On Trying Not to Be an Asshole

Around half of Peace Corps volunteers (I actually looked this up – 54% in 2010 according to PeaceCorpsJournals) nowadays toy with the idea of blogging their experiences and end up setting up a wordpress or blogger or typepad thing. Some do it to help achieve the third goal (help Americans understand the people and cultures of other countries, for those that haven’t memorized them like I have). Some do it to perhaps shut up some of their friends and relatives back home. And we can’t forget those who dream of someday turning their Peace Corps experience into some kind of bestselling novel and are hoping to use the blog as a jumping off point towards winning that Pulitzer.

Most blogs end up abandoned after a few hasty updates since various posts don’t really offer adequate power/internet for such pursuits. And I guess there are some people who have just too. much. fun. to stop and blog about how incredible/amazing/lifechanging Peace Corps is (they probably even forget they started a blog, ahem Gracie!). I’m sure a few get discouraged by the blog visit counter (I’ve had 2 hits in the last week. This is pointless!) or simply grow tired of it. There are some, though, who stick it out and post some poignant and powerful stuff.

I’m not talking about me. Seriously, I wrote my last post on not being able to take a shower…

Anyway, I run across some of these posts and am taken aback. Some are funny. Some are heartwrenching. All are enlightening. Most make me want to stop writing in my blog because my words don’t even come close to capturing this experience in such beautiful, genuine, insightful ways. (I will keep writing, though, since I’ve already made it this far. Might as well finish what I started.)

So, anyway, I read this today and it was the same thing all over again. Humorous. Authentic. Deep. And it’s amazing the kinds of questions you start to ask yourself when faced with the ideas and reflections of other volunteers. It’s almost scary how another volunteers words, someone you’ve never met and whose experience halfway around the world is different from yours in countless ways, help to define opinions and reveal motives you didn’t even realize you had.

” ‘How to live?’ I asked myself, as graduation loomed and the world seemed to narrow rather than expand. Fearful of growing up and becoming an asshole, I went in for an interview with Peace Corps. “

And there it was, a lightbulb moment. That’s why I’m here. I just didn’t have it summarized in such a straightforward way. Amidst all the reasons I had, this was the essence of it all.

So, did it work? Well, for the author she says,

“Am I less of an asshole? Who knows.”

As for me, I also have no idea. I’ve had days where I’ve hated this place and the people. Days where I’ve cursed their hora chapina, glared at the vegetable lady and visualized her being viciously attacked by chuchos for charging me more than everyone else, and even threw up my hands in defeat after another pointless meeting and thought “you all deserve to live like this!”. Yes, I have thoroughly and horribly been an asshole.

Peace Corps is not the solution that I thought it was going to be. For some reason I had this idea that the Peace Corps was the answer to all my post college, early twenties angst and confusion. I thought my two years would teach me to be the perfect world citizen, make me less of an asshole, reveal to me my truest desires and passions, answer all my questions about who I am and where I am going. And, you know what? It hasn’t. Peace Corps is many things. But it is not magic.

There are no solutions. There are simply steps. Peace Corps is a step. A big, two year long step. A step that hopefully helps to make me a little bit less of an asshole, but apparently won’t be sharing the meaning of life with me anytime soon.

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4 Responses to On Trying Not to Be an Asshole

  1. Chai says:

    I totally read your posts, but they got straight to my inbox. Is it my fault that technology is stealing a page view away from you? I think not.

  2. Dennis says:

    less of an asshole, more of a bitch. What gives?

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