Monday, March 18, 2013

The beginning of the end

Last week I attended our close-of-service conference, otherwise known as COS. For the last 2 years, I've been thinking about this conference… how exciting it would be to hear about all the final paperwork, medical exams and language tests; booking our flights home and returning our water filters; reflecting on our service and all that we've accomplished; and dreaming of our long-awaited return to America.

G11s - COS Conference
COS Conference

Country Director, Rick Record
G11 Business Volunteers

Little did I know, this conference would end up giving me the worst case of anxiety I've felt since my days in corporate world. Don't get me wrong, it was an incredible conference that far exceeded my expectations. We had fun dinners, lot of laughs, and a few unexpected tears of both pride and sadness. We had guest speakers from various government agencies talking about job options and previous volunteers talking about their lives post-Peace Corps; even the U.S. Ambassador joined us for a reception. We shared stories of what we'll miss and laughed about all the things we won't miss. And to top it all off, we got to stay at the Marriott for 3 glorious nights. Hot showers, soft beds, central heating. Not too shabby for ol' Susan!

So why the anxiety? Well, I guess I hadn't really thought this whole "leaving Georgia and returning to America" thing through. All I've thought about is how wonderful it will be to see my family and friends, hold my sweet nephew for the first time, eat sushi and cheddar cheese, and pull a hot, fluffy towel out of the dryer. All I've focused on is this magical place called America.

What I haven't really thought about is that this magical place might not actually be so magical. From what I hear, life continued in America, even after I left! My family and friends have gotten married, had babies, moved to new cities – and (gasp!) turns out, they might not be that interested in hearing about my time in Georgia. Taxes have increased. Jobs are scarce. Food is more expensive. Stores are huge and have too many selections. And apparently, people in the U.S. speak really fast. Is it possible my images of this perfect country are just that… images?

I also haven't thought about what it really means to say goodbye to my life here. Obviously, goodbyes are part of the package, but it's really starting to sink in that I will most likely never see most of these people again. Not only do I have to say goodbye to my host families and counterparts, but also my marshutka drivers, bazaar friends, store and restaurant owners, Peace Corps staff, and my fellow volunteers. All of these people have made my experience what it is and have forever changed me. How do you even begin to let them know how much they affected your life or how grateful you are to have met them? How do you say goodbye, especially when it's forever?

I haven't thought about what it means to find a job in today's economy. Then again, I haven't even really thought about what I want to do when I get home, or where I want to live. I joined the Peace Corps, hoping it would be a stepping-stone to a career in third world development, but turns out, that's not exactly where my interests lie. I don't really want to go back to what I was doing, but where does that leave me? Jobless. Clueless. Terrified.

I haven't thought about how I might have changed since coming to Georgia. Maybe my friends won't like the new me. Maybe my cats won't want anything to do with me. Maybe I won't be as employable as I think I am. Maybe I won't adjust as quickly as I'm imagining. Maybe I won't be in love with America. Maybe I won't even recognize myself once I get home.  

Jobs, friends, resumes, housing, cars, cell phones, work clothes, interviews… there's so much to consider when you're preparing to return home after two+ years abroad. But, higher taxes and looming unemployment aside, I think I'm ready. Scared, but ready.

Certificate of Completion!
We did it!

1 comment:

  1. Susan, you are forever changed and that is called life. You are not the same Susan Burkhart who departed from Savannah April 15, 2011. You will return with gifts that will create or influence all you choose to be or do. You mustered the courage to follow your dream and you succeeded! Others' lives are also changed because of their association with you. Trust God and have faith in life. Remember, all is as it needs to be. You are amazing and I love you with all my heart. ~Mom