Saturday, February 2, 2013

I mean, brothers and sisters...

I mean, brothers and sisters, the appointed time has grown short…For the present form of this world is passing away.

The passage above comes from Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians, which advises the members of that church on how to conduct themselves in order to avoid sin and in the face of Jesus’s impending return. 

He hasn’t come back yet, but the line often comes to mind when I feel that an end is drawing near.  Naturally, then, it’s been popping up in my thoughts this whole last month.  Here we are, a month of 2013 already behind, and a hair over four months of service remaining.  I’ve been in Indonesia for close to two years now, and the finish line is in sight.  It does feel as if the present form of my world shall soon begin to pass away.

Right now, the ship is skimming lightly over glassy waters.  Having begun my transition to sustainability last semester, it honestly feels as if there is little left to do at my school other than keep things running smoothly.  Of course, there are some things to finish up and I am not ready to leave today.  Yet I do not feel pressure to initiate any new, ambitious projects in order to establish a “legacy”.  With regard to school, the first month of this final semester was probably more free of stress than any month since I arrived.  I suppose that is as it should be. 

Something I’ve learned: life as a PCV changes almost completely over the course of service.  Gone are the days of feeling bewildered by local customs, angry at perceived injustice, or high on empowerment.  I’m like a broken wing: unflappable.* Earlier in service, I could not envision developing a routine like the one I’ve got now.  Everything is so normal.  It’s odd to think about.  Even the prospect of occasional trips to Surabaya, where I can enjoy food and drink and liberty, no longer sets me afire as it once did.  It’s pleasant, no doubt, but I don’t yearn for it. 

Two years ago,  I could not imagine being this familiar with my environment.  Sometime last semester, I started seeing this place as my home, not just my site.  The significance is not just semantic.  Seeing my school and house as my home have changed the way I think about everything.  Service seems less like service, and I feel less like a Volunteer.  The pervasive fervor of early days has cooled off, and I no longer even notice many of the things that would have shocked or outraged me when I arrived.  The clearest sign of the change, to me, is the feeling that I have a life at work and a private life, and the two do not need to overlap.  When I was new here, the two lives were completely tangled.   Work was life, life was work, and, in a way, the unity was beautiful.  Everything happening to me on the inside was a result of everything happening to me in my work. 

As time has moved on, however, that unity has dissolved and I have come to see my inner and outer lives as quite separate.  There is one storyline at work and another storyline in private, just as it was before PC.  This is what makes it feel like home.  It’s not the intense learning experience that it used to be…just the new normal.

I am not sure how I feel about this.  On the one hand it’s very comfortable, often rather pleasant, and it’s a relief not to be burdened by stress in the evenings.  On the other, I am a challenge-seeker, and I don’t know how long I can keep up feeling satisfied doing something this easy.  If I didn’t know that the end was near, I would be feeling mighty restless.  I’m not exactly itching to get out, but there is a certain level of excitement building.  I want to know what comes next.

At least I’m not dying of anticipation.  I feel pretty calm.  In about six weeks I should hear back from the five graduate programs I applied to.  I have submitted an application for extension of Peace Corps service as well.  Extending service is one option I would like to have in the event that things don’t work out with grad schools.  So, for all you kind people inclined to ask me what I’m going to be doing after this stint of service is over: I will be able to answer you in mid- to late-March.  I’m looking forward to having some answers.

* The exception to this equanimity is my unquenchable hatred of most public buses and bus terminals, which are the domain of villains. 

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