, and still reading children's books whenever I get a chance. Sure I'm waiting, but I'm just passing through. I wont be there forever.
So here are questions I've been avoiding. And my best attempts to answer them.
On average? Nine months. I'm sure you know someone who did the whole process in about that amount of time, maybe less. But sadly, my application is taking a little longer.
At first I was on a regular track. I applied in January 2013, Interviewed with a recruiter in March 2013, she nominated me for candidacy in April 2013, and I got a Medical Kit and Legal Kit to fill out by May 2013. And thats where I hit a snag. Most people send in their medical history and three to four months later a nurse tells them they have been Medically Pre-Cleared. (Which means barring a weird fluke on the final physical, you're good to go). But as soon as my medical history was received they requested aout 10 more pages and a questionaire to filled by my doctor. You see, I don't think this is a great place to elaborate, but I will say, most people hit difficulties in their lives, mine happen to be clearly marked out in my medical history. The Peace Corps felt that they needed more information before sending me to any countries where access to medicine and medical aid might be limited. My doctor sent in her analysis of the situation, I waited, and then the Government shut down.
When the shutdown ended I was contacted by a nurse who wanted my own personal account of my medical history. This is common for people with less perfect medical history, they want to give you a chance to explain your past and why issues you may have faced will not trouble your time in the Peace Corps, where you may be under greater stress. I wrote her a painfully detailed account of my medical past in November 2013, and in February 2014 I was medically pre-cleared. Then they moved on to legal. That went through in March 2014, and now my file has been sent to a placement officer. This officer will look at my file, ask me more questions, and then determine if they want to extend a specific invitation with a specific departure date.
So where will you go?
I had the option of narrowing down the countries I would be willing to go to. I didn't. I have two main reasons I applied to the Peace Corps: to learn about a new culture, and to help people. I can do that in any country they may send me to.But you speak French and Arabic. Wont you go to Africa or the Middle East?
Maybe. I'd love to be able to use my existing language knowledge. But I don't mind learning a new language. Who knows, maybe the countries that are available in the places with these languages do not fit a medical requirement that the nurse who read my file gave me. It's very possible that upon reading my file she placed a hold on countries where specific aspects of medical treatment were too limited. I won't know unless I get an invitation. What I do know is that any choice about countries I can make right now would be based on knowledge much more limited than that of the officers who are placing me.
What will you do?
I'd love to teach. I have experience teaching. I also have experience in nature. Working with children. Program planning. Business management. They will put me where I am most qualified. I can meet people doing anything. And if I'm unsure as to the exact path I wish to take in life, I might as well see what they decide I'm best at. I have experience doing things I love. They'll decide based on experience. I can't lose.
Arent most people nominated to specific programs?
Yes, but not always. They needed more information before placing me.
So you're in basically?
No. Sadly. The placement officer can tell me that I'm not qualified for any programs. But thats why this whole journey is and has been important. Because I didn't just wait around, I volunteered, I kept working, I took up a new job working with kids. I'm still waiting, but I'm learning from the wait. And I'm no longer afraid to admit I'm nervous. Because I want this. Enough to keep a toe in Dr. Seuss scary waiting place, and enough to know that if I don't get it i have a clearer sense of what I want in life.