So … personal revelation time. My sister (as in, my real sister, my only sibling, the one who lives in the United States) is getting married this Saturday.
I knew this was likely going to happen during my time in the Peace Corps. Was the date set before I left for Kosovo? No. My sis and my soon-to-be brother-in-law decided to opt out of a big, formal ceremony. There is no reason behind their decision other than that they are eager to be together and begin their life as a married couple.
How do I feel about this? Happy. Excited for the changes this means for our family (potential future nieces or nephews for me/potential future grandchildren for my parents, who will make awesome grandparents).
But how else do I feel? Frankly, devastated that I won’t be there.
I took a walk with a friend, another Peace Corps trainee who is also going to miss an important wedding in her family. And she offered a positive prospective on the whole thing by saying, “What better reason to miss your sister’s wedding than joining the Peace Corps?”
And she’s absolutely right. There are many reasons I joined the Peace Corps. And one of those reasons is that I want to share this piece of advice with any future children of mine/friends’ children/nieces or nephews. I want to share this one piece of advice with whomever cares to listen: DON’T EVER LET ANYONE ELSE TELL YOU WHAT YOU WANT.
There may come a time in your life when the paths of others all begin to look the same (it happened to me). People go to college, fall in love, get married, adopt a dog, buy a house, have a baby. Those aren’t bad things. BUT THEY ARE NOT THE ONLY THINGS. Your life doesn’t have to follow that pattern if you don’t want it to. There are many, many other things you could be doing.
I had a one-on-one meeting with my Country Director the other day, just as part of the standard procedure for Peace Corps training. She asked me, “What’s a challenge you think you’ll face?” And I told her about my sister’s upcoming wedding. Then she asked me, “Did you expect to give up something to join the Peace Corps?”
Yes, I did. Joining the Peace Corps was not a decision I took lightly. I gave up my entire life to be here in Kosovo: my jobs (I had two!), my apartment with a lakeview in Chicago, my beloved cat (he is staying with my parents), my friends and family, my culture and country, everything familiar to me. That’s a lot.
My swearing-in ceremony was supposed to happen Friday, August 19. It has now been pushed back to Saturday, August 20, due to a scheduling conflict with the embassy. Which means, my ceremony will now fall on the day of my sister’s wedding.
Part of my thinks this is special, that the most significant day of my life to date and the most significant day of my sister’s life will fall on the same day. Part of me wishes I had that day all to myself (for selfish reasons, and to avoid adding more emotion to an already stressful day). Part of me is sad to think my sister gets to spend her special day with our loved ones, while I am alone thousands of miles away in Kosovo. Of course, I will share my day with my new friends and our host families, but my old friends and my real family will be absent.
In the end, life will happen. My sister and I have talked about this and we are in agreement, we both need to do what we need to do. I am not going to quit the Peace Corps, and she is not going to put off getting married for two years while I am away.
How am I going to feel on the 20th? Emotionally overwhelmed. Emotionally exhausted. I will swear in and then immediately following my ceremony, say goodbye to my host family and move to my permanent site. How will I balance those feelings with the feelings surrounding my sister’s wedding? Probably by not thinking about it. As my friend advised, “Think about it rwo weeks later, when you’re alone in your room and you can cry.”