Headed home

Tonight I will board a red eye flight for Houston, and–crossed fingers for no delays– arrive in Newark tomorrow afternoon.

I’m not sad. I’m not leaving Peru with a heavy heart. I’m not happy either. I’m just boarding a flight and ending my 11 months in Peru.

That lack of emotion concerns me. It’s largely because my emotions do not seem to have caught up to what my brain knows.

Tomorrow nearly guarantees that I will never again wake to the sounds of Isis telling Mama Luz to eat all the food on her plate. Tomorrow I stop negotiating with cab drivers for the lowest possible price, ningúna sol más que diez! Tomorrow I stop boarding combis packed shoulder to forehead with those around me. Tomorrow David and I will not talk about feminism, racism, homophobia or theology. Tomorrow I won’t work through the crossword in El Popular, Ojo, or Perú21. Tomorrow Isis won’t scold me for cracking my knuckles or else they’ll be fat when I’m old. Tomorrow I will not catalog artisans’ work for sale in the office.

Tomorrow I will be in Newark. I will greet my parents and visit cousins in New York before returning home to Scotia for the first time in nearly 48 weeks. Tomorrow will be a day of transition from the recent familiar to the distant familiar, which I’m sure have far better psychological names.

Today I don’t feel much out of the ordinary. I am considering the few errands I must complete (mostly gift purchasing) before departure, with a similar attitude to that with which I considered everyday office tasks.

That concerns me. That concerns me because I feel like a mirror of who I was 11 months ago. In August, I sat on a Lima-bound flight, I looked back at my fellow Peru YAVs, each buzzing with excitement and anxiety for the upcoming months, and I did not see myself reflected in their eyes. I feigned a calm and collected shell, lacking context for the months to come. What were 11 months of new experiences, but a blur of memories down the road?

Ignorant and cocky, I felt nothing out of the ordinary as I flew south.

If you’ve been following along, you know that this year drained me within two months. Unforeseeable roadblocks and trials of my own creation and beyond my control pushed me beyond a breaking point. Honestly, I even came up short in the face of those challenges I expected to face. I trace much of that struggle to that unpreparedness.

With all that in mind, I’m concerned to find myself in a similar emotional place as I depart. Will I be similarly drained two months into my new life in Washington, DC? What trials am I not anticipating? What roadblocks am I underestimating?

During our final retreat, Jed pointed out that it is more or less impossible to predict every challenge in re-entry. “You’ve been immersed in a different sociocultural atmosphere for months, it is difficult to know exactly how that’s affected you.”

That, more or less, is why I’m worried.

Of course, I am hopeful that I am not a mirror of the person I was 11 months ago, but someone who can handle the same situation better. Jed and Jenny also suggested that it best not to view our YAV year as a change, but a fuller realization of ourselves. Right now that is more than a nitpick at the definition, but a way for me to depart this year with a greater sense of hopefulness.

I look confidently toward the next steps I will take after this year, knowing I am more capable in ways big and small to face the expected and unexpected challenges. I trust that when I reach new limits and fail to see any reprieve, I will manage to overcome.

For now, that increased confidence is my greatest takeaway from this year of service. I have a few qualms with how self-interested that is, especially as I depart those who I met and will continue to struggle. Plus, I question how integral Peru and the resources spent in bringing me here are to my grand realizations. There is value to exploring those qualms moving forward, but they are unchangeable at this point.

Likewise, these qualms do not invalidate my more hopeful confidence, which will help me tackle new challenges, starting with the impact as my emotions catch up with my intellectual understanding of what it means to leave Peru.

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