After your 21st birthday, apparently there’s not much to look forward to. It’s all down hill from here. You go from bouncing up after every failure, alcohol involvement or otherwise, to hearing your knees crackling when you try to get up a little too fast. I’m choosing to avoid it all and take Bob’s advice, staying ‘forever young.’
In asking my age during training, another volunteer told me I was lucky to be growing into these years, the mid-twenties. The best of his life thus far he told me and I’m beginning to see what he means. This time last year, I turned the ripe old age of twenty-two. It’s not really old, unless you compare it to high school students (then I feel really ancient). It’s just starting my independent adult life. Just out of college and I felt (and still do) like the world is at my fingertips. I had decided after spending a semester abroad that I was going to set out to live an extraordinary life, something to write home about. Twenty-two was just the start of that.
Looking back, it’s been a hell of a year. I did a lot of living in these past 365 days. I spent the summer traveling, first in Germany, failing miserably at teaching myself the language, quite sporadically decided to head to China and couch surfed my way through some of the best times of my life, and then west coast of the U.S exploring the awesomeness of our National Parks before coming back home in the fall to work my ass off to save money before shipping off to Thailand. These experiences cracked me out of my shell in innumerable ways. As with any challenge, I was forced to grow as a person and learn how to function in countries that I knew maybe a total of five words or I didn’t know a soul before going there or finding the patience to wait tables on some very obnoxious people. It was in those terrifying moments though that I found out how incredibly rewarding it is discovering the powers of your own independence. That’s the feeling I get when I travel to a new place, set out on a new adventure, or figure out a tough problem.
I think one of the best parts about growing up is seeing the changes that are happening to yourself and liking who you are becoming. After four months of Peace Corps life, or one quarter of twenty-two as I like to think of it, I notice myself developing even more. The temper that used to flare up so often has jai yen yened (cool heart) itself, experiencing the concept of giving up personal petty needs and giving yourself to others instead, and learning how to keep myself from becoming bored despite less than stellar circumstances.
I assume that I’m not the only one going through this; there are sixty-four other people in PC Thailand 123. It amazes me how egalitarian all the Volunteers are. There are people with decades of teaching experience, sometimes teaching longer than I’ve been alive, but they never made me feel like I didn’t have something to bring to the table. I tip my hat though to my fellow young’uns too. I’m really glad to see other people from my generation with the same hopes, goals, and slightly crazed tendencies to embark on an adventure of this magnitude. I’m glad that I get to live through year twenty-three with support from all of my fellow volunteers and amazing friends from home and elsewhere (shout out to Steph Graham for sending me multiple birthday cards and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups!).
Looking ahead, I think twenty-three will be, as promised by my fellow volunteer, as fantastic as twenty-two. I look forward to the ridiculous-ness that lies ahead of me on the twist filled roads as a PCV can sometimes be, to the moments that I think I have no idea what I’m going to do, but manage to figure it out anyway, and go a Thai party to celebrate something that I actually understand! (I’ve been promised a four-layer cake already; I’m a happy camper.)
Twenty-three, here’s lookin’ at you kid.