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2015: The Year Ahead

Tomorrow is always fresh, with no mistakes in it yet.

– Anne of Green Gables

I love the New Year. It’s a perfect chance to reflect on the past and create a fresh future. 2014 is a wrap and 2015 is spread wide open with infinite possibilities.

Two of my favorite resources for reviewing and planning are Chris Guillebeau’s Annual Review and Susannah Conway’s Unravelling the Year Ahead. Last month I also took Susannah Conway’s Find Your Word mini-course since I had a lot of trouble coming up with a word!

I haven’t had as much time as I’d like to reflect on my chosen word and how I’ll bring that into the new year and all the changes this year will bring, but I did manage to decide on one.

My word for 2015 is Nourish.

What’s your word?

Twenty-Three/Twenty-Four

This past weekend, I made my last rent payment. I’m exactly month out from leaving Bahir Dar and then Ethiopia. For good. Things are winding down here and this is my penultimate Peace Corps update post.

Future of this Blog

I’ve had my blog for three and a half years now, long before it was ever a “Peace Corps” blog, and I intend to keep it. It may transform into a travel blog for awhile but it’s still my blog and I intend to continue using it. So follow along if you wish… I’ll still be here.

COS Trip

This past month, this trip got very real. We bought plane tickets out of Ethiopia. We booked hotels in India. We got Indian visas. This big trip is so close.

We arrive in India before dawn on Christmas Eve . It will be my third Christmas away, but my first with my fiance! Then after three weeks in India and two weeks in Thailand before Myanmar, we’ll continue our travels according to the plan we decided on months ago. I’ll be landing back in the States in less than 5 months, which is 30 months after leaving in September 2012. It’s weird to think about it like that!

Favorite Blog Posts

Some of my favorite blog posts over my 2 years (in reverse chronological order):

More Thoughts from Ethiopia

When I joined the Peace Corps, I knew it would be hard. Really hard. I knew I would not change the world. Some days I hate this place and can’t wait to be anywhere else. Other days are better. I know that someday I will appreciate it, embrace it and maybe even love it.

But in the meantime, I think about how this experience, these past two years in a developing country, has made me a better person. It certainly has made me a better American. I think America is the most magical place in the world and have never been more proud to call it my home. It has also made me see the flaws we, as Americans, have. It has made me realize what a privilege it is to grow up a white, American native English-speaker. It made me realize the freedoms we have that so many Americans take for granted: the privilege of an education, of healthcare, of safety. The freedom of holding an American passport.

This experience has also made me a feminist. It has made me grateful for the hundreds of years of women before me, especially my mother and her mother, who believed the world could and would be a better place for their daughters. I believe that women should be educated and that educating women creates a better world for all involved. I believe that woman have the right to choose who they marry. I believe that woman should be allowed input on family planning. I believe that women are not stupid or helpless and we should stop telling them that.

It has made me political. It has shown me how amazing the political freedom we have in America really is, despite all the flaws. It has made me realize how insignificant an individual is and how I really respect those who care about those who cannot care for themselves. I respect those who believe the poor have potential and can rise above it. It has given me respect for those who believe in humanity over money, in humanity over political alliance and in humanity even if it can’t give anything in return.

It has made me give a crap about the world outside my own circle of influence. It made me realize that there is a greater world beyond how many friends “like” your Facebook posts and how many retweets you get on Twitter. That there is so much more to worry about than the fact a Starbucks coffee went up a whole thirty cents. Especially when that Starbucks coffee is the daily wage of a highly paid office worker in Ethiopia. It has made me realize how small and insignificant my life was when there is a whole world

I’ve noticed I talk a lot about myself and what this experience has done for me, but I think that’s important for anyone considering joining the Peace Corps. Peace Corps is not just a job in a foreign land. It’s a job that puts you right into the heart of poverty, in distressed nations where things are different from life back home. It puts you into situations that will break your heart and radically shift your perspective on the world. The Peace Corps experience will change those who choose to accept it.

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” ― Leo Tolstoy

I hope I always remember how I felt now, living in the midst of it. I hope that pay raises and comfortable living never turn me back into the person I was, comfortable in my apathy. I hope I never forget what Ethiopia has taught me–both good and bad–when I am far beyond it looking back.

Grow

give freely love openly practice gratitude
“What’s that? A proverb?” my habesha friend asked last week, after spotting the above phrase on my wall when he stopped by to translate something for me.

I laughed. “Something like that.”

Give freely, love openly, practice gratitude.

I wrote these words about five months ago in an unfinished post, a post that had some of the most raw and open words I’ve ever written. After rediscovering them last week, I realized that these are the words that describe how I want to live the next year of my life.

These words hang on my wall, right next to my bedroom door. The intention is sprinkled throughout my 2013 planning—my goals, my hopes, my dreams and my fears. My career and location are exactly where I need to be right now, but my soul still yearns to grow.

“Things do not change; we change.” – Henry David Thoreau

Wanderer

hold me fast, hold me fast
cause I’m a hopeless wanderer
and I will learn, I will learn
to love the skies I’m under
mumford & sons

Five years ago, I graduated from university. Since then I’ve held a handful of different jobs, lived in three countries and had a smattering of adventures that have completely reshaped and redefined the girl I was then: the girl who wasn’t afraid to dream big, but was afraid of everything else.

In those five years…
I took the the biggest road trip of my life, spanning ten states and one province.
I moved to a city where I had no friends, no job and no place to live.
I spent over 50 hours on a train… one way.
I went dogsledding in the coldest place I’ve ever been.
I saw the Aurora Borealis under the winter sky.
I watched the sun rise over the Grand Canyon.
I rappelled down waterfalls in Costa Rica.
I jumped out of an airplane.
I started and fell in love with running.
I have met so many amazing people who have inspired me in more ways than I can count.

Now I’m a Peace Corps volunteer.

It’s hard to imagine that this will be one of the most epic adventures I’ve ever undertaken, yet I know that it will be. My life has already changed in more profound ways than I can comprehend and will continue to transform in ways I can’t yet imagine.

I recently found a five year plan I had to draw up for one of my university courses. The three things on my plan? Peace Corps, corporate job and promotion. It’s funny to see that I pretty much followed my plan… only backwards. As much as I might want to deny the path I’ve taken, never imagining myself where I am today, the truth is that this is exactly where I thought I’d be at some point.

It hasn’t been an easy path. At times, it’s been downright scary. As a fellow PCV put it, “I was going to be scared to death, but I was going to do it anyway.” Now, sitting here in my small home on the Ethiopian highlands, I feel fulfilled and at peace. I feel as though I’ve located the piece of myself I buried deep inside me. These past five years have been good to the adventurer and the wanderer in me.

Here’s to the next five.