Whoa. Two months from now my Peace Corps service will be over. Where have two years gone? As I reflect today on my time in Guyana, I find myself amazed, amused, and anxious. I am amazed at how much I have grown to enjoy this country, and grown as a person. The hectic minibus rides with pounding music, making your brain shake. The heat that covers you like a blanket, ensuring a certain dampness throughout the day. The expected greetings of “good morning” and “good night,” strangers taking time to acknowledge each other. The neighbors that are always happy for your company, welcoming you into their home. Guyana is filled with its pleasantries and its challenges, and I am amazed I’ve learned to love them all. I am amazed I made it two years.
I am also amused, and delighted, at the work I have been able to be part of. From counseling mothers and supporting chronic disease patients, to empowering children through teaching and reading, to working on projects that advocate LGBT human rights and mental health – I have been fortunate to gain experience in doing things I never imagined I would do, and some I will probably never do again (I am not super comfortable counseling on breast-feeding! :P). Then again, some of the experience has resonated with me, and will surely impact the direction my life goes from here.
This leads us to anxious. I find that I am anxious about the future now. I am anxious about who I will be after Peace Corps. Before leaving Peace Corps, I had a strong identity built up in Salt Lake City. I had a leadership position at a company I was with for years, and built some wonderful working relationships there. My friends in Salt Lake had been through the rollercoaster of life with me for over 10+ years. And although I could be happy in the identity I had then, I became aware of an innate desire to experience more.
As I committed to joining Peace Corps, I realized I would be leaving some parts of my identity behind, but this was tolerable in the sense I would be picking up a new identity. I would be a Peace Corps Volunteer. Over the last two years this identity has come with various associations, and as I consider what it is about being a Peace Corps volunteer that I truly value, I believe it’s pride.
As a volunteer I am proud of the time I spent here. It wasn’t perfect or what I expected it to be, but I am proud of the work I was able to complete – both the tangible and intangible impacts made. I am proud of the challenges I was able to overcome. I think this can be said for anyone who has ever identified as a Peace Corps volunteer.
So unlike my transition from Business Manager to Peace Corps Volunteer, I am leaving an identity I am proud to have – yet I do not have an obvious or clear identity to move into next. You could say I am on the verge of an identity crisis! And although I may be having a mild crisis, all is not lost. Peace Corps has shown me the type of identity I hope to find. Whatever I end up doing, or identifying with next, I know that I want to be proud of the work I am doing. I want to help people. I need to be challenged – intellectually, culturally, and emotionally. I want my identity to grow with me.
In fact, I suppose some of our identities do grow with us – son, brother, friend – and it is these identities I will always be proud of, and need to rely on as I navigate my way through the post Peace Corps uncertainty and mixed bag of emotions I find myself with.
Speaking of uncertainty, my immediate family has survived another type of crisis of their own since my last update! They were shaken up, displaced, and have since moved to a new city in Ecuador. You can check out the experience through my Dad’s eyes here (http://www.toddtalkinecuador.com/blog/day-96-ecuador-earthquake-bahia-de-caraquez/).
I am really looking forward to meeting up with them in August, but shouldn’t get ahead of myself just yet. There are still two months left in Guyana, with lots on the agenda to look forward to. I have two final projects/workshops to complete, Guyana’s 50th Independence Day jubilee to take part in, and a trip to Brazil ahead. I will provide an update on these with the next posting! Until then, some pics with comments are below – much love!