Anyone who has known me for the past nine months knows that applying for the Peace Corps has been a large part of my life. Just getting all the paperwork in has been a huge lesson, and a big chunk of time and energy. The two most frequent questions I get are; 1) Where are you going? and 2) Why? I still don't know where I'm going. That is in the hands of the mystery. Why is a long story, but I have a much better answer for that than I do for where.
I live in two worlds that, for the most part, don't have a tremendous amount of respect for each other. There are plenty of people who love both art and math, but I have always taken a certain amount of pride in my particular brand of bifurcation. I spent the last four years at the University of Minnesota studying Finance and Corporate Environmental Management. As much as I grouse about the atmosphere there, I really did love it. There is a part of me that really admires the order and productivity of business. Even if I don't always agree with what corporate America is doing, I get energized putting on a suit and giving a presentation, typing e-mails to a group with whom I'm working, and developing excel sheets to solve a financial valuation problem.
All that is fine and dandy, and plenty of people get really jazzed about business. I would be well on my way up the ladder if I could jump into a pant suit with both feet. The trouble is that another part of me would much rather be running around in a hemp skirt barefoot. Ironically, as I am writing this Michael Franti is singing emphatically about giving the corporation some complications. It's one big complication, and a seriously weak rung in my ladder. I love this side of me equally. I feel deeply connected to the people I have met and connected to while exercising this half of my personality.
There are days that I envy people who walk whole-heartedly in one of these paths or the other. There are times that I wish I could forget about one half of myself or another and submerge myself in business or activism. However, that's only temporary, and I know that I can't be me without being all of me so I'm giving myself in my entirety to bringing these two paths together. It has been done, and it will continue to be done. There are many people who have done this before me, and they have done it on a much larger scale. Still, it is a decision that poses some unique challenges.When I graduated from college I knew that in my first years after college I was going to have to give myself to something 100%. If I started a corporate career, the first few years were going to mean long work weeks that would leave little time for other things. I also knew that if I decided to do that I wasn't likely to jump out of a career half way through. That meant that the time for adventure was right after college. Still, I had to keep the future in mind and my adventures needed to embody both sides of me. The Peace Corps is work that is credible in both worlds. It allows me to do work that I believe in, and it allows me to continue functioning in a business sphere. It's the best of both worlds.
The Peace Corps has an added bonus, and that is the opportunity to learn another culture. I had contemplated studying abroad while I was in college but it was both expensive and lacking. I have a lot of respect for study abroad, but many times American students end up in dorms surrounded by other American students. I have no doubt that while in the Peace Corps, the world will have much more impact in me than I will have in the world.