I’m Breaking Up With Peace Corps

I’m breaking up with Peace Corps, but don’t worry, it’s not them, it’s me.

These last few months, heck, these past 19 months, have been both painful and exciting at the same time. 19 months after coming home from Peace Corps, I have had to face that Peace Corps was over and it wasn’t worth holding onto anymore. The story lived on in me, but it was indeed over, and I won’t be getting it back. I wasn’t handling it well either. In fact, I was positive I would’ve coped with leaving China a lot better than I did. Plus, seeing all of Facebook’s fun “Memories” doesn’t really contribute to my effort to let go. It’s like, “Hey! Remember when you did really cool stuff?” But I can’t blame Facebook on this one. This was all about my grief.

I meant to talk about this topic earlier and hope other people on the track to join PC don’t take this in a negative light, but rather see an opportunity for growth. Because as people, we are in a constant state of growth. And many of us will go through some time of breakup in our time.

I bundled up more in-depth information about these topics and wrote a hand guide to help you understand and cope with these issues. Find “It Depends: A Guide to Peace Corps” right on Amazon.

The Grief of Breaking Up With Peace Corps

Before you leave a country of service, your Peace Corps staff will talk with you about your emotions. They’ll show you the flow chart of how your feelings will fluctuate over 27 months as a Peace Corps volunteer and as a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer. PC Staff is like the best friend who predicts the red flags in your relationship and how it will end. But I think at times, they don’t explain the magnitude of how you can feel after you come home from your service. But how could they? Emotions, and how we deal with them, are different for everyone.

So, I want to talk about what I have been feeling for the past 19 months. The emotion, Grief. I missed China. There was no doubt that I missed China. I talked about China every second I could. And I felt people roll their eyes and get annoyed with me whenever I spoke of something they couldn’t relate to. Not all of them did it, but a lot of them did. Thank God I had my parents.

I knew that part of this was just how people are when they can’t resonate with the same things you do. I knew that it made me feel like I wasn’t being understood. It’s important never to take that personal and learn how to be humble about your experience. Or flaunt it! Whatever suits you.

I ignored my grief for a while, masked it, covered it up and indulged in my old American coping habits once again, mostly consuming embarrassing amounts of breakfast burritos from Monica’s Taco Shop. And before I knew it, I gained back 35 of the 50 pounds I worked so hard at losing during my service. The result of a true breakup.

Moving On From the Breakup

Peace Corps China has new volunteers now and has moved on from me and my group. I was with America now, and America was definitely not China. I didn’t get as much attention anymore and the support was non-comparable to the support I was shown on a regular basis with my Peace Corps and my China family. It’s hard to explain how everything there makes you feel. I was lucky to have my parents because they were there for the whole PC experience. I found myself comparing my life as a volunteer in China to my new life back in America, which is not a fair comparison. And while I was doing that, I was struggling with owning up to that part of my life being gone.

I even took the time to list all of the things about America that were so much more different and challenging than China. Rent was higher, food was less healthy and more expensive, and I had to repurchase a car, pay for my apartment, healthcare, and all of these completely normal things hundreds of Americans deal with each day. I went from working 20 hours a week with plenty of leisure time to a 40 hour a week job where I barely see doing anything active during the day. And rather than seeing that as an opportunity, I wasted away thinking about how much America wasn’t China, how this experience wasn’t my past experience.

So, Why Not Go Back to China?

Well, I discovered that my calling is not teaching in a school. There was no connection there, no spark. My calling is writing, traveling, and showing the world to people. I know that is where I am going to get the most joy out of my life and the most fulfillment. I want to be doing what I love. Writing in the form that I desire is still a part of my dream I haven’t reached, but working hard toward achieving.

So, I had to decide, once again in my life, if the grief of not being in China and having those experiences anymore was something I wanted to cling to. The thought of letting go was a painful and gut-wrenching grief.

With a lot of strong support, help, coaching, and love from my parents and a select few who really know about me and this situation, I was able to start letting go. I was ready to start seeing the good in my new lifestyle and ready to move on. And by no means is any of it perfect.

How to Deal with Breaking Up

I was able to go back and make a list of the things I accomplished in the last 19 months after experiencing one of the most significant breakups of my life. Things that made me live more in the present and less in the past. Because if you think about it, we all go through minor and considerable growth periods, breakups, heartbreak, and unexpected changes. I know I’m stronger for it.

You won’t get everyone to understand what you’re feeling and the things you are going through. They may not recognize your reverse culture shock, your new understanding of the world and people, how you’ve just changed your perspective. You could be a completely different person, and some may not like that about you. But the ones who love you will be there. Everyone doesn’t have a key to your consciousness, although it would be a more effortless way to understanding. You won’t be completely alone. You are never really alone. There is always ice cream and Monica’s burritos.

And just as you did during your separation anxiety in Peace Corps, you will rise up, you will find what makes you feel good, and you will make an impact, whether that be within yourself or to others around you. You will learn to let go.

And this is my breakup experience. Not everyone feels this way, which is why I encourage everyone who reads my work to research the many other beautiful perspectives from other Peace Corps Volunteers.

I recognize that Peace Corps was an amazing part of my life and I will never ever forget it.

The Benefits of Breaking Up With Peace Corps

So, below is a list of the things I did in the last 19 months that I am insanely grateful for and make this breakup worth enduring.
Got a new job, in my field! A big deal if you’re an English Major.

  • Wrote my first book! The first one I was able to finish without getting bored!
  • Adopted a best friend into my life, my black Manx, Sugar.
  • I saw more of my home state of Colorado – including Aspen!
  • Because of my job, I got to take two vacations in my first full year home, one to Antelope Canyon and the other to NYC.
  • I made new friends.
  • I got to see my family again.
  • I learned that no matter how challenging this world is, that I am strong enough to live in it.

If you would like to know more about Peace Corps, the Application process, how to make the most of your service, and lessen the blow of your breakup with Peace Corps, check out my new book “It Depends: A Guide to Peace Corps.” Inside you’ll find real stories from returned Peace Corps Volunteers and helpful advice on how to cope with your service.

**This is not a true breakup until I have published my next book, Wintersweet, which will be the completely detailed story of my life in Peace Corps and everything I experienced. Stay tuned for more info!