When a person applies for Peace Corps, one of the steps is to prepare yourself to be away from home for 27 months. Most people realize the experience is going to be hard and have prepared themselves in some way.
You prepare yourself for the lack of the water, the lack of electricity, the lack of native English speakers, the lack of familiar foods, the lack of ease the first world brings to your life… and you prepare yourself for the fact that you’re missing weddings, births, promotions, cross country moves and even deaths.
But sometimes you’re unprepared for how difficult things can really be in your new home:
to stare poverty in the face every day and know there is nothing you can do about it,
to feel guilt or anxiety about how you’ve been given when others have received so little,
to have an unexpected funeral for someone who died far too young of something completely preventable,
to feel abandoned when your compound family gets divorced and someone moves out,
to move on when your friends get promotions and move,
to feel the loss of the person you were,
to cope with very few people back home understanding your experience.
No one tells you Peace Corps will be easy, but most people think about how hard it is leaving everything behind… but beyond the mere physical hardship, it’s hard emotionally living it every day.
“Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.”
― Mary Oliver
Peace Corps is powerful, at times uncomfortable and it changes your life. For all the beautiful experiences and gifts you’ll receive during your times as a PCV, there’s the other side of that, Mary Oliver’s metaphorical “box full of darkness” of sadness, tragedy, loss and change. But it is still a gift, in it’s own way, and if you properly unwrap and handle it, your life will never be the same again.