This week marked our sixth-month milestone in Moldova. I can hardly believe it. Time is like a speeding train. Sometimes you’re a passenger on the train, and you look back and wonder how you got so far so fast. Other times you feel like you’re standing on the platform, only wishing time would pass more quickly. I’ve felt a little bit of each here in Moldova, but right now I’m definitely on the train wondering just how those six months are now behind me.
Coincidentally, one my students from ASU Downtown posted a great article this week written by a former Peace Corps Volunteer, Paul Theroux. And some of the sentiments he expressed just really resonated with me, and I wanted to share some excerpts and my thoughts on them.
“I became a teacher in Africa and my whole life changed. I was happier, I had a purpose, and no one ever asked me, ‘What are you going to do with your life?’ I had left home. I was becoming the person I wanted to be, not just a young man with a job but someone developing a sensibility. I had volunteered because I wanted to know the world and myself better…”
There are good days and there are bad days. On the bad days, many of us volunteers have to remind ourselves that we chose this. We have to go back to the reason we applied. I wanted a challenge; an adventure. I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to leave home; to learn and do something new. And I got what I wanted…and then some. But through the good and the bad, I am so happy to be here and am really enjoying the work. And the missing home part really gets easier every day.
“Like many people who have been affected by such an experience in a distant land, I did not come all the way home; nor did I leave that experience behind. It stayed in my mind, it informed my decisions, it made me strong…”
When I went to Spain, four years ago now, I absolutely left a part of myself there. And I carried that experience back with me. It’s like an unexplainable pull that keeps tugging at you. As I was saying earlier this week to another volunteer, this experience is already making an impact in us in big ways. I’ve already had lessons in humility, failure, acceptance, patience. And I don’t think I’ll fully understand the way it has and will change me until I end my service, or maybe even years after, but I will be different, and I suspect I will carry Moldova down future roads…which brings me to the last excerpt.
“Whenever someone asks me what I think he should do with his life, I always say, First, leave home. Get out there, where if you care to listen, you will find many other people dreaming of making connections and changing the world, just like you. The only mistake is in thinking that you will make an important difference in the lives of the people you’re among. The profound difference will be in you.”
I love this. People, leave home. And this doesn’t have to be about geography (though I am certainly a fan of traveling and exploring different cultures). Maybe it’s about going outside of our comfort zone, even when it’s awkward, intimidating, or a little bit painful. Maybe it’s about looking failure in the face, pushing it aside, and pressing onward. Maybe it’s about opening your eyes and looking at the world through a new lens, through a new perspective. Maybe it’s about taking on a new cause. Maybe it’s about listening. Moldova has forced me to all of those things, and I’m only six months in. That is, I’m already six months in! Time is like a train…here’s to the months I’ve left behind, and the months still ahead of me.