Thursday, February 14, 2013

Because I Can't End on a Sad Note

Why I Joined the Peace Corps
(written on December 1, 2012, my 24th birthday)

It started at 11 years old when I joined a girls leadership and service organization called Rainbow Girls and pledged my life to Love and Service.

As I grew up, I watched some towers fall, thousands of people die, and family members and friends went off to fight in wars. I remember being scared of cultures I knew nothing about, and wondering how other people could hate Americans so much.

Through Rainbow Girls and Habitat for Humanity mission trips, I learned how fulfilling it is to serve others and that I really can make a difference.

With my theatre degrees I learned how to organize, mobilize, and manage projects. I learned how to collaborate with others. I gained enough self-confidence to believe I might actually have what it takes to be a Volunteer.

I get asked, 'Why did you join the Peace Corps?' very regularly. My answer is always, 'It just got to the point where I felt, how could I not?' The questioner typically nods and pretends to understand, and I quickly change the subject. I have been preparing for this my entire life. From my camping trips at 6 months old to my swimming lessons to my kayaking and hiking trips. From my Spanish, Social Studies, English, Theatre, Drafting, and Art classes to my leadership and management experiences onstage and in Rainbow Girls. It just took me a long time to realize how all the pieces go together.

I joined because I wanted a global perspective. Because I wanted to serve. Because I wanted to learn another language and culture. Because Gandhi said, 'Be the change, ' Oprah said, 'Use your life to serve the world, ' and Obama said, 'Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we have been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.' Because I have had friends and family members serve in wars fueled by greed, hatred, and ignorance. Because I have this strong belief that if we actually knew people from these other countries, really knew them as friends and family members, and understood their culture and customs, and if they knew and understood us right back, we wouldn't want to kill each other anymore. We wouldn't let our governments kill each other anymore.

I joined because Emerson told me, 'Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail,' the Bible tells me, 'Serve one another in Love,' (Galatians 5:13), and Leonardo da Vinci told me, 'People of accomplishment rarely sit back and let things happen to them. They go out and happen to things.'

I joined because the media is full of Snookie and Kim Kardashian, who are apparently not the same person. I joined because when I told some of my friends that I was going to somewhere in South America, they still think I am in South Africa. I joined because an actress needed a gluten free, sugar free, low fat cupcake with sprinkles and was upset that it did not taste good. I joined because the door on the set wouldn't stay closed and that was apparently the end of the world.

I joined because I didn't know how I was going to pay off my college loans and because I get free health care. Because I wanted the 'Peace Corps bump' on my resume and future job applications. I joined because it was bound to be full of good-hearted, educated, attractive twenty-something gentlemen. I joined because I wanted to know if I was tough enough to stick it out. Because it was a way to get out of Nebraska. Because I had never left the country before. Because I am single and childless. Because it is not what all of my friends are doing. I joined so that I would have great stories to tell for the rest of my life.

I joined because women are not equal, throwing money at problems does not fix them, and because serving helps me cope with 'white man's guilt'. I joined because working a 'normal person' job is terrible. I joined because I love camping and the outdoors. I joined to get in shape. I joined to avoid being a real world adult and to get a tan. I joined to read by candlelight and have puma stories. I joined to see if I could go it alone. I joined to make a difference. I joined to give myself 27 more months to figure out the rest of my life. I joined because I want to serve my country but would be terrible at taking orders and doing push ups. I joined because I grew up with Harry Potter, Frodo, Jack Sparrow, and Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy, and I wanted my own epic adventure. I joined because I had heard care package cookies taste the best.

I joined Peace Corps for every reason. I joined because it is who I am.

One more quote, just for kicks:
'Peace is a daily, a weekly, a monthly process, gradually changing opinions, slowly eroding old barriers, quietly building new structures. And however undramatic the pursuit of peace, that pursuit must go on.' -Pres. John F. Kennedy

Yea, I joined because Kennedy said that.

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