Yesterday, I cleaned out my RV and placed it for sale.
In doing this, I have had to take what few belongings I have left and move them into my Mom’s house. My next step will be reviewing what I have and trying to squish into two suitcases
what I want to take with me to Africa for the next two years.
Fortunately, I have already given most of my worldly possessions to my kids. Anything extra with non-sentimental value has been donated. What I am left with is truly the distillation of what means the most to me, plus some stuff I need to live.
As I was chatting with my friend last night, I was saying that this truly feels like a rebirth to me. I have literally shed all trappings of my life thus far. With every possession shed, it becomes easier to shed another. I am almost 45 years old, and could easily live another 40 or 50 years. I am faced with just what I want that to look like.
When I leave in April, I will be leaving for an adventure that will truly be life-altering for me. I will be doing something (hopefully) beneficial for the world, while also experiencing an adventure. I will have a place to reevaluate just what is important to me. I will have no trappings to material items that will bind me. When (if) I return to life in America, it will be up to me to craft my life.
What Really Matters
Instead of sadness or nostalgia, I feel liberated and light. I feel eager to get on with things. I have come to realize that what means the most to me is the connections I make with people. I treasure the little episodes with people I meet and spend time with. Time and how you spend it is the commodity that you must protect. With that realization comes the willingness and desire to shed anything that holds you back.
I have started counting down my days until I leave for the Peace Corps. In many ways, I have done all I can do, so it is a waiting game. I work. I write. I occasionally go on a date. I watch movies. I try to pay off bills.
I am the kind of person that hates downtime. I seem to live perpetually in the future, so it takes a colossal effort for me to slow down and savor the moment. I do love to take nature walks, but I detest the cold, so I have been home-bound a bit for the last month.
Adult Dating Is Complicated
I had a recent romance that was a revelation to me. He was a wonderful man, and I will forever be grateful to have met him. Sadly, our paths were not to continue for long, but the time that we had was intense and wonderful.
Since our brief interlude, I have had a few epiphanies. One, I am redoubled on my commitment to leave for the Peace Corps. I have realized that I was wavering on my plan because I was infatuated with him. He did not ask me to stay, but he certainly welcomed my desire to stay with him. It was fascinating to see that almost as soon as we ended, the confusion dropped, and I was as clear as ever. It was almost as if I had awakened from some spell.
Pleasing Others Above Myself
Two, I have realized that I have always lived my life to please others. I have held onto desires for myself, but I was always willing to abandon them for love and commitments. That was admirable when I was raising children, but at this point, it is just foolish. If I am ever going to experience what I want to experience, I must do it now. Tomorrow is never guaranteed.
Three, dating gets quite complicated the older you get. I have many opinions about why that is, but essentially I think it comes to this: we all have a past, and we all have lived long enough to have a good idea of what we want. We are also old enough to recognize that there will be life afterwards if things don’t work out.
Four, I almost unthinkingly fell into a traditional gender role with him. It was frightening how naturally I just allowed his life to take over mine. Part of the reason was because he was running multiple businesses and was always busy, while I am wrapping up my life here, so my schedule is a bit more flexible. I found I was very willing to follow his lead. I have realized that it is a pattern that is almost ingrained in me, and it was scary how it was almost an intuitive move.
Ready For Change
Finally, I suppose I am just ready for a change. I want to be yanked from my comfort zone and be forced to adapt to a new life. I want to get out of my head and do something worthy. I want to leave everything behind and redefine all that I am.
Last year, I met and fell in love with the most incredible man I had ever met. He fascinated me with his travels, adventures, and intelligence. He showed me a life I had never considered before, and it was amazing.
We have had an intense and passionate romance, that came to an abrupt halt when his contract for work ended in America, and he had to return to Germany for his next project. Though we tried to find ways to keep him here or for me to join him there, it just never came together for us. It was absolutely heart-breaking and gut-wrenching.
In the months that have passed since his departure, my emotions have run the gamut. There is regret that we did not have more time. There is pain from the separation. There is appreciation for what we had together, and there is hope that we will be together again.
We have continued our relationship out of sheer stubbornness. It is so hard to release something that was so incredibly magical. Even as we both take other lovers, we cling to one another. When I consider ending things completely, I must wonder, what is there to end? We message each other daily, but we have not seen each other in months, nor do we have an exact date for a reunion.
I want to be angry with him for leaving, but how can I? He is being true to himself in living the life he desires. In his own way, probably without realizing it, he has released me to be the woman that I should have been all along. I finally took the initiative to join the Peace Corps, which was a lifelong desire of mine.
I also remember telling friends that, after having such an amazing man in my life, a new bar had been set. How could I choose unworthy men after him? I could only imagine the Superman that would come to me next.
The lovers that I have had since have all been special in their own way. I have no real interest in money, long-term relationships, or security, so I have held no agenda. I have chosen lovers who were fascinating and accomplished. I love meeting men from other countries who can teach me about the world from their standpoint. I love meeting men who are able to challenge my worldview. I have been able to truly enjoy them for who they are, and when our time was done, we kissed, held one another, then said goodbye with no regrets. I am pleased to still call most of them friends.
Knowing that I am leaving the country for two years to fulfill my dream has allowed me to step back and just live life. It has been liberating. And yet, in a plot twist worthy of M. Night Shyamalan, the Man of Steel himself has stepped into my life.
The day we met, I had just decided I was leaving Charleston until it was time for me to leave for Mozambique. On our date, within minutes of meeting one another, I had told him of my plan, and yet, he has enchanted me. We have lived more in the few weeks that we have known one another, than I have had in entire relationships with others. Our connection is deep and almost otherworldly. Perhaps because of the time we have left, we are pouring ourselves into one another.
This comes down to, not a choice between two amazing men, but rather which will I choose: a future with him or my dream life?
The one lesson I have learned is that when you release a lover, even if you both have every intention of reconciliation, once you allow the moment to pass, it will never be the same. New lovers will enter. New paths will open up. I know the person I will be after the Peace Corps will not be the person I am now. Will we still cling to one another as we do now?
And yet, if I choose him, will I ever grow to regret not following my dream?
What he and I both believe is that everything happens in its time and exactly as it is meant to be. He was meant to come to me now. I am so grateful for him, and I shall cherish every moment we have in the time that we have. I am blessed to have him.
Since applying for the Peace Corps a mere 16 days ago, my life has taken a radical change in direction and I feel like I have no time left!
As anyone that knows me will attest, I truly believe that things happen for a reason and when it is the right time. When something is meant to be, it will flow, and when it isn’t, there will be one delay after another. I have been wrestling with my next steps for over a year now.
Through it all, I always knew my time in Charleston was transient. I have made friends, found work, and embraced new loves. This place has given me the opportunity to work through my goals, mindsets, dreams, and sorrows. In some cases, it felt like a tortuous purgatory. Yet, like anything life-altering and painful, there was so much growth.
This time of reflection culminated in my month spent working in St Thomas. It was there that I was finally able to gain some clarity and begin looking to the future. I realized that my fantasies of what could be would never come to pass without action on my part.
I could very easily stay in Charleston and find a permanent home. Massage therapy work is plentiful and lucrative by Charleston standards. I could have a very contented life. The problem is, I am not made that way. I have a restlessness and desire for adventure and meaning that will never allow me to settle into peaceful bliss. So, upon my return to Charleston, I finally completed my Peace Corps application.
That was all I needed to do to irrevocably change everything. In the past 16 days, I have committed to 26 months in Africa. This decision has overtaken my schedule. My To-Do list is filled with medical and dental exams, fingerprinting, paperwork, multiple trips to the Post Office, and phone calls and emails.
Even though my leave date is not until April, I have realized just how little time I have left to do all of the things that I need to do. It’s not just the big things for the Peace Corps, it’s the little things like preparing to step out of my life for two years. The time that seemed to stretch on in dreadful monotony has now sped up to the point that I am just holding onand trying to cherish every moment left.
It has been a flurry of preparation activity since I accepted my position with the Peace Corps.
First, I had to send out my Passport for my Peace Corps Passport and apply for my Visa to Mozambique. When I went for my Passport photo, the first one was terrible. The lady taking it was very short, and I swear she stood under me and shot the picture up my nostrils! When organizing the paperwork, later though, I realized I actually needed two sets of two pictures, so I went and had a much less offensive picture taken. All forms were promptly sent off to their respective destinations.
Next, I had to find my vaccination records – no small feat for a woman in her 40s who hasn’t had a shot in years! After multiple calls all over Charleston (thank God I am in my hometown at least) I was able to find my childhood records. I needed to get a tetanus shot and I have scheduled my Yellow Fever vaccination for next week.
I then had to find a doctor to have a complete physical exam and blood work. It has been years since I have had a “normal” job, so I have neither health insurance, nor a regular practitioner. The Peace Corps does reimburse some of the costs associated with this, but I still had to find someone willing to see me and accept cash. Blessedly, I did, and I knocked another several tasks from my list including copious blood work, an eye exam, pap smear, physical, HIV and TB test.
Then, there was the dental visit. For the same reasons listed before, I haven’t had a dental exam in years. I was able to find a local dentist who offers an exam and free x-rays for first-time visitors. I was delighted to be told my mouth was very boring. Thanks to parents who were very diligent with my oral hygiene as a kid, my no sugar diet, and my adult habits of regular brushing and flossing, my teeth and gums are perfect! Another task was eliminated from my to-do list!
Still pending are my Yellow Fever vaccination which is scheduled for next week and my mammogram, which is scheduled in December. What began as a daunting task has been relatively easy to power through with a few phone calls and running around.
Lastly, I need to have my intensive background check. I am waiting for my materials in the mail now. I do not anticipate any problems. I have no criminal history, and have active massage licenses in FL and SC. I’m a good girl (I never understand why friends giggle when I say this).
I have about 5 months before I leave, and yet, it seems like so little time! I need to find a home for my two sweet pups. I need to sell my RV and my car. I need to work through the end of the year to pay off my debts, then go to see my grandson being born in January. Somewhere in all of this, I also need to get down to FL to see my friends and family down there.
It feels strange and wonderful to know that I am going to be in Africa for over two years. It has been a dream since I was a child, and it is surreal that my dream is finally coming true for me. I haven’t even had a moment of doubt since this opportunity presented itself. My darling German and my European friends have been so encouraging, that I have felt unconditional support the whole way. Even my family understands that this is something I have wanted for years, and they support my decision to serve.
I would be foolish to dismiss the very real dangers that are associated with an assignment like this. The Peace Corps suspends service in active areas of conflict, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t happen. I will be undergoing training and living with a host family, while also learning Portuguese to help my assimilation process.
The fact remains, though, I will stand out as an American. I am a redhead with blue eyes and white skin. I will have to learn to exercise caution, perhaps alter my appearance, and dress quite conservatively while over there. I also cannot drink, since it is frowned upon for women. It helps that I am no longer a big drinker.
There is no way to be fully prepared for an experience like this, but I am eager to listen and learn. I am so ready for this!