I’m Lost, But I’m Hopeful Baby (A.K.A Mid [Peace Corps] Life Crisis)

Life has been crazy this month, going home and coming back and traveling so much its made my head spin. But I’ve been home in Sokyriany this whole week, trying to get back on track with lesson planning and such and also trying to raise awareness (and money!) for my grant. It was so easy to talk to people about the English Resource Center and all the plans we have for it when I was home for Christmas, but its much harder to spread the word from my apartment in Ukraine. So far $200 has been raised (thank you!), which is a step in the right direction, but there’s $2400 dollars to go. So if you feel like this is something you could partner with me in doing, please donate today! My goal is to have the money raised by the end of March, so I can implement the grant and get all the technology and textbooks installed at our school before the school year ends. Thanks in advance for any support you can provide 🙂

Its been a strange month, because for as much effort and heart I’ve put into my work here, and for as well as readjusting back to Ukraine has gone, I feel like my trip home to the US made me really anxious about the future and what comes next after Peace Corps. When I graduated college, I told myself (and everyone else) that Peace Corps was just a stepping stone to grad school; an opportunity for me to travel and spread my wings and maybe do something of value, while giving me time to breathe and live a little before committing another solid chunk of my life to education. And while education is of great importance to me, I have to admit that its hard to envision myself back in school in a year’s time. I thought Peace Corps would solidify my interest in studying International Development in grad school, and while it has in some ways, I’ve also realized that I could find a job doing something in this field without doing a masters (and taking out loans and such). I’m just at a confused point right now, and not at all sure about what comes next.

The question I got most when I was home was, “so what comes next after Peace Corps?” or the even more obvious “so what are you going to do with your life?” And I gave the same answer I gave before Peace Corps—“grad school,” but with much less conviction than I used to have. I realized that I hadn’t thought about life after Peace Corps in months, and that while I wasn’t thinking about it, my plans for the future had started to change. Last winter, it was painful to even think about the future, knowing I had 20+ months left in Ukraine. And then last spring, something happened here, when I was making friends, learning to love some of my students, figuring out Ukrainian and adding some Russian and Surzhik to my repertoire, and learning to enjoy the freedom and independence I have here… I forgot to count the months, to think of Peace Corps as a stepping stone, or to even care about what came next. I was truly living in the moment, and taking it one day at a time, and loving it. And I’m so glad that happened, because the spring, summer, and fall were some of my favorite moments in Ukraine and gave me some wonderful memories to take with me when I go. (Sorry winter, but the weather here has sucked so bad that you don’t count as a highlight of my service, haha).

But when I was home in America, truly home among people I love and places I’d missed, I remembered that there is a future there, one that’s rapidly approaching. When I came back to Ukraine I looked at the calendar, and realized I have less than 10 months here. Whoa—when did that happen? Its like the future snuck up and bit me in the жопа (butt) and said “BOO! Did you forget about me?” And to be honest, it scared the hell out of me. I allowed myself one week of freaking out (which I hope I’m through with now), where I was online 24/7 researching jobs, grad-school, and other options for the future all the while stressing about the fact that I have no solid plans. I was kind of a mess, as anyone who talked to me on Skype can attest to (I’m thinking of you, Becca, Emily, and Mom!). Fortunately, everyone I’ve talked to has been very supportive and helped me calm down about it. I also have lots of PCV friends in the same boat, so talking about it and researching online and trying to make tentative plans has helped me relax a little bit.

So what conclusions have I come to? Well, nothing definite, to be honest. But I know that I’m finishing Peace Corps in November, hopefully getting home in time for Thanksgiving (seeing as I’ve missed the last two and I really can’t miss another Thanksgiving with my Grandma’s turkey!!), and I’m fairly certain (probably 90%) that I won’t extend my Peace Corps service for another year. I think two years is enough : ) But besides knowing that I’m finished in November, I know nothing else with certainty. Everything else is a possibility, and I truly have no idea what I’ll be doing this time next year (scary thought!) But here are some of my current ideas:

  • Option 1: Stick with the grad school plan.
    • I have done lots of research about different schools and programs, and I’ve narrowed it down to 1 program, with two top-choice schools: I’m most interested in dual program, where I’d get my masters in International Development, and my J.D. (law degree) at the same time. My top choice schools are American University in Washington D.C. (a certain friend of mine is a strong pull to D.C.! ; ) and Pepperdine University in Malibu, which is a really high ranking Christian school on the West Coast. I’m more drawn to Pepperdine at this point, partly because it has a great reputation for international law and some incredible opportunities abroad, as well as an amazing Global Justice program. But another reason is because its on the West Coast… I’ve never been to that part of the US, and it’d be nice to start the next chapter of my life somewhere new!
    • Perks of option 1: following through with the original plan, living in one place for the next 3+ years (who would’ve thought I’d be looking for stability?), being able to have a dog (fingers crossed), potentially owning a motorcycle (the weather’s great there, so a motorcycle would actually be feasible!!), being academically challenged again and being able to immerse myself in classes again… I have to admit, this plan has quite the appeal.
    • Not-so-perks (or negative side effects): DEBT to a huge amount (think 60K multiplied by 3 and it hurts like a knee to the gut), distance (far from home, but hey I’ve been living across the world for 2 years now, across the country shouldn’t be that bad), and future employment (job prospects in the law field are pretty dismal right now given the economy, and I’m not sure I want to commit to so much debt not knowing I’ll get a job to pay it all back someday!)
  • Option 2: Getting a job (gasp!) working in International Development.
    • Prospect A: State Department—becoming a Foreign Service Officer and working abroad at one of the many US Embassies around the world.
      • Perks: Saying I’m working for the State Department would be pretty awesome, and continuing my travels and adventures would be great. I’m sure working for an embassy would be intellectually stimulating, so I wouldn’t have to worry about brain rot (which sometimes worries me when I’m teaching the ABCs.)
      • Not-so-perks: Its really competitive, I’d have to take the FSO test (think SAT for Foreign Service Officer wanna-be’s), and I have little say in where they send me, provided that I get in. That, and every three years they send me somewhere new. I’m not sure if I want to live the life of a nomad forever…
    • Prospect B: A job with USAID.
      • Perks: A job like this would be pretty much the culmination of my studies and my work with Peace Corps—being able to go to a country and help provide foreign aid in any way I could. What does USAID do, you might ask? It provides “economic, development and humanitarian assistance around the world in support of the foreign policy goals of the United States.” And Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) provide a huge pool for candidates, so it would be a logical extension of the work I’ve already done.
      • Not-so-perks: USAID works in many places that you wouldn’t necessarily want to go, such as Pakistan and Afghanistan, and the burn-out rate is pretty high. My research proves that jobs with USAID are often temporary as well, so I’m not sure if this is a solid long-term plan.
  • Option 3: Find another job teaching abroad, and this time get paid for it.
    • Prospect A: Pick a country where I have friends and find a job teaching English, now that I’m not only certified (thanks to Taylor University’s TESOL program!), but have 2 years experience. This plan has definite merit, given my propensity to wanderlust. The lure of a salary is also something to be said for it.
    • Prospect B: Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship—Fulbright has a program for teaching English that is definitely a possibility, and operates in many countries I’d be eager to live and teach in (Morocco!). It also pays a heck of a lot better than being a PCV, and comes with the solid reputation of Fulbright behind it. Definitely something to look into more.
    • Not-so-perks: More time away from home, and seeing as I know that teaching English isn’t what I want to do long-term, I’m not sure if this is the best course of action.
  • Option 4: Avoiding the whole question by accomplishing goals on my bucket list.
    • Go to bar-tending school: I’ve always thought bar-tending would be fun, and some of my PCV friends bar-tended their way through grad school. Waitressing sucked, so I think bar-tending would be a solid way to make money while I either attend grad school or try to find a real job in a scary economy 🙂
    • Travel through Latin America for a few months with a friend, and spend some of our well-earned “readjustment allowance” that Peace Corps provides when you finish your service. When else am I going to have free months to travel as much as I want? Maybe I should do this before I do the whole real job, grown-up thing ; )

There you have it. In great detail, you have my future life plans in your hands (or at least on your screen) and now you can see the dilemma I have. I feel better having outlined it and talked about it, but the lack of direction I have is a little frightening. I’m very Type A in the whole planning-the future-thing, and not having a plan is not fun. But if Peace Corps has prepared me for anything, its for the unexpected. So my goal is to not be afraid of the unknown. My choice instead is to rejoice in the possibility, and in the thought that I have so many exciting things to look forward to in the future. But at the same time, I don’t want to rush through the end of my Peace Corps experience to move onto the next chapter… I want to savor these months, and my grant, and my students, and my friends, knowing how hard I’ve worked to make life work here and be enjoyable. So my goal for the next 10 months is balance; looking forward to the next chapter of life while savoring every last day of my Peace Corps experience, in order to make it as rewarding as possible.

If you read all the way through this, Молодець! (Good job!) You’ve just read my mid-(Peace Corps) life crisis, and now that its over, I can say that there is a definite plan for the future, but God only knows what exactly that plan entails 🙂

Thanks for reading, as always. Knowing people read this makes it worth writing!


7 thoughts on “I’m Lost, But I’m Hopeful Baby (A.K.A Mid [Peace Corps] Life Crisis)

  1. melampton says:

    You, me, SOUTH AMERICA BABY! Yeah, I’m definitely leaning toward that option… 😉

    But it’ll work out. And you’re right, enjoy this while we still have it – it’ll be over before we know it. ❤

    • Kate says:

      yeah I think South America is the best option on that list… although, getting a job in a country I want to live in (Morocco anyone?) with a roommate that I love, and spending a year close enough to Africa that we could climb Kilimanjaro, go on safari, and maybe even surf in South Africa…. that would be pretty awesome 😀 I could definitely postpone getting a real adult job for a year if we could work this into our life plan! lol

  2. Vanessa says:

    Kate! Oh my gosh, you basically wrote out my life plan as it’s been in my head for the past few weeks. when you’re ready for option 4, let me know 🙂

    • Kate says:

      that’s crazy Vanessa! I’m thinking Option 4 should commence a year from now, in winter 2013… that way we can escape to South America where it’ll be summer! I’ll keep you informed if the plan comes anywhere near fruition 😉

  3. […] I’m Lost, But I’m Hopeful Baby (A.K.A Mid [Peace Corps] Life Crisis) (kathrynbaus.wordpress.com) […]

  4. […] I’m Lost, But I’m Hopeful Baby (A.K.A Mid [Peace Corps] Life Crisis) (kathrynbaus.wordpress.com) […]

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