It's better to have something to remember than nothing to regret

Before leaving for service, I contemplated the friends' weddings I'd miss, babies I’d meet after they were toddlers, holidays I’d spend away from family and milestones I’d miss out on while living in a foreign land. There were the jobs I couldn’t have. The money I couldn’t save. It was all a little overwhelming. Was the Peace Corps worth all that I’d be giving up?

Now I know. Yes. But I didn’t realize why until a fellow EC80er was sent back to the states. She wasn’t ready to go. There was regret and frustration, anger and I’m sure some tears. There was more to be done. And we're all going to leave feeling like we haven’t done enough. But I've realized our work here is lasting, and regardless of how much we manage to change, we can without a doubt, measure the things we’ve changed in ourselves. One of the most important things we’ve gained, is the true understanding of the value of time.

A year is more than dollars and cents. Than the number of stories written, weddings attended, minor accomplishments or pounds gained and lost. It’s about being touched by the kindness of strangers. About family and old friends who keep relationships strong even from an ocean away. And about new friends who understand almost exactly what I’m facing. It’s about seeing places I never thought I’d go and living a life I never imagined I’d have. It’s about overcoming obstacles. About learning to work within a mixed-up system, instead of always trying to fight it. It’s about hitchhiking and streupsing. About fitting in. Gaining patience and killing time. About having friendships here that are as real and as important as the ones I left at home. It’s about measuring my own successes in the faces and deeds of those around me. It’s about finding a second home in a place I never imagined I’d fit in.

But mostly it’s about valuing life more because I’m living better. About realizing that, even with the smallest pay check of my life, I’m able to live more richly than I ever have before. Maybe we are losing a whole two years. But what we’re gaining is so much more. A new understanding. A wider perspective. And a greater appreciation for the true value of those 2 years. In a funny way, nothing makes you feel more like a native of your own country than to live where nearly everyone is not.

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“Sunset at the Railroad” by PCV Nicholas Baylor Hall. Namibia, 2011.