Monday, February 18, 2008

not wanting to be there

when i applied to the peace corps i wanted to go to morocco. that was my top choice. i figured it would be a perfect fit. i'm muslim and i speak arabic. had no problem learning french. morocco was all of that... plus, it had an environment assignment. which was also my first choice. as opposed to education, my second.

i’m setting all this up as a background to acknowledging something important that’s come up in the last few posts (longing for plants and my other side). yet another central theme in the blog. actually, the central theme in the blog... presence. and it’s opposite, of course... not wanting to be there.

there is a tone of sadness and loneliness that begins to creep into my journal entries and then seats itself in the two that i just referenced. was i sad and lonely? yes... to an extent. but much of this is normal for peace corps volunteers in training. a few weeks into training and i think many of us were struggling with questions like “what the hell am i doing here?”

in fact, one of our stage-mates decided to leave right around this time. both b/c of who he’d left behind back home and what he was facing in training. deciding to go home is called “ETing.” Early Termination. my issue wasn’t that i was seriously thinking about leaving. b/c i wasn’t. my issue was that i wasn’t thinking about why i didn’t want to be there.

before i get into all that let me say something about being positive and happy. b/c i think my stage-mates and i were just that. happy people having a hard time not being as positive as we usually were. adjusting to difficulties on personal, professional, cultural and physiological fronts... often all at once. or in the span of a single day. yet searching for epiphanies throughout.

“don’t try to make this perfect...” is what my peace corps recruiter back in the US told me, as i tried to negotiate with her on where i was being placed and what my assignment would be. i wanted to go to morocco as an environment volunteer, yet they were sending me to cameroon as a teacher. in hindsight, she was right. and though i didn’t protest at the time, i didn’t really internalize what that meant. not trying to make it perfect.

it’s not like i was unhappy with a post like cameroon or a teaching assignment. those were both high on my list. i love teaching. it’s in my blood. and cameroon was the perfect place for me. but i wasn’t at the place in my life where i could recognize either of those things. first, that i didn’t have to choose b/w education and the environment. teaching and plants. second, that life isn’t about control. it’s about presence.

a wise man once said, “if you could see into the future, you would pick the present.” in other words, we are exactly where we need to be. this was, and continues to be, my struggle. presence.

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