~ William Shedd
Today I officially join the Peace Corps as a trainee, the first big step into the next two years of my life. It is fitting that three years ago today I took another big step as myself and a dozen friends threw ourselves off the 218 m Bloukran's Bridge in Storm's River, South Africa trusting our entire lives to a few hundred feet of bungee cord and a set of cloth harnesses. Though certainly not equal, both these experiences represent conscious decisions I have made to not let fear or uncertainty hold me back from experiences which might help me grow and challenge some of my fears.
In joining the Peace Corps today I am certainly forcing myself out of my comfort zone and into an experience which I know will be incredible because it is going to challenge me physically and emotionally and mentally from the very first day. Living with a family that is not my own, who do not really speak my language, who eat food that I don't even recognize and who are probably a little freaked out about hosting me too, not knowing a single person I am going to be spending the next three months with...it's incredibly intimidating and incredibly exciting too.
My overall ambitions for the next 27 months are fairly simple. I want to completely open myself to the experiences which come along, especially the difficult or frightening ones. I want to give as much of myself as I can to help the people in my village help themselves by identifying ways to improve their health that are both culturally appropriate and feasible without continual external aid. I want to work as hard as I can to understand health and illness from their perspective and find solutions and ways of sharing knowledge that respect these perspectives while also presenting plausible alternatives. And I want to continue to tackle new fears head-on and overcome them and grow.