Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Many things, and many others

Every time I mean to write this post, I either get distracted or become overwhelmed at the task of mental organization. The last (is it only two?) weeks have been intense enough to nearly floor me entirely, and so the prospect of trying to explain it all cogently is daunting. With that in mind, please try to read for what I want to say, rather than what I might say. Normally, I am with it enough to make sure those are the same. Today, we need that disclaimer.

After being postponed, I came back to Ithaca, for a lot of reasons. The top few were that there are jobs here, and not so much in the hometown, there is a social life here, and there is a lot of autonomy that you do not get in a spread-out western town where you need a car to get pretty much anywhere, or else a lot of bike. Too, I started to notice how lonely I can get without a constant group of people around me--I like it for a while, but having lived in a co-op and dorms, I am not really accustomed to not having people around all the time. Lots of them. So, even though I miss my family and the farm and everything, I came back.

I came back and had a job interview for NYPIRG--New York Public Interest Research Group, the largest environmental and consumer advocacy group in the state. Aced the interview, got a job offer on the same day (standard practice, so don't be too impressed). This was, let's see, Wednesday, two weeks ago. Had my training the next Monday, they did not have room for me in the car on Tuesday, so Wednesday a week ago was my first day of work with them. I did well, convinced some people to give me enough money to beat quota. I was exhausted, emotionally and physically, because knocking on doors and pushing as much energy at someone as you can while trying to keep them from slamming the door in your face and also like you and your cause enough to give you money, well, it is hard. I got yelled at more times than I like to really be yelled at, and I realized that I am not really on board with the idea of door-to-door. They tell you that you are just going to be informing people, which is a noble goal, but all of the training is basically desensitizing you to social niceties enough to feel comfortable and even justified knocking on doors and pushing political agendas. "Not interested," means "Not informed," they tell you. Unfortunately, I also did not agree with a lot of things I was supposed to say at each door, too. On the up side, all the people involved were amazing, and I really wish I had been able to get to know a lot of them better. When I got back Wednesday night, though, I learned that Mauritania had been canceled.

That was hard, but also very intense because although there was the horrible sinking feeling of 'not again,' it was hard to be completely depressed about the cancellation itself. Not when there was a sentiment being expressed (excuse the passive voice--we are protecting the innocent here) of 'having dodged a bullet' and 'won the lottery'. This is not to say that I was simply between overjoyed and utterly knocked over, though. Let's interrupt the narrative flow to bring everyone up to speed on why.

The indefinite postponement hit me really hard, and I think that is one reason I wanted to leave Colorado, just to change the scenery. Being told in February that we were postponed until March, well, that was tough, but okay, it was only a month. Bouncing back was easy, because I had just returned from Kenya and a trip to California and was really not packed well, mentally or with respect to gear. March was harder. Having Madagascar yanked back that way, just when we (okay, Chad, many of us) thought it would be real, that we were beyond the point of no return...that was tough. But we were all there together, and it was inspiring to see everyone deal so well with it. It softened it, and we knew that we would be re-placed as soon as possible, so that helped. Being re-assigned to Mauritania, which I was ready to commit to, was rubbing sand in the wound. Madagascar to Mauritania, well, okay, universe. There were a few of us in the situation, and Katie in particular really helped me decide to keep going with Peace Corps.

New paragraph. The indefinite postponement was hard because we were supposed to somehow keep holding on to the enthusiasm that was threatening to be overcome by nervousness at the prospect of Mauritania (and everything that goes along with that in Peace Corps lore, and for me as an individual). Now, holding that torch for a month, okay. Holding it indefinitely, with only the vague prospect of perhaps being reassigned come the end of September, now that was a load under which I was really staggering.

I began to wonder whether Peace Corps was for me. Waiting, living my life two months at a time, ready with my bags to go where they said when they said. It is not their fault, and with one or two exceptions, everyone to whom I have talked on the phone has been really polite and as helpful as possible. And it really is not Peace Corps' fault that some of us have uncanny destroyer-of-nations superpowers. But waiting like that, it is tough. In Ithaca, I saw some full time jobs hiring. Jobs with benefits, reasonable wages, tasks I would not at all mind completing. I could stay in Ithaca, I thought, and have a job and a social group and autonomy, and apply for grad school this or next fall. Why not? Aside from that I do not know what I want to study.

And so, when Mauritania was canceled (which, by the way, the Peace Corps did at least partially to spare us all the torch-holding above), not only did I have the "Well, if it isn't Mauritania, how bad can [my new reassignment] be?" reaction (I think everyone must have, at least a little), but suddenly not becoming reassigned was an option. And suddenly there were too many options for me to handle well.

I maintain that I have the best luck of any person I know,though. Sure, bad things happen to me, but more often than not, I have preternaturally good luck. I lose people who are important to me, sure, but last time that happened I realized that I had so many truly good friends...I digress. Anyway, the point is, I have either a huge "in" with the governing powers of my universe, or I'm just really good at seeing situations in that light. Either way, that is good luck for me. The next day, I called NYPIRG and asked for the day off in order to spend it next to the phone. Friday morning, I realized that with all the stress of "Do I want to continue with Peace Corps?" and "When is my new invitation coming?" not to mention a bunch of miscellaneous personal stuff, I just could not face a day of slammed doors and tapping energy reserves to push a rap at people. So, I called and quit. Thanks to Jed and Kim, by the way, for providing excellent advice and really welcome perspective and ears. You guys are awesome.

Speaking of luck. Monday, I learned that my new invitation was to Senegal, as a Sustainable Agriculture Extension Agent. And Senegal, for those of you who do not live inside my head, is one of the only things that could have breathed enthusiasm back into my Peace Corps outlook to this extent. Why? Because the first blog I read about Peace Corps was a Senegalese Ag volunteer's blog, and it was amazing (Thank you, Clare Major. You do not know I exist.). Because Senegal and Madagascar were my first two choices. Way back when everyone asked me "Where are you going to ask to go?" I would answer, "I do not get to choose, but if I did I would choose Madagascar or Senegal." So, Senegal it is. And Senegal has been stable for the last 48 years, so that gives me a lot more confidence in the probability of my departure, on schedule, on August 10.

Oh, and unless I find a worthwhile job, I am going to just be unemployed and spend a bunch of time down at RIBs learning to do bike maintenance, which I imagine is a very marketable skill in Senegal. Particularly because I will need to repair my own bike frequently.

I was planning to write a lot more extensively on the following subjects, but it has taken me all day to write this much this cogently, so we're doing bullets:

~~Theory of co-operation: Summer residents of co-ops are part of a somewhat forced community (there is an inherent "it's just the summer' mentality) and as such tend to be a little bit unclear on the idea of precedent. If you only live somewhere for a summer, it is not something you think of, apparently, that an action one time and okayed generally, would lead to a problematic policy. This probably also applies to the community housing on West Campus, and the forced community there, but having no experience with that, I don't know for sure.

~~Rules, as they relate to religion and individuality: Mostly, I just need to get my hands on a copy of the rulebooks and spend about six years reading up on different religions. I want to know how you can subscribe to a religion that supports things in which you may not believe. Where does the fundamental lie of inconsistency start and stop, what is a gray area and what is dishonesty with self, church, or G/god(s)? And what does this have to say about individuality and free will? The emotional turmoil through which I have been going has stymied my investigation of the Bible, but I expect to get back on track soon.

~~Why people are cruel to the ones they love. That one still confuses me. Why people are not honest with each other when it is clear that the consequence will be bad--small deceptions I can understand, if they make things smoother. But concealment of a problem of significant size can never go anywhere good, because it makes the relationship a lie, since it is not mutual and bidirectional.

1 comment:

Liz said...

"...but suddenly not becoming reassigned was an option. And suddenly there were too many options for me to handle well."

This is exactly what the past week was like for me. After a year spent focusing on and working towards one goal, the thought of being able to walk away, to do something else and save this dream for later, was both thrilling and terrifying.