Change (to become different, transform) is such a simple word and such a complicated reality. It is said that each of us is constantly changing and that the world is in a continual state of transformation. Sometimes those processes of becoming different are quick and sometimes they are slow. Being in the Peace Corps makes your process of changing fall close to lightening speed on that scale.
When we have a set routine—an American style routine where every minute is assigned to a specific activity—we choke our opportunities for personal evolutions. It’s not so much the routine, but when we are too busy to break out of our normal daily activities to try new things and overcome unchartered challenges the metamorphosis of life is slowed.
People who excel in experiences like volunteering for the Peace Corps, are people who embrace change. By becoming volunteers, my peers and I threw everything we had and knew to the wind to try something that we had never done and could not understand until we landed in Paraguay. (And to be honest, we are still figuring out what it means to be a volunteer in Paraguay. For example, something that would NEVER happen in the States occurs every single day).
I’m 10 months in Paraguay and counting. Ten months is also known as: 2 college semesters, one high school year, and the time a baby is in the womb (remember babies should be in the oven for at least 39 weeks). In the grand scheme of things, 10 months is a snippet of time. But, I’ve changed as much in these 10 months as I did during college (maybe more depending on what aspect of my life at which you’re looking).
Peace Corps is fertile ground for self-growth. Some of the fertilizers are:
- We have many hours by ourselves during which self-reflection and contemplation of the meaning of life is inescapable.
- Every day we have an experience that is quite unlike any prior experience.
- Living in a culture that isn’t ours blows our mind. Things we took for granted before are no longer granted.
- We have to change our beliefs to encompass the new reality through which we are muddling.
Why am I telling you all this? Do you remember that first time you visited your hometown after being away for a while—like after your first year of college? Do you remember how your parents’ and childhood friends’ interactions with you operated on the assumption that you were the same person you were before you moved out? Do you remember how wrong they were?
Peace Corps volunteers change, and our rate of change is faster than most of our loved ones back home. This difference in rate is not good or bad; it’s just a fact. And it’s true because our lives, serving in another country, require us to be flexible. We must be willing to breakdown assumptions we held and rise to new challenges—if we can’t do that we can’t do our job. When you talk to us, don’t be surprised if our interests are different than they were before we departed; don’t be surprised if our opinions, stereotypes, worldviews, concepts of good and bad, passions, and general attitude were mutated by Paraguay. Don’t worry, we still love you, but we aren’t the person who accepted our Peace Corps invitation. The person who opened that Peace Corps invitation some months ago no longer exists.