Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Bracing for Re-Entry

There must be the people that grin and bear it, the ones who never make it to the comfort zone, the ones who spend their entire time miserable and then gleefully countdown the days. The Peace Corps isn’t for everybody certainly, but there’s got to be a few who don’t fit and against all odds make it through anyway. They’re the people who can compartmentalize for two-years-plus and head back to America with the joy and relief of a fish who’s been flopping around on land feels as it finally heads back into the water. But for me, and for many others I assume, I feel myself contorting into crash position waiting to collide back with America.

They warn us about this from the beginning; it almost seems like a recruiting slogan: adjusting to life in the developing world isn’t nearly as difficult as re-adjusting to life in The States once you’re done. It makes sense too. It’s easier to slow down than it is to speed up. When I try and imagine what life will be like when I get back, I picture myself sitting on the sofa quietly, trying to get a grip on all the action going on around me.

I find myself growing increasingly anxious about going back to The States for any number of reasons. For example, I’m worried about being lonely. It’s funny because coming into the Peace Corps, I was worried about being alone. And now that I’m going back, I apparently have the same fear. I’m comfortable in my life here. Despite geographic distance, Peace Corps Volunteers are a tightly knit group, and the relationships tend to be emotionally intimate. Going back to The States, where I’ve had a distant, intermittent relationship with most people for the last 2 years, that closeness won't be there--at least not at first. Sure there are people excited to see me, but none who have gone through a common experience. And that just feels lonely.

At the same time I’m worried about finding a (temporary) job, getting into school, buying Christmas presents, keeping a budget, will my iPhone still work?, where is the cat going to live?, when in the hell am I going to move all my crap out of my house here?, etc.

But I presume, as with many other emotions, the anxiety before the storm is worse than the storm itself. Just as the weeks leading up to my Peace Corps departure were full of apprehension and nerves, these last few weeks before my return home are the same.

And adding to that symmetry is facing the crucible by myself.

On move-in day, we were dumped off at our sites, and the next month was spent learning to be alone. And the hardest part of learning to be alone is you have to do it by yourself.

Now things are going in the other direction. Now there's the apprehension of being around people again. And the hardest part about bracing for all of this is, once again, it's a DIY project.

But I guess it’s like I told the 83s: You gotta close your eyes and hold your nose and jump. Soon enough you’ll hit the water. Swim.

I hope you’re well.

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