Archive for April, 2011

A certain kind of crazy

When I tell people  that I have signed up for a 27 month commitment in a developing country with the Peace Corps, I find their reactions pretty amusing. I am not really talking about my close friends here, or the people that know me well; this is more of the professor/acquaintance/mom’s coworker type of person.  They usually spit out a variation or combination of one of these responses: “WOW!” or “That is a LONG time!” or “Is that safe?” or “Can you handle that?” or even “Uh… are you sure that is what you want to do?”. Sometimes, the reaction inside of my head (AKA not out loud) goes something like this, in order of the reactions above:

“Ouch, that hurt my ear.”

“No kidding, I didn’t realize that.” (sarcasm, obviously)

“No not at all, I like to live on the edge of DANGER!” (again, heavy on the sarcasm)

“I sure hope so!”

and “YES!”

Now, let me be clear: I am not judging any of these responses. They are perfectly understandable reactions for most people; I am just not most people. Therefore, when it comes explaining the inner-workings of my brain, I get a little frustrated, which clearly leads to internal sarcasm and defensiveness. But, in an effort of good faith, I will attempt to explain why I chose to commit to Peace Corps service.

I love, and I mean LOVE social justice. And I realize that sounds a little strange. But ask any of my friends who I have pestered with my thoughts and viewpoints on the subject: it is one of my greatest passions, and it is also something that deeply affects me on an emotional level. I get angry or upset when I see injustice, and I have an internal pull to do something about it that I just can’t explain. I also think that there is no better feeling than knowing that you have made a positive impact on someone’s life, big or small, because you spoke up or took action.

I also love culture, experiences, and diversity. What I mean is that I love the things that make us different from each other, that make people and society interesting. Fly to India by myself for a four month program even though I had never left the country except for Canada and Mexico? Why not. Try some Arabic food? Sure. Talk to people of different races, ethnicities, religious beliefs, or nationalities and learn their stories? I would love to. Listen to music in languages I don’t understand? Absolutely. I relish any opportunity to learn about people or culture, and I don’t care if that makes me some kind of dork.

Finally, I like a challenge.  I like to see change after working hard on something. I’m a little bit obsessive, and I can also be pretty motivated when I find something I care about.

So for me, joining the Peace Corps is one of the most exciting opportunities I will ever get. Wouldn’t you think so if you thought like me? I am definitely still very nervous, but I also can’t wait to get started. Why wouldn’t I want to sign up for an experience that will allow me to exercise social justice, live in a foreign culture, learn about people, share my experience, and help me to make some change in the world (even if its only a little bit)? I understand that it will be difficult and challenging, but I am ready for that. I get that there will be times where I am frustrated, or I want to give up, but I know that I will remember the benefits far outweigh those temporary emotions. And I expect that in the 27 months I am away from friends and family, I will miss them terribly, but I also know that they will be there when I return, and that 27 months is but a small blip in the span of our lives.

So, after all of the comments in my head, how to I actually respond to these people’s reactions? I simply say “Well, I guess it just takes a certain kind of crazy”.