An optional form

Peace Corps / Monday, May 31st, 2010

I make a point to leave my personal life out of this blog. However, this post will bring some of it in, but only because it’s related to the Peace Corps.

As you should know, the Peace Corps is a two and a quarter year commitment should you be accepted. I haven’t been accepted yet, though it’s getting close to when I should know. I’m sure that whoever wrote the application kept the time frame in mind because it isn’t an easy process. I’ve already filled out an extensive application form (thirty pages I believe), handed in five letters of recommendation, had an in person interview where I was supposed to detail every quality that makes me fit to serve, passed a criminal background check and I went through a thorough medical, dental and vision background check. Right now, I’m waiting to hear whether I passed the medical and then I will be waiting only for an invitation.

There was an optional portion of the application that I chose to ignore. At the time it seemed trivial for me to complete. The section asked me to go to my significant other and discuss how the relationship would be handled while I served. Seeing as how I had only been in a relationship for a couple of weeks at the time, I shrugged it off. Looking back, I think I was scared to think about it.

My mom has been very understanding throughout this process. She makes it clear that it won’t be easy to have me gone for such a long time, but she still supports what I’m doing. We were talking about relationships one day, my sister’s or brother’s, and eventually I came up. My mom told me she understands why I didn’t have a girlfriend; it didn’t make sense to find a girl only to leave her so soon. I was glad that someone else understood.

However, children don’t always listen to their parents. I didn’t; I didn’t even listen to myself. I ended up turning a friend into a girlfriend this past December. That was less than a month before I handed in my initial application and letters of recommendation and only nine months before my projected departure. A side note in my defense, I had no idea that I would be nominated to leave so soon. Either way, it wasn’t a lot of time for a relationship.

I chose to ignore the situation like any mature college student would. And so did she. It was a recipe for disaster, but for the time we were happy. I don’t think we ever had a fight (or if we did, I was oblivious). She didn’t fuss about my faults and I didn’t fuss about hers.

At the end of the semester, she had to move out of the dorms and home to the coast for the summer. A few days before exams, she thought it was time to talk about what would happen if I left. Personally, I was waiting to find out whether I was going for sure (nothing is set in stone until you receive and invitation). We had a brief conversation the ended in us breaking up.

I gave myself two miserable days before I talked to her again. I wanted some things explained. I wanted to know why then instead of tomorrow. I wanted to know what would happen if I never received an invitation. What I really wanted to know was why we couldn’t just try. We decided to use the summer as a trial run; it seemed fair because we would be so far apart and would have limited communication (though not to the extent of the Peace Corps). If we could go the summer, we could then try the Peace Corps.

That lasted two weeks.

What I eventually found out was that she had been in a long distance relationship before and she couldn’t handle it (she had neglected to tell me this).

Let me reiterate, I know it wasn’t in my best interest for me to get into a relationship. And I know it wasn’t the best idea to not talk about what would happen until it had to be dealt with.

But somehow I can’t help but thinking the whole situation is unfair.

It’s been a constant thought that I’ve had long before I submitted my application that I would have to leave behind everyone for twenty-seven months. To be honest, that was part of the appeal, as a test to see if I could do it. But I didn’t choose do go for that appeal. Each time the two of us talked about it, she made a point that twenty-seven months was a long time. Trust me, I know. It’s a long time for me. It’s a long time for my parents. It’s a long time for the man I’ve called my best friend since kindergarten. When I get back, it will have been more than a twelfth of my life away from everyone that I’ve known.

But Geoff, my best friend, put it best when he said, “Just because you’re going to be gone doesn’t me we can’t be friends anymore.” And it’s true. I wish everyone could think like this man.

Anyway, that’s my story. I’m not suggesting that had we not broken up now that we wouldn’t have broken up some other time before we left. I’m just wondering why an optional portion of the application can end up being so important?

One Reply to “An optional form”

  1. I was thinking about the last part of what you said – about moving away for over two years. It’s kind of striking how that is…I’ve been wanting to leave wisconsin for a very long time, but have always found a reason to stay. I’m hoping to leave – potentially forever – by the end of next school year, and the thought of leaving my family (biological and social families) is scary. But I think it needs to be done. I think if you leave for 27 months, it will be an awesome opportunity for you to grow, figure out what you value, and what you want out of life. You may not have a clear path, but you’ll have a direction. And who’s to say that this trip isn’t part of the direction? Furthermore, if you want to see people that you care about again, you will. You’ll find a way to make it happen :).

    I think the “optional form” is also fitting for this point in your life, and it’s not surprising that it’s one of the most difficult sections to fill out. You have an “option,” or a choice, about your life. When given a choice, it requires you to really think about who you are and your goals. It’s tough. Some of the best things in life, though, come from difficult decisions.

    Finally, if you are accepted, don’t think about what you’re leaving, but what you will be gaining. The Peace Corps experience is something you want – which is evident in all the physical and mental examinations you’ve been through. You’re ready, whether you know it or not (but I think you know it). So think Nike: Just Do It.

    Besides, stay or leave, you’ll always have people to come back to :).

    P.S. Next lunch?

Leave a Reply