Chapters of Life

“When people change / They gain a peace but they lose one, too.” — Future Islands, Seasons

In coming (close to) the end of my Peace Corps service, I’ve done some reflecting on my life and I came to a kind of realization recently. I used to think of the “chapters” of my life as being centered around big, obvious changes: getting a new job, moving, beginning or ending relationships. But I have come to think that instead, my life has had overarching themes that transcend whatever changes are happening. The changes reflect the overall theme at the time, but they aren’t necessarily markers of larger shifts in perspective.

That may sound a bit confusing, so let me explain. It is easy to think of my Peace Corps service as this weird, two-year chapter of my life. But after doing some thinking, I realize that this big change I made (joining the Peace Corps and moving to Kosovo) is actually part of a larger theme, one that’s been going on for the last 7 years (all of my thirties to this point).

I spent my twenties in jobs I didn’t care about and relationships that did not make me happy. When I turned 30, I had a talk with myself and realized I needed to gain better focus and enthusiasm for life. I took the time to research and explore new career options, went to graduate school to earn a master’s degree, gained experience in my new field, and joined the Peace Corps. All of these changes have been part of an overarching theme — to become the best version of me. That sounds cheesy, but it is true.

I now have a career I love (social work) and I’ve finally reached my goal of traveling internationally. I used to be jealous of people who were able to travel, and I don’t necessarily mean that in a bad way. I once heard that jealousy can be used as a tool to highlight what we don’t have but what we want for our own lives. Traveling was always hugely important to me, and I cringed at the idea of “settling down” before I had a chance to get out and explore other countries.

As my Peace Corps service winds down, I wonder if this chapter of my life is also coming to a close. I could be wrong, but I think it is. It has had its challenges, certainly, but it has also been the best and most significant chapter of my life thus far.

If I had to make predictions about the next chapter of my life (which, again, could be wrong), I think I will spend time “digging deeply in the same ditch.” That’s an expression an improv teacher of mine used to use, which means committing to a scene and pushing further with the same idea. I would like to find a job where I’ll want to stay for a good long while, and make a home of my own (I want to buy a place but I’m not sure how quickly that will happen).

Several people have asked me whether I’ll return to Chicago or Boston or stay in Michigan. I may have said this before, but just to restate: I want to create a new life somewhere I haven’t previously lived (I guess Kosovo gets crossed off that list, too. Ha!) #movingon #lookingahead #freshstart

So, these are my “deep thoughts” for now. I know my Peace Corps friends are spending time doing reflections of their own, which is, I think, a natural part of ending our service. I wanted to share my own thoughts to let everyone know you aren’t alone!

Where My Head Is

It’s hard to believe I am roughly 4.5 months away from finishing with Peace Corps! I attended a “tea talk” sponsored by our office last Saturday and as I looked around the table at my friends, I realized that in a few short months, everyone will be scattered across the globe. 😦

My anxiety has been riding pretty high lately, sometimes waking me up in the middle of the night. There are so many things to consider at this point:

Kosovo stuff:

  • Finishing my projects with the Peace Corps (teaching, working at the orphanage, working with KosovaLive, and blogging)
  • Finishing with creative projects, such as:
    • Putting the finishing touches on some crochet gifts
    • Finishing some other crochet projects for the etsy store I’m thinking of starting once I am back in the U.S.
    • Working on a children’s story I’d like to publish as an e-book
    • Finishing a longer novel I’m writing
  • Visiting a few spots around Kosovo I’ve yet to see
  • Making sure I have sent postcards to everyone in my address book
  • Slowly whittling down my closet (I’ve been making small, frequent trips to a donation center here)
  • Getting my resume in top shape
  • Thinking of how/when I will end this blog

Michigan stuff:

  • SPENDING TIME WITH MY FAMILY. Also, eating all the food everywhere
  • Finding freelance or part-time work while I hunt for my dream job
  • Doing lots of un-fun stuff: switching my car’s registration from Illinois to Michigan, getting a new U.S. phone number (and possibly a new phone, because mine is dying), figuring out what to do about health insurance, maybe switching my professional licenses from Illinois to Michigan, etc.
  • Doing some fun shopping, as in, I need new clothes
  • Seriously job hunting
    • Figuring out how I am going to job hunt, as my parents don’t have an Internet connection (no kidding)
  • Hopefully doing some U.S. travel to visit friends I haven’t seen in two years! (An autumn trip to New England is highest on my list!)
  • But also, saving as much money as possible

The Bigger Move:

So, I find my dream job and then I have to:

  • Find a place to live
  • Pack and move again
  • Switch all my bills, car stuff, and professional licenses to a new state
  • Start working
  • Make new friends

The Highest-Level Decisions

  • How do I want to live my life moving forward? What didn’t I like about my life before I joined the Peace Corps? What changes do I want to make and how will I make them?

I have some answers at this point, still working on others …

Maybe it seems premature to be thinking about this stuff, but really, 4.5 months is not a long time. I’ve got my trip to Ireland in April, my close-of-service Peace Corps conference in May, school ending in the middle of June, and then roughly a month more and I am DONE! Whoa.

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Thank you for the recent postcard, Katie!

I have my postcard list and am still working my way through it. My goal is to send at least one postcard to every person in my address book before I leave Kosovo. If you haven’t received a postcard or if you’ve moved recently, please let me know.

And thanks to all of you for staying in touch! I keep all the cards you’ve sent me in a folder and rotate them around my room as decoration. 🙂

I’ve been reaching out to my professional network lately to inquire about possible freelance projects once I’m back in the States. If you know anyone who might be hiring, please let me know!

Looking at the New Year

I’m back to blogging after a two-week break! Did you miss me? 😉

Happy New Year! I spent the evening at home with my host family, drinking wine and eating a lot of food, including homemade cheese and two pieces of my host mother’s Tres Leches cake!

People have been asking me what I plan to do once I finish the Peace Corps this year (!!!), so I made a video to share my goals with you.

Goals 2018 from April G on Vimeo.

 

P.S. Thanks for the necklace, Aunt Tina! I wear it all the time and always get compliments on it! (Though I wish it were more visible in the video.)

I had an important thought I forgot to mention in the video, so I will share it here. Anyone can go on an adventure. Yes, there is legwork involved. You have to quit your job, pack your stuff, etc. But anyone can do it. I think the more challenging thing is to take what you learn from your adventure and apply it to your regular, non-adventure life when you return. As I transition from my life as a Peace Corps volunteer back into my “normal” life, I want to be mindful of the lessons I’ve learned here.