Today is Thursday. While I should be happily clicking away at the keyboard on a new blog post, instead I’m bashing it with my forehead. Writer’s block. Bad.
Each week I try to make my blog posts flow, to tell a story while commenting on something larger. A thought that needs expressing, or an allegory about life that slides out of my finger tips. Somehow there’s always something that tumbles out of my brain onto your screens. This week, it’s just not happening. I’ve written about twenty opening gambits only to delete them seconds later. It’s annoying.
The topic for this week’s blog was going to be recapping my time home. It was going to encapsulate the feeling of being back in the United States for the first time in a year. It was going to briefly mention my sister’s wedding (mostly so I could link to the incredible wedding photographs). I was also going to talk about some of my Third Goal work – sharing the Peace Corps and Botswana with people back in the US. Finally, I was going to suggest some of the realizations I had both going home and coming back to Botswana. Somehow, all of these elements were going to intermingle to present a literary masterpiece that was sure to get me a Pulitzer, or whatever the Peace-Corps-blog equivalent is.
That is not to be. Instead, you get an amalgamation of arbitrary thoughts somehow tangentially connected with all of that. Because putting any words down is better than nothing. And who knows, maybe a theme will appear with each keystroke? Let’s not be too optimistic.
Home is a hard thing to define. It encompassed more than the physicality of a house, but it stands more boldly than a sense of belonging. It has a sense of security and peace of mind. It’s a state of being more than anything. Both DC and Portland pulled at me in this way. DC reverberated with familiarity, of the formative days of the person that is Anna. Portland called as a future home, a place where the next part of my life could begin unfolding. But it also became intensely apparent that right at this very second, home isn’t something I have.
Ambiguity sucks. Peace Corps is fill of ambiguity. Sometimes it feels like I have a million bosses, but more of the time I don’t really have any. Being a Volunteer gives you flexibility to write you own schedule, design your own projects, do what you want to do. But there also aren’t really guidelines or standards. It’s easy to get lost in that flexibility. After spending my life knowing the standard I was being held against, knowing success and failure turns into an impossible game. Other things get confuddled with the overabundance of ambiguity – motivation, clarity. Dealing with this is by far one of the hardest parts of being a PCV.
I am a squiggly line. There’s a relatively famous blog post about repatriation and the effects of living abroad. The basic tenet of this article is that being immersed in a new culture changes a person, and means you will never belong entirely to either your original culture or to the new culture. You were a circle that lived with the squares, but now you’re a triangle. I guess I’m still in the process of becoming a triangle, but I don’t feel like a triangle. Being back in the States showed me that I’m definitely not a circle anymore, but I’m not done cooking. Maybe I’ll be a triangle, but maybe I’ll be an oval or a parallelogram. Only time will tell.
I still don’t have a good answer to “How is the Peace Corps?” I was asked this question so. many. times. Each time I tried a new variation of answer. Sometimes I went with a summary of my work, other times I stuck with the word “hot” or “dusty.” Some people were really truly interested in what I was doing, others were just being polite. It was hard to tell. It’s something to work on – a pithy summation that both invites further questions and doesn’t bore the politely uninterested.
I love books. For my birthday, which I celebrated at my parent’s house, the only thing I wanted to do was go to the bookstore. I bought way too many books, which I then lugged all the way back to Botswana. Despite the extra weight, they make me happy. I also came across a little mailbox library, which is apparently a thing in northern Virginia. A very cool thing.
I don’t think I successfully found a theme in those musings – just a selection of all the random thoughts spinning in my head. But hey… there’s always next week.