My friend Jim left for the Congo today. He's working for the Catholic Relief Services and will be Kinshasa for a year. He never ceases to amaze me with his energy and dedication. I love Jim with the kind of unfailing love that means I would do anything----literally anything----for him if he needed it. I'd fly across the world to be with him at a moment's notice if he needed it. I love all my friends, but in terms of understanding me like no one else, Jim takes the cake. He is the most compassionate and kind person I know.
He also served in the Peace Corps in Madegascar. So consequently, whenever I speak with him, I start to reflect on my own short-lived months as a volunteer. Which led me to google several of my PC friends and neighbors today...and I found some great updates on people. Everyone is leading interesting and brilliant lives.
Consequently, sometimes, I feel like a fraud. I know I was there for longer than some, but I was also there only a short time. I start to wonder if by leaving early, did I cheat myself of some unique opportunities that otherwise I will never have? (Probably.) Did I blow my brief negative experience out of the proportion? (Perhaps.) Did I make the right choice to come home early? Or is it such that the grass is always greener? (I will never know.)
Can I even call myself an RPCV? Do I have that right?
I wish I had gone to Kenya the person that I am now---more compassionate, more aware, more open, more willing, less arrogant, less brash. I think I would have stuck out my whole two-years. But that's the mother of all catch-22's, right? My experiences in Africa help shape me into who I am today and without them, I'd still be the same asshole right-out-of-college twit. But I do wish I had experienced some of the sadness of life before my African heartbreak nearly ripped me in two.
I worry sometimes that life will never right itself and this passion that glows in my heart for Africa will burn out before I can set foot on African soil again. I have made some heartbreaking decisions based on this elusive desire to return and work there. Were those decisions in vain?
I feel like I need a reminder, every now and then, of the person I was, the person I am and the person I hope to someday be.