Tag Archives: Planning

Stop Limiting Your Life

With the enormity of this move, comes a lot of introspection for me. I keep thinking of how long two years is and how much change comes in those years. I feel so different than the person I was two years ago. Around that time, I was 19, just becoming a manager at the movie theater (working more than 40 hours a week), had just gotten a part time job as a teacher’s assistant, was taking 20 credits, renting out the top floor of an amazing house (best roommate situation that I’ve ever had), trying to apply to grad school and decide what I for sure wanted to pursue in my life, and deciding to leave the place that I had made my home (Olympia). I was anxious and stressed all the time, and feeling so unsure of what I wanted, which was extremely out of character for me. I had gained the 40 pounds that I had lost back and then some. I was feeling uncomfortable in most aspects of my life and it was really time for a change, but I wasn’t sure I was ready for it. I didn’t think that I could leave everything I knew behind and go to a place that I knew nothing about or no one around me. But when I made the decision to pursue the Peace Corps, I knew I had to make that leap and live completely on my own.

Since then, I have moved to a new state for the first time, lived with people I had never met before, navigated a city I had only been to once before, took my first graduate school classes, received grades for the first time in two years, took tests for the first time in two years, learned to not take myself or those around me so seriously, learned how to battle my depression and homesickness, made new and amazing friends, turned 21, had major oral surgery, and handled a lot of personal stuff relatively well. My biggest lesson though, was that you can’t control everything in your life. Your family goes through shit that you can’t always help them with, you get a bad teacher and lose your 4.0, you don’t jive well with your co-workers, but still have to make it work. You can’t plan life and you can’t control it. It just happens. You have to do the best you can with the cards you’re dealt and not stress because your life hasn’t gone exactly how you think it should or you haven’t changed in the exact ways you thought you would. You really never know what is going to be a catalyst for change in your life. It could be something as simple as a bike ride to the farmers market, or as profound as an amazing professor. You just have to be open to every experience and stop trying to control it. Controlling life just limits it.

There are so many events in my life that have changed me and molded me into who I am today and so many more to come. I wouldn’t be as sure as I am about this decision today if I hadn’t fallen into depression in Montana and realized that I could pull myself out. I wouldn’t be as independent and self-sufficient as I am if it weren’t for my best friend and mom who have so much belief in me and are there when I really need them, but also know what situations I need to handle on my own (sometimes before I know it). I wouldn’t have gotten into grad school by twenty if it weren’t for my brother and sisters who were so convinced I could succeed in college that they helped me test into it at fourteen. The people around me and the situations that I’ve been in have drastically and dramatically changed my life forever. I am constantly changing and evolving and I don’t want that to ever stop. I have no doubt that the Peace Corps will lead to even more dramatic change in my life, but I can’t wait for it! I can’t wait to see what my life looks like and what my values are after this experience. Like many people say, this is going to be a life changing experience. I’m not afraid of change, I’m euphoric for it.

The things that I currently find challenging are the outside expectations of what my life should look like at the end of my service, or the changes I should go through. It seems like I’ve hit that spot in life where society expects me to start thinking of settling down. Yes, I’m only twenty-one, but I’ve already had people start asking me when I’m going to get married. It isn’t anyone close to me, they all know that that is barely on my radar, but just the other day, I had a client who I’ve known for probably close to six or seven years ask if I was going to get married right after my service. How the hell do I know? But this question is not just coming from the outside, I’m thinking it too (I said it was barely on my radar, OK? Not non-existent.) I have a really strong desire to do more than one Peace Corps service for multiple reasons, one of which is that I feel that I will want to settle down when I return. Whether that is settling into a career or with another person, I don’t know, but I don’t think I’ll want to do something else like the Peace Corps after being back in the states for a few years (Unless something similar to the Peace Corps ends up being my career). So I have been thinking a lot about whether I even want to get married and have kids or what I think my life will look like in the future. But what is the point in wondering about all of these things that I can’t control. So what if I don’t get married and have kids, or so what if I have a giant wedding and pop out 20 of the little buggers? It doesn’t really matter right now because I am absolutely not in a place to do it. I could try to control what my future looks like, but there are way too many variables. I really can’t predict what is to come, so I have to just let life take me down all the intricate paths it has in store for me. Like Queen Elsa says, “Let it go!” Or as the Beatles said, “Let it be.” Either way, the message is the same, stop being a control freak.

The Woes of Preparation

Most people know that I love planning. If I could plan everything out a year in advance, I probably would. It’s really only been in the past year that I’ve calmed down on the planning front. I used to have to plan everything out because I was doing so much, but when I moved to Montana, I vowed to work less and consequently plan less. I didn’t need to have every second planned out because I didn’t have quite as many responsibilities. My responsibilities shifted from making sure that I arrived to my overbooked life, to making sure I got the twenty-five million hours of homework done. Homework can be done at one in the morning and a paper can be written the night before its due, but you generally can’t show up to a shift at three in the morning. I also knew when I got to Montana that my end goal was the Peace Corps and I was definitely going to have to give up planning, and expectations, and toilets, and hot water, and electricity, and heat, and many other things we take for granted in the U.S. That’s a whole other post though, so back to the point. I was and am doing better about being flexible, but my planning nature does scream out for acknowledgement still. Suffice it to say, I’ve been planning for Botswana since October, five months before I got my invitation, and it’s a good thing I have. There is a lot that goes into planning to be in a foreign country with who knows what kind of communication methods and living conditions. My packing list alone has been a five month process and honestly that’s been the biggest focus of the whole process. How do you know what to pack for 2 years in 2 50-pound bags and two small carry-on bags? I’m sure I will write another blog post about what I did decide to pack, but for now this one is simply about the process.

When I started to think about what my life is going to look like half way around the world, I realized that the way I live now is vastly different than what’s to come. I doubt that I will be coming home after a long day’s work to an insulated house with air conditioning and ice cream. No, I’ll probably be going home to a small uninsulated house with no freezer and maybe a little unreliable electricity, but I won’t know that until after I am in country. So how do you plan what to pack when you don’t even know if you’re going to have electricity or running water? Or when you expect that it’s going to be hot all the time (it’s Africa, right? Isn’t it always hot there?), only to learn that they actually have a very chilling winter six months of the year. Or at least I think they do, but I’m not positive because I’m not there yet, I’ve heard multiple different stories that contradict each other. So really I’m just making educated guesses. Another complication to this whole process is being a poor college student who has lived from paycheck to three days after getting my paycheck for over 3 years. How do I manage to scrounge up the over $1000 I need for everything I’m bringing to my service, not to mention the hundreds of dollars spent on medical clearances, and the $6000 in credit card debt that I’ve acquired from paying for over a thousand dollars in repairs for my car, $2000 on oral surgery, and $3000 on a tonsillectomy while being a poor college student living from paycheck to three days after my paycheck?

Luckily, I have an amazing family who fully support me and this adventure I am going on. I wouldn’t be able to do this without my mom and brothers. My mom and my brother Ivan figured out a way they could afford to pay off my credit card debt for me. I’m working for them for the summer in exchange for a debt free standing when I leave for the Peace Corps. Thankfully, my brother Ivan and his wife Amanda, did an amazing job on their flip and were able to sell their house and acquire a little extra money to help pay off my debts. Now getting the money to pay for everything else was the main focus. In order to get that money, I really needed another job, but working 8:30-5 every weekday and living an hour away from your work doesn’t leave a lot of time for a second job. I also didn’t want my whole summer to be about work. I’m about to move to Africa for two years, after all. But I needed something. So with the connections of my other brother and sister-in-law, Nick and Jenny, I was able to find a subbing position for a paper route. Now working a paper route is one of the worst jobs ever, especially when working from 8:30-5 as well. I would get up at midnight, drive in to pick up the papers, leave after doing the inserts and checking on route changes around 2:30 am, drive the route until about 6am, drive to mom’s work and arrive around 6:30, take a nap until 8:15, work from 8:30-5 and then get home around 6 to try to sleep until midnight. It was exhausting and frustrating, but it was a little extra money and I made some pretty cool friends.

Between trying to decide what exact items I needed and how cheap I could get them, it’s been a very time-consuming and stressful process. There have been countless e-mail and text streams between my awesome brother Nick and me. “Hey, I think this sleeping bag looks better. Oh wait, actually you should go with this one.” “Wait, Nick, what about this one?” I seriously would not be able to do this without my brothers. Luckily, I am almost done with the process. I have made all of my orders but one and have gotten some pretty neat discounts for being a PCV (Peace Corps Volunteer). I’ve almost made my money stretch far enough as well. I only need about a hundred dollars or so to cover any social life I may want over the summer (so no heavy drinking nights, guys). Just a couple days of donating plasma (hopefully I’m not anemic this time) and I’ll have the money I need. Now I just have to figure out how to pack all of this stuff.