After three months of summer happenings, I voyaged back to my desert home this weekend. Last year's return was wrought with cockroaches, heat and emotional upheavals and I feared the worst as I unlocked my front door. Instead of opening a world of trouble, I was greeted by little more than a sandbar to sweep up from summer storms and a few funky smells. Having been mentally prepared for the worst, I happily collapsed into the pleasant reality of my own bed, preserved care package cookies and forgotten DVDs from the 2012 London Olympics. Gabby winning the gymnastics all-around gold still brought me to tears - I love a good story (even when I know the ending).
Not quite ready to fully reengage in site, but no longer in summer mentality, I've spent an inordinate amount of time purchasing music, looking into grad schools and reassessing the changes over the past few months. One of the reasons Peace Corps is simultaneously challenging and rewarding is that if taken seriously, you are constantly faced with your own self-doubt and weaknesses. This allows for massive personal growth in a short period of time; it also means that you appear completely insane to the outside observer, and sometimes even to yourself. I'll admit that I still talk to the flies while I kill them and sometimes dance around my house at 1 am - and I have no problem with that.
During the past few days I've been examining my Peace Corps experience, my career trajectory and my weaknesses through the lens of the Myers-Briggs' personality analysis. There was nothing in the results that was particularly ground-breaking but something about seeing my strengths and weaknesses in writing made them easier to accept. I know that I am relationship-focused, prefer the big picture to details, crave creativity in all parts of my life and abhor routine, but I still find myself striving to grow in the areas where I am weak instead of embracing the strengths. Stubborn and determined, I live alone despite the knowledge that I will never flourish in this atmosphere. I attempt to run 1/2 marathons, even though doing the same workout multiple times per week makes me crazy rebellious. I conform to the confines of a conservative religious society, even though my soul feels trapped every time I walk out my front door.
In some ways, I admire the resolve to pull this 'responsible rabbit' from the hat - to pretend that I will become a suit-wearing, office-loving, detail-oriented person if only I try hard enough. But why the desire to be different than what I naturally am? Deep down, I wonder if I sometimes place more value on being an accountant or lawyer rather than the morals which define my life and the people that I serve. Why do I perceive successful standardized testing to be superior to bringing light and love to friends and family? Why do I feel like the strengths that I've been blessed with are less worthy than the strengths of a Type A personality? Market value? American values? Too much time spent studying the thoughts of old white men?
If I completed my service tomorrow, it would be worthwhile because I have realized where I'm willing to make sacrifices and where I need to be true to myself. I'm not a 27 year old who wants to continue to live alone in the Arab world, drink tea and have a secretive private life (at least not for more than the next eight months). I may never finish the boring classic novels that someone else deemed as important literature. I will not make couscous in a proper way because I think it's overcooked and bland. I will never stop adding to my wall decorations or think there is enough color in a room. I am a young woman who wants to live out loud. I will make my adventures bigger and brighter than before, and I won't do it alone. Where will I be next September? Spain? Thailand? New York? Anything could happen, anyone could happen and the possibilities are endless. My strength is seeing the excitement in the unknown, bringing laughter to the adventure and sparkling along the way. I love a good story.