The “welcome home”s are hard, but we knew that they would be. The goodbyes were hard, but we knew that those would be too. All the things that were supposed to be hard, are and were hard. The things we saw coming from a mile away: missing our food, randomly speaking the language and having no one in your family understand, the jet lag, the sadness, being freezing cold. I was prepared for it all. I was prepared to lean on my cohort and the ones that came before me because I had 68 people I could reach out to that felt the exact same way, 50 that knew what I was going through and thousands who could empathize. I was ready to tackle evacuation because I knew what it would be like. Then the imposter syndrome set in…
My name is Kayla and I am part of the last cohort in the world to be sworn in before a global Peace Corps evacuation. Kinda crazy right? I won’t lie, in all this madness there’s some sort of comfort in the fact that I have something special that sets me apart from the rest. Maybe I’ll start my grad school essays with the story or I’ll tell it in future law school interviews — who knows. What I do know is that I’m grateful to Peace Corps Thailand staff for making sure that my cohort would be sworn in as Volunteers, for validating our 10 weeks of (literal) blood, sweat and tears, and for making me feel like I earned that Volunteer title; because I have. But does the rest of the world think that?
Being an RPCV is a badge of honor, you did something and completed something that very few can even imagine. I biked between 10 and 16 miles a day, learned a new language, didn’t have running water in my house, didn’t tap into my American money, used a squatty potty, facilitated life skills classes with kids, planned a camp— I did that and way more, all in ten weeks. Other volunteers do it for two years…
Two years. I signed up for TWO years!!! And it was taken away from me after 10 weeks. I’ve got the title of Returned Peace Corps Volunteer but can I use it? Am I one of you? I never even made it to site. The day before I was supposed to find out my permanent site, was the day I found out that I was being evacuated. I may have been sworn in but who am I to wear this badge of honor that people fight for two whole years to get. Will I go back? Can I go back? Should I start looking for jobs? Should I start applying for schools? Will my kitschy little story about how I was part of the last cohort sworn in be seen as a point for me or against me? Did I gain the thing that sets RPCV apart? Do I keep this on my resume? Do I delete this part of my life like it never happened? Did it even really happen? Now here’s the part of me spiraling, where I feel like a heartless brat. There are people dying, people not knowing where their next pay checks are coming from, health care professionals risking their lives every day, countries closing their borders and an overall global pandemic happening but all I can think about is where I fit into this.
The imposter syndrome is weird. Wondering if I’ll be accepted into a community of people I so desperately want to be a part of, is weird. My life is weird – hell the world is weird.
I don’t have the answers, maybe they’ll come to me soon, maybe they’ll never come, maybe just maybe this is just a wild turn in an otherwise successful 2 year service. I’m waiting to see how this insanity fits into my story: what will come of the girl who was sworn in, then evacuated less than 36 hours later.
Categories: Articles, Close of Service, On Evacuation, Stories
I was in Thai 90 from 87-89 and to the early evacuees I say continue to follow the instincts and decisions that got you there and if life allows please try again. Not only do you deserve a second chance, but it will be worth it.