Sunday, April 11, 2010

Conceiving of two years

I've been thinking a lot lately about the idea of actually going home. I have about 3.5 months until I get on a bus or in a car to Istanbul and finish my time living in Armenia. I don't say that I'll be leaving Armenia for the last time, because I don't think that's in any way true; I have no doubt that I will return to visit in the future, though I will almost certainly never again live here. This knowledge of an impending finish weighs on me--in a good way--and constantly brings me to try to understand what two years here has meant. This is no simple task; I think it's impossible for anyone to understand what two years of their life means to them in a way that is both meaningful and short. I know that I'll have to come up with something to tell people that can be distilled into about 30 seconds-1 minute, either for jobs or for friends, because realistically most people aren't actually interested or don't have the time to hear me talk for hours about my Peace Corps experience. If I think it's difficult to conceive of this experience myself, it's almost impossible for anyone who hasn't done it, or something similar, to really grasp what it's like.

But this post isn't really about getting other people to conceive of it. That's some part of what this whole blog is about, though I haven't been terribly dutiful in recounting the vast majority of my experiences (something for which I am regretful of, but I am simply unable to get myself to keep a journal, either on paper or on the internet, that is regular and thoughtful). This is more about trying to think a bit more for myself about what all of this has been about.

I find myself especially cognizant of this problem because I just passed my second birthday in Armenia. One of the ways in which I initially thought of my Peace Corps experience was in how old I would be when I got out of Peace Corps. It was really the only way in which I could meaningfully understand what I was about to get myself into, and so the idea that I went in at the age of 24 and will come out at the age of 26 is still very powerful in a nebulous sort of way (in that while it does set at least some boundaries on a time frame for the experience, it lacks any sort of qualitative understanding). When I actually turned 26 on Friday, the idea of two years really hit me again, because two years is both a long time and a short time in relative terms. This will be the longest time I've been employed in the same organization since high school (during which I worked at a hardware store for about 2.5 years or so), but only half the amount of time I spent working towards a degree in college; two years in a life that will be many times that long is practically nothing, but the sheer amount of different experiences and perspectives I've had makes these two years incredibly substantial and formative for the course of that life.

I've found it useful in the past to think of my life as being composed of a series of several different lives. By my count, I've lived about 4.5 different lives at this point, demarcated by times in which my life changed drastically enough to provide an entirely different and new set of experiences, friends, and perspectives. The first life for me was composed of the time I could begin remembering up to the time that my parents stopped working at the fishing resort in Canada (this was so important because my brother and I, and my parents, of course, spent all summer long up at the resort, and so my brother and I relied heavily on each other for friendship and fun, seeing as there were no other kids there long term); the second was from that point in time up until the end of high school and leaving for college (again, this is important because summer time is so central to a kid's life, and being in Idaho for the summer meant a whole new slew of experiences and friendships); the duration of college until graduation; the abortive half a life in which I went off and worked on campaigns for a period of time, which opened my world up in ways that are very important for me, but which I stopped short by going back and finishing up a second degree after the campaign season was over; and of course these two years of Peace Corps. All these experiences have been so vastly different, and so incredibly formative, including entirely new sets of friends and major changes in how I think about my world. In the context of a separate lifetime, it's a daunting task to try to conceive of my experience here, because there has been so much that has happened during it.

At this point, it seems I've talked a lot about how to frame the challenge, but have not been terribly substantive in actually beginning to distill this experience. But I guess this is at least a first step. This will likely be the challenge of the rest of my posts to this blog, as it will be to the remaining 3.5 months of my service.

1 comment:

J.G. Edathil said...

It's hard to believe you've been over there for 2 years. My own international adventure may well be starting by the time you get back. -Jenga