Why am I going into the Peace Corps?

Why are you going into the Peace Corps?

People ask me that. Mostly my Life Coach asks. She doesn’t ask me because she doesn’t know the answer. She invites me to really explore the personal work I did to arrive at this decision. Why am I going into the Peace Corps?

A print I bought 5-10 years ago which has become a benchmark for my life.

This is part of the answer.ย  A while ago I started taking inventory of my life. I knew there was more. I just didn’t know what it was. As I’ve written in an earlier post, I have a great job and arguably a good life. So why would I leave this in search of the unknown? Because my belief in something greater than what I have is stronger than my desire to remain in my comfortable life.

Another reason: the timing is right. Few people in my life know that when I graduated college I contacted the Peace Corps (like so many college grads do) and requested an application. At that time it was a paper application: page after page after page of data gathering (were computers even invented in 1986 let alone online form submission?) The multiple-page application was daunting and uninviting so I passed. It’s amazing how seamless the application process has seemed this go-around. Ironically, it is more complicated for me to go now than it would have been when I was 24, and yet it seems so much easier.

I must downsize, sell, donate, loan, and rent my space and belongings. I must demonstrate my ability to eradicate my debt or make provisions for it during my absence. I must show that my house will rent and that I have an income stream that is generated from it if I still have debt when I leave. I must get rid of services (I’ve had my land line for 22 years.) I must redirect my mail, cancel my car, business, and health insurance. And the list goes on and on.

Why am I going into the Peace Corps? I’ve lived in the DC area for almost 23 years yet I’ve always had one foot out the door. Sure, I made a life here but I never fully lived here. I’ve had periods of happiness and prosperity and I’ve had periods of loneliness. The circle of life, I guess. But now, when I look at my life, I am restless. I can’t keep doing what I’m doing and expect different results. I have to make a change.

Why am I going into the Peace Corps? And finally, while working with my Life Coach this past fall we did an exercise on finding my true purpose. She asked me questions like, “When in your life were you most passionate?” and “What things are you uniquely designed to do in this life?” and a theme that kept coming up was working with children. Woven throughout my entire life is the work I’ve done with kids. And through that process it became clear: Just because I didn’t have children of my own doesn’t mean I can’t make a difference in a child’s life. Or two children. Or a village of children.

So I lie in bed trying to imagine the place I’m going to and the work I’ll be doing. At this point it’s unclear. But one thing is clear: I feel joy when I think about it.

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7 Responses to Why am I going into the Peace Corps?

  1. mary rogers ritt says:

    Dear cousin and friend . I read your story today for the first time. You know life and how the heart and mind works. You know you . There is a multitude of child
    geared Needs that would be so blessed to have your talents. I hope you land where your dreams lead you and where there is plenty of warm clean water: or at least a pot to boil it in. you know what is right and you are doing it. I am so proud of you
    p.s. I love you Mary Ellen

  2. Liz says:

    I love that Story People print! Seeing it again makes me want to go buy it and send it to my cousin who was the nudge I needed this summer to look at my life differently and apply to the PC ๐Ÿ™‚ I turned 27 right after applying and am in the medical clearance process right now and if everything goes according to plan, I’ll be leaving for subsaharan Africa in February. I am no where near the “normal” path of life right now when I compare myself to my friends. We all finished college, they got married and had kids and I stayed restless. I’m so happy that I’ve finally figured out I don’t have to be like anyone else ๐Ÿ˜‰ Took me long enough…

  3. Anonymous says:

    I am 29 and I feel the exact way that you do. Everything in my life was lining up just right, and I was climbing the ladder of success quickly within my company. I felt comfortable with my salary and my living arrangements and had many of the periods that you listed above. Although things appeared to be going great, I feel like there has to be more than this to life. I applied for the Peace Corps back in July and am in the medical / dental clearance process. I pray that you have a wonderful and fulfilling experience during your peace corps service.

    • Mary Trotter says:

      I applaud you for listening to your gut and not falling into the trap of doing what everyone else thinks you should be doing. I know that wasn’t easy, especially given your age and where you are in your life. I wish for you a speedy medical review ๐Ÿ™‚ and a rewarding and unforgettable Peace Corps experience.

  4. Karen says:

    Hi Mary, I just came across your site. I am a recently Returned Peace Corps Volunteer. The reasons you list for wanting to be a volunteer resonate with the reasons why I joined. There’s nothing I could pinpoint. I just knew my life was too confined, the timing was right and I was compelled to push forward. When you know it’s right – it’s right.

    Good luck and I hope all works out for you.

    RPCV, Saint Lucia 2008-2010

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