You give Peace Corps two years and three months of your life, and you know what they say they’ll give you in return? I’ll tell you.
Now this, to me, didn’t seem like too great a deal. Twenty-seven months of sporadic electricity and water, exposure to dysentery and tuberculosis, and topped off with minimal insulation and mad driving. And in return, I gain…what? The tools to handle another twenty-seven months like that?
No, I definitely didn’t join Peace Corps because of that particular offer.
No. I blame Matthew McConaughey. Aka my nemesis.
I’d been dabbling with the idea of Peace Corps for years. At first I felt I didn’t have anything to contribute, and later I just thought again and again on the commitment required. Two years. Three months. But as time passed I realized how fleeting time is. And (she continued, darkly,) I saw the ads McConaughey was doing for Peace Corps.
I give you exhibit A:
It’s magnificent. It gives me the shivers even now.
Look, honest as pie, Peace Corps is one of the best things I ever did in my life. But that doesn’t change the fact that when a woman has gone three months without heat, electricity and water, she finds herself not very favorably disposed toward Matthew McConaughey, particularly if she sees him only in large cologne advertisements plastered around her new capital city. Looking sleek, washed and utterly, but utterly clean.
But I digress.
So, Peace Corps didn’t capture my heart with their promise to endow me with patience and flexibility. But today I can tell you something. They’ve won me since.
It turns out: Patience and flexibility are worth LOADS more than you’d realize.
Examples of how the fantastic duo have changed my life for the better:
1. Someone is a jerk to me. My previous response: Stress. My current response: Laugh.
2. Something is late or doesn’t happen, throwing a wrench in everything else. My previous response: Stare at my watch as if doing this may turn back time. My current response: Happily make other plans, or better yet, just wander off to follow my heart.
3. My writing isn’t going smoothly. My previous response: Stop writing unless things get better. My current response: Accept the fact that there is no solidity in writing, and keep on going.
Determination. Grit. Commitment. Resourcefulness. Adaptability. Discipline. Self-confidence. Peace.
Yeah. I got my patience and my flexibility, and I’m thankful. And that’s in addition to all the other wonderful things I got from Peace Corps, like my host family, colleagues and friends, and the chance to live Georgia from the inside in…
So, if adventure calls you, or if you have the urge to experience a complete life change to volunteer somewhere, I recommend that first of all:
You watch any McConaughey movies you haven’t seen yet.
Afterwards, you won’t feel as favorably disposed to the poor fellow, who, I understand, does do his own charitable stuff and ought be respected for it. Nonetheless, trust me. Watch him now, especially if you just saw that video. You WILL hear his voice in your head as you sweat off the ointment they promise will bring down the allergic reactions you’re having to bugs you never knew existed before, and as you run barefoot to a wet outhouse because what needs doing can’t wait, and as your water bottle freezes in bed with you for two winters.
Which is precisely when you won’t want to hear his voice ever again.
In case you didn’t watch the PSA, here’s what McConaughey had to say over a backdrop of gorgeous Peace Corps cinematography:
“How far would you go to help someone? Would you go to the end of your driveway? Would you cross the street? Would you cross an ocean? To a place 6,000 miles from home… And how long would you go? Would you go for a week? A month? A year? Would you go for two years? Would you go if you could use your knowledge to teach someone, and in the process, maybe learn something yourself? Life is Calling. How far will you go? Peace Corps.”