Friday, May 21, 2010

New Blog


So, I've decided to create a brand new blog for my time as Peace Corps Volunteer. You can follow along at The ol' blogspot will probably be pretty quiet with this new blog in my life. I may come here occasionally to write about something unrelated to Niger, but if you want to follow my life, head to the WordPress. Thanks your eyes and support!


Monday, May 17, 2010

The package

Last Monday, a two-year journey ended.

I knew that day was going to change my life forever, so I planned ahead and took the afternoon off. I was to pick up a package, one I had hope to get sooner but didn't thanks to UPS' inconvenient hours, that contained this life-changing information. Of course, I spent most of the day in Brookings, so I had 50-minute drive from the end of my work day to picking up that package. I played loud music and podcasts to quiet my wild thoughts, but I couldn't concentrate on anything but that package.

Once I arrived to the UPS store, I made a promise to myself not to open it there. I wanted that moment to be somewhere special, or anywhere that isn't a UPS parking lot. I thought about Falls Park, but since it was pouring, I decided on maybe a coffee shop or bar.

My hands and voice trembled a bit with I told the woman behind the counter my name and gave her my ID. I signed for the packaged and gripped it tightly, not believing it was real.

Making the drive cross town, I realized that I didn't want to be in a public place, I'd rather be in my apartment, so I compromised with a trip to the liquor store for a beer to stop the trembling, which was still flowing through my legs and hands. I bought a six-pack of my favorite summer beer and went home.

Once I got home, I cleaned a few dishes and changed my clothes. These are things I don't normally do when returning home from work, but I did them because I wasn't ready to open that package.

Two years ago, I began the process to become a Peace Corps Volunteer. I applied in June 2008 and was told that I needed to wait because funding was on hold. That August, they told me I need more specific skills if I wanted to be a volunteer, despite all the experience I did have. So disappointed and discouraged, I withdrew my application and looked for a new path.

The aspiration lingered in the back of my mind as regret, yet I still had the power to change. After a mini life crisis last April, I reopened my application. The interview came in July, nomination in August and medical clearance in February.

Then, silence. Months of silence and not knowing what would happen to me. I went on with life and almost removed this from my future. I kept working on The Post and start to examine routes to put my life in a better state. Yes, I still wanted to be volunteer, but I couldn't continue to put my life on hold.

One day, notice came that a package was on its way. I didn't know what was in it, but that it was coming from the Peace Corps Headquarters. It seemed like it would never come, but there it was, on my coffee table. It just seemed too monumental to rush through opening.

After stalling for 20 minutes, I grabbed a beer and opened the package. On a white folded piece of paper was answers. For the first time, I had answers.

The piece of paper wanted to send me to Niger, Africa, leaving July 7. It asked me to become a community and youth educator/English language educator. The rest of the package was filled with forms and information booklets, but I couldn't take my eyes of that piece of paper.

Soon after, the decision making began. I called my parents and friends and gorged the Internet for information on Niger. I ran through possible scenarios and imagined how hard it was going to be to leave my two amazing jobs and all of these wonderful people.

The Peace Corps gave me 10 days to make a decision. I needed 10 seconds. I knew I was going before I opened that package. This is what I wanted for so long and I could finally have it.

Before accepting, I talked to my boss at the Foundation, my cohorts at The Post, my parents and a few of my friends. I spoke to them as if I hadn't made a decision, but they all knew I had.

I accepted on Wednesday and have been in a whirlwind of resignation letters, visa applications and visits with friends (oh, and the 2,000-word story I wrote for The Post and the two-day conference that came with it). Now that a few major things are behind me, I am starting to really tell people about the Peace Corps as the decision sinks in. I still have paperwork to do before I can start to pack, but the weeks leading up to my departure will be filled mostly with friends, family and preparation.

That package did change my life, and I wanted it to. Remember, I asked for it. It took some time to get here, but I am glad it did. I needed all that time to be ready to open it.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Today, what I deserved finally came true. It took me a long time to figure that out, but finally I got it. And, it may not work out, but I got it. And that's all I ever wanted — what I deserved.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Happy Mother's Day

As little kids, we need our moms. If we are lucky, they take care of our bruises, nightmares and hurt feelings. They give us food, shelter and lot more love than we deserve.

As we grow, so does our independence. We don't want our mothers calling to check up on us or invading time we'd rather spend with friends and significant others. They become a nuisance rather than a guiding light.

When we leave home, we still believe we don't need our mothers. They can't teach us anything we don't already know. We start to realize how human our parents are and tend to disregard their love and affection because of it.

But there comes a point in our adult lives where our parents all of sudden become significant again. When going home for a visit is a treat rather than a burden. When saying goodbye seems to hurt much more than it ever did. It takes some of us longer to reach that point than others, but most adults tend to make the realization that we still do need our mothers to take care of our bruises, nightmares and hurt feelings.

I need mine my mom. When I am scared, hurt or sick, she is the one I turn to. And, at 25 living just a mere 3 and half hours away, I miss her more than ever. I tear up every time I have to say goodbye. She is the best woman I've ever met and I'm so fortunate to have a mother who loves and spoils me and wants to be in my life. Even more though, I am blessed to be allowed to call her my mother.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

"It really hit me the most one night when she said to me 'You need a change. You are stressed, angry and pissed off all the time. This isn't like you. I want the old you back. You need to change something.'"

"Well, I am glad someone else said it first."

"You feel the same way?"

"Yeah, it's time to change."

Friday, May 07, 2010

Home run

“Home run,” he said as walked by and touched my shoulder. I said thanks, but felt guilty for accepting that kind of credit. I didn’t edit the film, nor shoot it, but those things are really minor details to the heart of the production: the stories. And what I did do is not even worth mentioning.

Still, people complimented me on the work I did and said I was key to the project. I think they are just being nice. I was just the person off in the corner, there to put out a fire if one should ignite.

When I received these gestures, I’d give credit to where it was due or just say a simple “Thank You” without a pull in my heart. My job was to take from the artist to the crowd. It’s not my work and I wouldn’t let myself become artistically, like a piece of you is encrusted in the project, attached to it.

I found her darting through the crowds, wearing a pink and purple blouse. It always makes me nervous seeing an interview subject after a piece has been unveiled. It’s my constant fear that the people who’ve shared their stories with me feel that I’ve wronged them. It happens quite frequently, but is never less painful.

She saw me, eyes lit up and gave me a hug.

At that moment, I felt that I did something good. I brought an artist to the incredible story of this woman’s son and the amazing legacy he left when he died at 24. The creative then shared it with the world.

I didn’t do anything, but, with this woman’s arms around me, I pretended that I did.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010


Today, I saw a dear friend of mine who lives far away and had a baby a few months ago. We were joined by another friend who is ready to pop with her second child.

One of my other dear friends had her second child today.

So many babies. I am not having them, but everyone around me seems to be giving birth.

I already have a child that demands all of my attention, keeps me up at night and wants to be fed on a constant basis. At least it doesn't spit up.

The others are more cute and easier to cuddle with, but I think I am best at parenting the one I have. For now.

Monday, May 03, 2010

In attempts to write and process my world at a higher quality, I've been depicting a piece of my day on this blog almost every day for more than a month. Today, so many big things happened. I can't process it all, so I am going to find my bed and some reading material to drown out these thoughts.

For now, I'm going to leave you with this quote that I found the other day. I truly identify with this statement and fear.

"Journalists request interviews the way beggars ask for alms, reflexively and nervously. Like beggars, journalists must always be prepared for a rebuff, and cannot afford to let pride prevent them from making the pitch. But it isn't pleasant for a grown man or woman to put himself or herself in the way of refusal. In my many years of doing journalism, I have never come to terms with this part of the work. I hate to ask. I hate it when they say no. And I love it when they say yes." - Janet Malcolm.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Letting go

I suck at letting go of people.

I drag things out until the union — romantic or platonic — is strained and almost useless. The optimist in me keeps hoping things will turnaround and the fear of losing someone from my circle blinds all reality. Even if I want to walk away, I refuse to let myself do it. Terrified of being the first to leave, I am always the one left. It hurts, but I tell myself pain is better than guilt.

This morning, I woke up thinking about one of my good friends. We've been friends for several years, but we've changed so much in that time. Our time together now usually consists of forced conversations and inability to understand each other. It bothers me that I've noticed our slow separation for awhile, but can't do anything to reverse it.

I told another friend about this worry and he asked me why were friends in the first place. Well, we were in college and we had fun together. That was it. There was no defining characteristic that brought us together, but there also isn't one driving us apart. The friendship isn't broken; we've just outgrown it.

I can't accept that fact. I love this person and will always think fondly of our time together, but it seems to take so much effort to make it work. And I feel guilty for feeling that way.

It's in my nature to hold on to friendships or relationships that aren't good for me, but this one isn't toxic like others. It's not helping me, either.

I am not sure if there is anything I can do to bring us together again but to let this friendship run it's course. I could walk away, and maybe I already am, but, more than likely, I'll be left.

Saturday, May 01, 2010


At the end of some relationships, there is a resistance to put the union to bed and move on with life. Couples will hold on to whatever strangling threads may exist and pull at them in hopes things go could go back to “the way it was.” They may try it again, but the relationship falls apart for many of the same reasons it did the first time.

Still, they can’t seem to let it be and will run to each other on cold nights and dark days. It will seem wrong the next day, but for a night, there is a slice of hope and possibility.

It’s a mess of emotions, regrets and frustrations and the need to finally end it grows stronger as the will to do so seems quieter. They wait until something else comes along to finally be done. At some point, one individual, or both, wonders: “What would’ve been like had I just left the first time?”

That’s my relationship with Brookings.

For months, I agonized over my decision to leave Idaho and take the job in Brookings. (Need proof? Here. Here. Here.) I wanted to leave Brookings as soon as I got back, but enjoyed my job and the opportunity that came with it, so I vowed to change other parts of my life and rest in the idea that sometimes you have to go back to where you started.

Brookings the second time around felt so much different. In the cities that define my life there is College Brookings and Post College Brookings; the two are hardly alike.

In college, I was familiar with the bars on Main Avenue, Walmart and the chain restaurants and spent a majority of my time on campus. Walking through the student union, I realized I only had four years to be on campus and truly feel like it is mine, so I tried to absorb that feeling. Brookings, the city, was just the hosting site to my world.

The second time, though, I didn’t have that affiliation to the campus. Yes, I worked on campus and attended athletic events and plays, but I was no longer a student and I forced myself to remember that every day. I set out to become a member of the community — I wrote for the local newspaper, taught religious education at my church, volunteered at the domestic abuse shelter and voted in city elections. I went to stores I didn’t know about in college, checked out books from the city library, ran community 5Ks and tried to eat at locally owned restaurants.

Being a young professional in Brookings is an awkward role. Without a family, it’s hard to be a true member of the community, yet, with a degree located somewhere in the mess of important papers I keep in a black tub, I was not part of the student community either. I was in-betweenie. There are other in-betweenie but we had a hard time finding each other, because we had a hard time finding ourselves.

I often was so focused on leaving and how much I didn’t like being in Brookings that I could barely see the good parts. Unlike my life in Pocatello and the one I currently lead in Sioux Falls, I was stable. I ran in the mornings, went to yoga, wrote on a regular basis, slept normal hours, cooked meals, read books, painted and watched the local news at 10 (Despite the fact that I do not own a TV anymore, I have this idea in my head that once I have a regular life, it will include the local news at 10 p.m., maybe even the first half of a late-night talk show. That’s what normal people with normal lives do, right?)

Living in Brookings also really gave me a chance to focus on friendships. It allowed me to work on the good ones and weed out the not so good ones. Some of the best friends I currently have would only be casual friendships hadn’t I moved back. Last winter and spring, I was surrounded by so many good people and there was such calm in my social life. Then came the summer and fall and disrupted it, but that’s a post for another day.

Still, I wanted to leave. Some things from college didn’t change. I ran into people I didn’t want to see and it was always the same story: go to this bar, do these things. And what scared me the most is that I thought I might lose sight of my dreams in the monotony of living in this small town. Maybe, I’d forget what I wanted because of what I knew.

I didn’t have to move to Sioux Falls, in fact, it probably would’ve been cheaper had I stayed in Brookings, but many of my friends moved south and I couldn’t imagine being there without them, so I too migrated to the Queen City.

It was the right move. I’m much happier here. I ride my bike to work, I live by myself in a studio apartment that I adore, I’ve become acquainted with the music and art scenes, I can see the Big Sioux River and bike trail from my window, I've met amazingly creative people and the best shops and restaurants in the city are all within walking distance. Most importantly, there is less anxiety in my voice when I say Sioux Falls after the question “Where do you live?”

This fall, a few friends and I took a couple of trips north for Jackrabbit football games. We’d go out, but I hated being in those usual spots. Although I no longer lived there, I felt like I did and I was ashamed. In crammed loud bars, I remember thinking “I just want to leave this town and never come back again.” My friends loved Brookings because it was the same. I hated it because it was the same.

Outside of work, I tried not to go to Brookings. When I do go for work, I take the White exit then Highway 14 to Medary Avenue and completely bypass most of the town. Most days, I don’t feel like I’m in Brookings because I don’t see it. But I don’t want to see it.

One day last week, I decided I missed Brookings. I missed my favorite coffee shop, my favorite bar, my favorite shopping spot, my favorite park. I hadn’t missed that town since Idaho and it felt good to miss it. I wanted to miss it, because that feeling came with leaving.

Tonight, I’m going to Brookings for a going away party for a friend, one of those friends who became more to me my second time in Brookings. I am excited to go out to the usual spots and see the usual people. I am happy to be going there.

When I lived in Idaho, Brookings was such a majestic place. I couldn’t wait to go back and see the lights of Main Avenue and the little red one coming from the Campanile. It felt like home.

Although, I’m not quite there, I am starting to relive those feelings for Brookings. I’m am more nostalgic about it, instead of seeing it as this weight that holds me back. I may never feel the way I did about it when I lived Idaho, but Brookings will always mean something special to me. Although in different ways, I grew during both of my living stints.

Without College Brookings and Post College Brookings, I’d be someone else. And for that reason, I’ll always love Brookings.