My best friend received an assignment in her final year of college to create three separate life plans, each for five years, with totally different paths. The goal was to envision the next phase of life, which can seem terrifying and nebulous for college seniors, as not having only one “right answer”. Rather, for seniors celebrate the idea that many different paths can lead to fulfillment and joy. This assignment totally resonated with me, as I am struggling to figure out what post-Berkeley life holds for me. Questions like, What would make me happiest? What would allow me to achieve my goals? Which path would help me discover my best future career? are constantly reverberating through my head these days, to the point where I’m having a hard time getting any school work or work work done. I can’t stop thinking about the what ifs and about where I’ll be at this time next year. It feels like a momentous point in my life. I think of my sister and how drastically different her life would have been had she asked just 2 days earlier to continue with her job in San Diego, and because she didn’t she went to live in Ecuador and met her future husband. I think of how my dad planned to teach in Japan, but met my mom and as a result stayed in the States and got married. I think about my friends who have proceeded directly to graduate school, preferring the continuance of their education to the perils of post-undergrad but pre-graduate school life. I know that each of their lives has been and will be profoundly shaped by this post-graduate moment in their lives. I think about what this moment could mean for me, and I am both thrilled and terrified.
In an attempt to make something productive of my scattered thoughts, and to show myself that there are many wonderful possibilities without one necessarily being better than another, I’m going to recreate my friend’s assignment, but with a three year plan instead of five, and with slightly varied plans instead of drastically distinct. Taking it one step at a time.
Option one: Peace Corps then Grad School
Since interviewing about a month ago for a Health Volunteer position for the PC, this is particular life path that has been prominently on my mind. If I were to receive an invitation to serve, I would leave for Cameroon in September of 2015 and serve through December of 2017. After 27 months of service, I could travel throughout other parts of Africa for a couple of months, then come home and prepare for graduate school in the fall. I would hope that my PC service would help me define what type of graduate school I’m most interested in. The idea is that I would spend the rest of that year preparing for graduate school and perhaps preparing myself by finding relevant work or volunteer experiences.
Option two: Working Boys Center, then World Teach, and then Americorps
This option would involve flying down to Quito, Ecuador, to serve as a Year Long Volunteer at the Working Boys Center (CMT). I would leave at the end of this August, and serve for a year, or maybe two. I would work with the urban poor in the capital, probably teaching English/PE/music/art/health to children and adults at the center. After one year of service, I could stay for a second year, or maybe apply to work with World Teach in the Pacific Islands with my friend Lori, who is graduating next year. After two years abroad, I imagine I’d be ready to come back home, so perhaps I could pursue one final extended volunteering position by serving in an Americorps program related to my professional goals while applying to graduate school.
Option three: Americorps, then Peace Corps
Another possibility would be to serve in Americorps for a one-year term in education or health, maybe living in Miami or Albuquerque. I would love to work with second-language learners if possible. I could gain some experience at home before moving to serve abroad, applying again for the PC with more experience and hopefully a stronger shot at an invitation.
My plans might not look all that different (okay, they definitely have some significant overlap), but I know that what I really want for myself after I graduate is a.) to serve as a volunteer capacity for an extended time period, anywhere from 1-3 years, and b.) to live abroad, learn a new way of life and a new language. I also am desperately craving a slower pace of life for myself. After having been unbelievably busy throughout my undergraduate experience between school work, volunteering, and my job, I am exhausted. Bone-deep tired. I am ready for a calmer schedule, where I don’t have my life booked every hour of every day. That’s not to say I don’t want to In my wildest dreams of my future, I’m living in a foreign country, doing service work, and spending a lot of time hanging out with people in the community. Spending time outside, chatting with people on the streets, trying new foods, making friends with the ladies who sell the newspaper on the corner, adding some spontaneity to my life because I have the time and flexibility to be able to say yes to a last-minute invitation to dinner.
In a conversation with that same friend with the project that inspired this post, she once told me, “You’re lucky you know what you want.” Sometimes I do feel that way, but other times I fear that I know what I want and want it so ardently but won’t be able to achieve what I’m dreaming of. I’m actively trying to stop my mind from rapid switches between imagining myself living in a rural African village working in health and imagining myself working in an urban Andean capital in education. Once I hear PC’s answer (by March 15), I can continue forward with planning and back-up planning and making my dreams reality.
In the meantime, I’ll be working on my patience–and on my thesis.
Until next time!