The day after I graduated high school, I walked into the local library and walked out with a stack of books and a job offer. That same day, I asked the boy who I went to prom with to be my boyfriend. I spent that summer roaming the bookshelves of the library and tangled up in the backseat of my sister’s dark blue 2001 Chevy Prizm, which would later be handed down to me and infamously re-named “Punchbag Bob.” My job at the library, a place I frequented often, felt like a dream come true. I had fond memories of making the long walk from my house, always stopping at the Polish bakery on the way back. On August 8, 2008, during a five hour conversation on my now-antiquated cellphone, I said “I love you” to a boy for the first time. I whispered the words into the dark and laughed at my nervousness when I heard them back. Although I’m sure life had its moments, I can’t remember being anything but blissfully happy that summer. I had my first taste of freedom in the form of a job, a car and reciprocated love. My five-year plan involved a career, a home and marriage. Regardless of these aspirations, the memory of scrolling through the Peace Corps website is so vivid in my memory that I can tell you the exact shade of my nail polish as the computer mouse hovered over the application link. The world had never felt so big and so small at the same time. My job lasted until the weather cooled and I started my first semester of college. The relationship with the boy lasted another year and a half. Punchbag Bob was my faithful companion for 4 years.
This week, I will be celebrating my 26th birthday. Going into my 2nd year of Peace Corps, “career” is a foreign word that I’ve only recently wrapped my head around; just like I can’t imagine waking up next to the same person for the rest of my life, the idea of choosing one job feels daunting. My concept of home is constantly in flux. Home is a little house nestled between tea plantations in Western Uganda. It’s my sister’s voice on the telephone. Home is a shared room with my best friend in Kampala. It’s a backpack in the corner of a hostel. Home is a twinkling pair of eyes hinting at things to come.
Somedays, I’m ready for the goals I had as an 18-year-old. I’m ready for “The Rest Of My Life.” On those days, I wake up craving the safety and comfort of a familiar pair of arms so I pull my blanket tight. I work on my resume and throw around fancy acronyms. GRE, PRAXIS, TFA, TEFL. I think about living in one place and the thought of being tethered doesn’t sound so scary.
I don’t have a five-year plan anymore and although I have some ideas floating through my head, I can’t even tell you where I’m going to be one year from now. My life could go in a million different directions and right now, I am reveling in the fact that each decision, each path, is wholly mine. I am exactly where I want to be and I think my 18-year old self would be proud of that.