Thursday, May 5, 2011

Exit Stage Left

I received instructions from the "staging unit" of Peace Corps this week.  I'll be departing Fayetteville on May 29th for Philadelphia, PA. I'll spend a few days hanging with home boys, and then I'll have a brief series of meetings with my fellow trainees on 01 June. June 2nd, we ride a red-eye bus to New York, and from there we fly to Quito. None of this seems very real to me, but I suspect it will be similar to my study abroad experience of simply showing up somewhere, clueless, and going about my life one task at a time until it is, quite real.

To know this news is so gratifying after waiting a year. I'm feeling a surge of excitement and energy going in to my service; this has been boosted by a random encounter I had yesterday with a PCV who's currently serving, who is also from my home town. We were able to sit and talk for a few hours, and she was most gracious with her time as I grilled her about everything from her living conditions to bureaucratic red tape.  More than anything, she made me feel more confidence.

Everything else will be history between now and 01 June. Moving, packing, finishing work, arranging affairs. Drinking beers with people I won't see for awhile - in no particular order. One way of characterizing my life over the last year would be to call it fast. This quality is probably typical of a graduate's first year of working full time as an adult. I never guessed I would be in a restaurant; restaurant work tends to fly by in itself (getting refills, taking food order, turning in ticket, getting refills, taking drink orders, explaining specials, washing soup cups, delivering food, BAM THE SHIFT'S OVER), and is only compounded by my anticipation and preparation for Peace Corps. One theory offered by David Foster Wallace in these situations had to do with cliches; he basically thought that cliches usually contain truths which are so obvious and timeless that we begin to blow them off or be skeptical of them through pure over-exposure. I remember my freshmen year of college being at a dinner for the senior scholars, and one of them standing to give his advice: "college is a four year minute, so pay attention while it lasts." Of course everyone in the room was like, Right, Thanks for the platitude. But, over the years, that advice has echoed in my brain like a bad song lyric, and probably adheres to the DFW theory. It doesn't really matter if people tend to sit around saying things like, "Time flies..." Time, in fact, does fly for those who are in over their heads. So, in the analogy, a successful life for someone with my particular outfit of perceptions will probably be like constantly riding a wave on the verge of asphyxiation, like an ill-equipped surfer, or Gilligan without an island.

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