It's time to close the book on my service and move forward. The finality of it has seemed particularly dramatic. While it was difficult leaving the familiarity of the United States--the people, smartphones, affordable cheeses and exercise equipment--I was pretty sure that I'd be back in two or three years. I'll see you later. But leaving the village where two of the most emotionally intense years of my life were spent, with no certainty of return, brought with it an unsettling sense of finality that remained with me for several days.
I welcomed the feeling. What would it mean if it weren't difficult to say goodbye? That I didn't fully engage? Or maybe that I'm a sociopath? Seriously. I believe that periods of transition are always difficult; we invest so much of our minds and bodies carving out small places in the world where we can feel safe, connected and purposeful. When the boat rocks and we choose to take leaps of faith, it is at these times when we are the most alive--we force ourselves to be uncomfortable, to trust our instincts, and to open our hearts. It's a vulnerable time.
If there is one thing that I can say about my experience living in Morocco, it is that I learned to "open my heart," or to be compassionate. The hardest times were in the beginning, when certain motives (you could say the self-centered ones) drove me. Of course I wanted to make a positive impact in an underprivileged community. But, in the process, I wanted to be liked by everybody in my village. I wanted to make it rain all over my resume. I wanted to be seen by my American family and friends as being adventurous. And during the beginning of my service, these misplaced incentives allowed for the manifestation of unreasonable expectations. They were the remnants of previous environments where these values were priorities for me.
I realized that I had to adjust. I wouldn't survive two years comparing myself to others, or trying to be everything for everybody. Slow down. Stop worrying. Embrace the experience. Slowly, but surely, I stopped behaving like a small town politician and, instead, put my effort in developing a couple substantial relationships. I fasted during Ramadan (mostly), stayed up all night at weddings, learned to cook tajines and washed my laundry down at the irrigation channel. I also feel good about the work I was able to accomplish. Of course, things frustrated me all the time. That was part of it. But I learned to actively manage my attitude and to take a few step backs when necessary. I learned that there will never be as good a time as now. And that the most rewarding thing in the world is caring for others and doing what you can (when it's reasonable) to improve their lives.
I signed off as a Peace Corps Volunteer on October 11, 2012. Another unemployed American.
|And that's a wrap.|
I'm going to take advantage of my lack of responsibilities to do a little traveling. Right now, the plan is to leave Morocco at the end of the month to visit Germany, Turkey, India, Malaysia and Singapore before returning the the marvelous United States of America. I love the idea of posting during my travels, but if history is any indicator of the future, I should say that it's unlikely. I will be able to check email relatively frequently, so I'll be looking out for any messages from you! I should be flying into Nashville on March 13. See you then!