Andrea Aribe, 130 YinD
Of course, we all became members of Peace Corps to contribute to its mission.
The best part about being a volunteer is having the privilege of helping others.
Let’s be real, though. All of us have other reasons why we joined as well (or maybe not).
If you do, these intentions could include growing professionally, earning a scholarship, traveling and understanding another culture, following in the footsteps of an RPCV, discovering or reinventing ourselves, finding meaning and purpose in life, figuring out what we want, pursuing pre-determined goals, etc.
Sometimes, I feel guilty admitting I have additional ambitions, but I have come to accept it is okay; these motives encourage me every day to do my best.
I developed an interest in Peace Corps after learning my middle school English teacher previously served.
Through her, I was inspired to become a reporter and learned about the organization, correlating her career with previously studying journalism and serving as a volunteer.
I embarked on a similar pursuit, keeping Peace Corps in the back of my mind as I set out to make a difference.
Upon graduation, I was prepared to blaze my chosen path and experience the byproducts of my adolescence with eyes full of stars and a fire in my heart.
Job acceptances, opportunities to make an impact and inspire others, amazing colleagues, coworkers, and connections – all things that gave me an astounding sense of gratitude over the last six years.
Yet, I eventually found myself feeling the weight of “adulting.”
I felt all-consumed by the “9-5” lifestyle, spending most of my energy worrying over a mortgage, distracting myself by planning the next getaway, and processing injustices I came across in my line of work.
The hobbies that used to bring joy, such as writing and photography, were put on the backburner; the act of pen to paper started to feel foreign, and my 35mm film camera had collected dust.
As best as I could, I tried to stay present and optimistic, count my blessings, and attempt new things.
However, I grew tired.
Burned out, I continuously asked myself, “What happened to that bright-eyed person ready to set fire to the world?” and if there was anything I could do to be that version of me again.
One day, I was going through an old high school yearbook, reading over messages saying, “You’re going to do awesome things,” and “I can’t wait to see you in Peace Corps.”
Then, it hit me. Perhaps, revisiting a dream from the past, the origin of my roots, would remind me what I am most passionate about: making change.
So, on the last hour of the last day one could apply, I submitted an application.
Eighty-one days later, I decided to walk away from everything I built by accepting an invitation to serve.
Since then, I have found happiness in places beyond my imagination.
It took some time to let old habits die and release the toll of my pre-PCV life off my shoulders.
With every bulb I watch go off in a child’s mind when they “get it,” every ray of light casted by supportive counterparts guiding me towards success, and all the heartwarming love from new friends, my sense of humanity has increasingly been restored.
Now, as I reflect on my first year of service, I take inventory of the flames in me.
After allowing the radiance within everyone I have met along this journey enter my soul, in fact, I am feeling lit.
Thank you, Peace Corps, for lighting me up.