Alex Cotrufello, 129 YinD
I’ve been watching a lot of Gilmore Girls lately. And before that Friends. And before that, any other show that was comforting and not to do with heartbreak nor loss. The endless quips between mother and daughter or a group of concerningly close friends has given me hours of solace in a brain filled to the brim with worries. For those few hours a day when I’m alone with Netflix, I don’t have to think about how to pack a whole life, including two years worth of relationships and memories, into a neat and tidy little suitcase. At times this task feels impossibly daunting. I continuously daydream about skipping town in the middle of the night with no goodbyes, like some desperado abandoning his faithful lover for the freedom of the open road. This is not rational, level-headed Alex speaking. It’s the little node hiding somewhere within the coils of my cavewoman brain telling me to flee; to leave without a sound because that’s easier than trying to find the words to say goodbye. But I realize now that by avoiding the pain — by not confronting these feelings head on — would be a disservice to my experience here, as if it never happened at all. So instead I’ve decided to write a final farewell to the last 27 months of my life: A love letter to Peace Corps.
My Dearest Peace Corps,
Our love story started in the cliche, millennial sort of way most relationships of this day and age do: on the internet. I stalked you incessantly. Everyday I’d scroll through your photos, blog posts, and videos, dreaming about living life in the adventurous, throw-caution-to-the-wind sort of way you seemed to do so effortlessly. I wanted to stay in villages with you, whisper foreign languages into your ear, eat strange foods with you by my side. The idea was so romantic that I couldn’t resist pursuing you, and so I reached out and applied to be yours.
At first, you were tentative of me. It took a long while and a lot of hoop-jumping for you to accept me, and rightly so — many had abandoned you before. But eventually I won you over and convinced you of my commitment to stick by your side. We got serious quickly and within a few months we were moving to Thailand. We spent many hot afternoons building high hopes and far-out fantasies about what we could accomplish together: you with your pragmatism and endlessly optimistic spirit. Me with my naiveté and open heart.
I loved you from the beginning because the world felt boundless when I was with you. You made the scary feel safe and the safe, mysterious. Things I was used to understanding, like what to say and when or where to place my hands or eyes was not so straightforward anymore. I was always kept on my toes, having to think creatively and in ways I had never had to do before. Don’t get me wrong, this was hard. But so worth it. I would never have come to so many insights about the world and myself without that struggle. One of the biggest being that I don’t have to be understood to be loved and I don’t have to understand to love.
But eventually the luster of our whirlwind affair started to fade. It was no longer so blaringly bright as to blind me to all of your flaws and misfortunes. I started to know you in the intimate way that lets me see behind the steam-pressed curtain, the one you present to the world that doesn’t know you from within. Now, certain things I had chalked up to cultural differences, I realized, were actually that you were sometimes just rude. I could no longer believe you always had the best intentions because sometimes you didn’t. And you know what, that’s alright. We are complex, made of a million pieces, assembled by many hands and come with no instructions. We all have internal conflicts, confusion about our values, and, too often, make stupid mistakes. That’s life. And it doesn’t mean that what we were striving for together is any less meaningful or worthy for it.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that you, my dear, have been the love of my life. You’ve changed me in irrevocable ways, made me grow into a woman with a heart open and ready for all the universe has in store. You continue to inspire me with that optimism of yours, the firm belief that we can make the world a little bit better if we care enough. Everything I have learned from you will always be a part of me. And that’s why I believe that this is not a breakup, but rather a parting of ways. Thank you for being my partner ‘til the end.