A Peace Corps Story Beginning

My Peace Corps story begins 3 years ago when I applied to serve for the first time.

With a 21 year-old, white, privileged sense of the world, I decided that joining the Peace Corps just made the most “sense” for my life trajectory- which at the time, I envisioned as a straight line. Everything I had wanted to do at the point, I had done, so I knew that this would be the same.

I had studied International Affairs, did well in school, had studied abroad in Spain, was more or less conversational in Spanish , had a background in volunteering, and so obviously I was a perfect candidate for the Peace Corps. It would be the perfect stepping stone to my perfect timeline I had created for my perfect life plan.

A would lead to B which would lead to C- because isn’t that how life is suppose to work?

As a senior in college at the University of Colorado at Boulder, under the old application process, I had been nominated to serve in Mozambique. I had been told by everyone I had talked to- from my recruiter to previous PCVs-that with a nomination I was essentially in… the rest of the steps were formalities. As long as I could pass legal, medical and dental clearance, I would be invited to serve somewhere in the world. So I planned for exactly that- planned that life would go along with my plan.

So I decorated my graduation cap with a map of the world, indicating my next stop would be the African continent. My graduation party was Peace Corps themed, and I had decided to forgo finding a “real” job to instead work a summer job as a pool manager, allowing myself time to prepare for what I thought would be an end-of-summer departure. And so I anxiously waited for my invitation to come to my inbox.

Instead, I received a short, automated email telling me that due to the competitive application process, I would not be invited to serve at this time, and that I should talk to my recruiter and consider reapplying.

Cringe-worthy, I know.

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What this caption should have said… Celebrate now before your world comes crumbling down around you! (Also! Does anyone recognize another fellow Peace Corps Volunteer in this pic?)
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So turns out… my Next Stop would not be a glittery African continent… though Lauren is still “Living the Dream” in Steamboat #whatabrat
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Just because I think this story needs some comic relief. #NewGirl

So as a 22 year-old, recent college grad, I went from having the next 2.5 years of my life planned out to having no plan at all- not a single idea where I would go or what I would do. No Plan B pill for this change of plans.

As you can imagine, much like a fish out of water, I floundered.

And so for the next year and half I would flounder from opportunity to opportunity, looking for my purpose somewhere in the static. I floundered to Peru where I worked with an indigenous rights NGO but suffered from parasites, amoebic dysentery and a quickly draining bank account. I then floundered back home when my best friend was nearly killed in a car accident. I then floundered for five months as I spammed company after company with my resume and application. Which then eventually led me to floundering into a job I never imagined myself doing at a company I never imagined working at.

I cried a lot. Prayed a lot. Felt sorry for myself… a lot.

My hopeful, optimistic, idealistic attitude was being tested by the Universe. I needed to be taught a lesson. A hard one. And oh did I feel it. I was growing and it hurt.

I needed to learn that life often did not abide by our simple-minded, narrow-sighted, earthly ways of doing things, but it always fell into plan. There was always something to learn, something to gain, something to grow. Like an etch-a-sketch that had once displayed an intricately, hand-drawn map of the vision of my life, with one fall swoop, my map had been shaken up and erased. I was left without direction or purpose.

But the beautiful thing about that is that is exactly what needed to happen. I needed to learn that sometimes things needed to be hard. I needed to learn that gratefulness was a choice, needed to learn that I had the power to wake up everyday, while waging a war against myself, and still choose to say, “Thank you.” I also needed to learn, though, that sometimes things could be simple and easy.  I could be a little fish that swam with the stream. I did not always have to try to control the forces around me, the water pulling me back. I had to learn to embrace everything that came to me, recognizing it as an opportunity I could choose to seize or dismiss. I always had a choice.

This revelation was incredibly empowering. Though I could not always control what happened to me, I could always choose how I reacted to it.

As I learned these lessons, as I found gratefulness in the difficulty and for the discomfort, as I embraced the uncertainty, I suddenly was able to see the light of the Universe bringing me home, back into myself. I began finding myself excited to go to work. I began to find purpose again, even if the purpose looked different than what I had imagined it before. And with this new sense of self, and as my life began to find its equilibrium, I began to open up again to the idea of serving in the Peace Corps.

But this time was different. This time I did not apply because I thought it was something I should do, nor because I saw it as a means to an end. I applied to serve because I wanted to. There was no deeper analysis. There was no pre-planning of what life would look for me before, during or after. No trying to control the what-ifs and manage the Unknown. It was that easy and that simple.

And now 3 years since I first applied, I am beyond excited to announce that I am now preparing to depart in August to serve as a Youth Development Volunteer in the Dominican Republic for the next 27 months.

Looking back, I see how much more prepared I am- physically, mentally and spiritually- to serve as a 24-year old whose world was shaken up and floundered her way back into herself than the 22 year-old who had never really been told no.

And so now I wake up everyday and I say, Thank you. Thank you, God, Thank you, Universe, for not agreeing to my plan.

I look forward to sharing my story, and the stories of others, with you all as I embark on this grand adventure. Thank you for doing this with me. And a very special shout out to my Mom and Dad who were my refuge when the world was hard for the past 24 years of life. You da best.

Hablemos pronto,

Jordan

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