I was raised with the phrase “go with the flow.” Today, it is engrained in my thought process and driving my decision to accept an offer to join the Peace Corps. I’ve been considering applying to and joining Peace Corps since high school, so what do I mean by go with the flow?
Since last October, I have been mentally and physically preparing to join the Peace Corps in Peru. This preparation included reaching out to my gap year host family in Pisac, Peru, quitting my job perhaps a bit early to see a new part of the world before service, reading Conquest of the Incas, Death in the Andes, and listening to Spanish language podcasts. The bulk of the load was consumed more recently while motorcycling down Vietnam to prepare for my Spanish language interview held the following week when I returned from the trip.
None of these activities were hindering or felt required, but they brought on nostalgia and reignited my interest to return to Peru, one of the first countries I discovered on my own six years ago. A discovery that has influenced my decision to prioritize new experiences, guiding me to taking the trip I was on and initiating the journey to come.
When I received the call that my cohort’s placement to Peru had been canceled with minimal explanation, a day before my Spanish language interview, I was less than enthused. Upon further reading about the state of emergency called by the Peruvian government in response to intense flooding and corresponding mudslides, I slowly began to understand the decision made.
The scariest part of the cancelation was the wait between cancelation and reassignment. The three-week wait to find out where and at what capacity Peace Corps would reassign me was mentally draining. When things are out of my control I try to keep my hopes low and harness a flexible mindset, which hopefully allows me to think clearly when discovering what decisions have been made for me. So my coping strategy was to completely ignore any thoughts on what the alternative could be or when the placement would depart, in essence, my goal was to block out all thoughts surrounding the Peace Corps.
This proved to be immensely difficult as the first questions asked when informing friends and family about the cancelation were, “What if you don’t like the new placement?” “Where are you hoping to be alternatively placed?” “Would you want to teach English if it was offered?” “So when does this mean you will leave?” All questions I was strategically avoiding asking myself through the ignore tactic.
The outcome of the cancelation was an Agribusiness Advising offer for Uganda departing on a comparable timeline to my Peru placement. I’ll spare you the drama of my scattered, racing thoughts that occurred within the hour of receiving the news, but upon looking up from my computer to announce to my youngest brother and mom, who patiently provided silence in the room while quietly pretending not to look at me over the course of my hour-long internal thought processing, that I will accept the placement my youngest brother asked to hear the pros and cons list that he must have seen me scribbling.
The list of pros was long. The list of cons was short, only containing “no Spanish” and “more challenging.” After completing an eye roll that looked more like a body roll because it was accentuated so thoroughly he sarcastically stated, “oh so you are worried it might be hard.” And sternly retorted, “you know you can’t grow without discomfort.” After allowing me to let that ordeal sink in with a strategic moment of silence he more gently reminded me that it has already taken me a lifetime to learn such a simple language and two more years without fluency doesn’t seem like a big deal, negating “no Spanish” as a valid con. Thank you Tristan. We all need a 17-year-old bilingual younger brother to really break things down for us.
Peace Corps has taught me a lesson even before my placement has begun. In this industry things change quickly and compromise is often required. To cope with this now and moving forward, maintaining a flexible mindset will be of the utmost importance and finding the excitement in any situation will be crucial for happiness. To do anything other than gratefully accept this once in a lifetime opportunity, on the grounds that it is not exactly what I anticipated, would have been not only a disservice to the Peace Corps and the Peace Corps’ partners preparing for our arrival in Uganda, but also a disservice to me.
Throughout the application, interview, and placement process Peace Corps stresses flexibility as a characteristic for success, or in simpler terms just “go with the flow” and you will succeed. So I guess this is the first of many challenges to come up where I’ll just have to go with the flow and build excitement.