It hard to believe it’s been nearly nine months since I posted on this blog. While I thoroughly enjoyed expressing my thoughts and experiences through this medium, I feared that I would lose my audience and my purpose for writing after leaving Morocco. When I came back to the United States in January, I consequently lost part of my identity. The amount of pride I felt using the title “Peace Corps Volunteer” was undoubtedly more immense than I ever realized until I stripped myself of the label. I lost my place in this exclusive group that I had always longed to be a part of. In a sense, after getting to know my Staj for 4 months, it felt like I had quite literally lost my spot in this incredible family I had only just gained. I can’t speak for all who have joined Peace Corps and have failed to complete their service, but I’d imagine most of us after returning home felt a sense of embarrassment, of reverse culture shock, and of a loss of purpose. Of course, at some point you eventually must force yourself to stop worrying about the judgement of others and forgive yourself for not fulfilling your service, and positively move forward with your life.
And that’s what I did – I once again created a life worth enjoying. One where I didn’t have to feel the shame of my failures or confines of my own thoughts and solitude. I packed my bags and moved far from the comforts of my rural Kansan home and decided to create a new life for myself on the East coast. It’s honestly not that I didn’t try to find a job in Kansas, but truthfully, I’ve known in my heart for a long time that I could never reach my true potential or thrive back in my home state. I love Kansas with all my heart, but I’ve always felt like I would be settling if I didn’t go out and explore the rest of this beautiful world while I was young and single. And even more truthfully, for the past few years I’ve felt a certain disconnect with quite literally my closest friends who have all gotten married and started having children. It’s no fault of anyone’s of course, but it’s an exclusive part of adulthood that I have yet to experience – and I can’t help but feel a little left out sometimes. It’s no surprise that hanging out with each other becomes harder and harder to plan once you have a family of your own and while I would never fault anyone for finding love or having a baby, I also know that priorities change and that I’m not usually a part of those plans anymore.
So why not go to a city whose reputation is that it’s okay to put off getting married and it’s widely acceptable to focus on your career instead? Now – I’ll be the first person to tell you I struggle on a weekly basis on whether I’m okay with being single or not. It’s not like I haven’t put in the effort of finding a suitable man to spend my free time with, like seriously, look at all the dating apps on my phone. If dating were a class – I’d be getting an A+. But on the same token, it’s a relief that I feel no pressure in this city or amongst my friend groups the pressure to be anything but 27 and living life for myself. I’m also aware that “Winter is Coming” and the desire for someone to appear in my life will suffocate me daily when I’m freezing cold, alone in my room, but that’s also the beauty of this city – I can constantly find a concert, a free art gallery, a workout class in a park, or go on a date to get through the bouts of loneliness I’ll inherently feel on occasion.
I guess in a sense, the last few years of my life have been a never-ending cycle of feeling like I’m not part of something. Whether it’s because of falling out of a long-term relationship, not being a part of that exclusive marriage group that all my friends are a member of, or losing my place in the Peace Corps family, I’ve consistently found myself longing to have that connection and bond with others like myself. Which is why moving to Washington DC has seemingly become the best decision I’ve ever made to become the best and happiest version of myself. Since moving here, I’ve managed to become a member of LadiesDC, the premier young women’s professional networking group in DC, a member of the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network of Washington DC, a teammate on a sand volleyball team, a part of the DC running community, and a coworker at a great longstanding conservative nonprofit organization in DC (I know – I can’t believe I work at a conservative leaning organization either guys). At the end of September, I even plan on learning more about the Junior League here in DC, which not only will help commit myself to do more volunteering during my free time, but it’s a valuable group that can help me perform better at my own job. (For those of you who don’t know – I run a summer institute on Philanthropy and Voluntary Services for college students.) Not to mention, Washington DC is full of those who live and breathe to talk about politics, international relations, and policy – three topics that just get me in trouble when I talk about my liberal viewpoints when I’m back home in the Midwest. This city is full of those who are quite literally striving to be the next Senator, the next executive director at a national nonprofit, or the next President of the United States. How can you not love being amongst those who have this level of commitment, enthusiasm, and ambition with their careers? Never in my life have I wanted to become more a part of this kind of motivated community.
My whole life I’ve always been a part of as many organizations, clubs, and sports teams as possible. It’s not a surprise that I find agency and a sense of identity in being a part of an exclusive group. And I think I’ve finally found the most exciting group yet – being able to call myself a Washingtonian.