Finding joy and acceptance when plans go awry (ft. my whole Peace Corps spiel)
If you’d have told me I am sitting where I am right now two years ago I probably would have had a panic attack. And I spent my morning reading The Moth stories on a beach in Florida. Doesn’t sound very panic worthy.
I had a plan. That plan was graduate with my BFA, do the Peace Corps, in that time find out what I want to do with the rest of my life while living in a beautiful place and working within a new community building relationships abroad, and then go to grad school on the United States Gov't’s dime.
If you have already heard this spiel about why I couldn’t go, feel free to skip this paragraph.
I got accepted as a co-teacher in Thailand to depart Jan 3rd 2019. During the medical clearance I came across two bumps in the road. 1. I had a history of being on anti-depressants and mood stabilizers for approx 6 months when I was a senior in high school. 2. I have a blood condition (G6Pd deficiency) and If i take the anti-malarial medication I needed in Thailand I would (probably) die. So the first issue was a hard emotional hit and was the source of most of my anxiety during the peace corps process. I knew I was stable. I knew I was emotionally ready for this experience, I had worked really hard over many years to do better emotionally every single day. Yes, I still struggle and am always working to improve but I knew I was capable. The letter from the Peace Corps Psychologist said they did not believe I was “Emotionally capable to handle the tasks presented as a Peace Corps Volunteer” So of course I had a mini breakdown and then decided to appeal. I had to call almost a dozen offices before I could find a psychologist that could update a mental health evaluation and write a letter of recommendation. After explaining my situation to the doctor, she was more than happy to help and deliver all documents needed. Then comes the blood condition. This was a really tough time. After my primary doctor wouldn’t sign a waiver presented by the peace corps I was passed around from a hematologist to a cancer doctor to an infectious disease doctor to a travel clinic and was on the phone with the CDC every day trying to learn more about this condition and if there was a way to accommodate it. Turns out, there is not. And due to this, I had to decline my offer to serve in the Peace Corps. And of course my long-term-long-distance relationship (she left a couple months prior to serve Peace Corps Ethiopia) began to fall apart at this time too.
So I’m going through a breakup with someone who lives across the globe, beginning my final semester of college, and have zero plan for where I would be in six months after thinking I had a plan for the past 5 years.
I spent months, and part of me still is, coping with the life I thought I would be living and accepting that it was not the path for me. I began journaling through this time and was writing three pages a day to help through my coping process and, more pressingly, find a new plan!
Journaling changed my life and got me through this time. I now use this skill more as needed but am grateful to have it as a tool. It slows down my mind and helps me let go of these demons that are stopping me from embracing the unknown. I began to open my eyes and see what was around me. I had been emotionally prepared to pick up and leave Grand Rapids. Then I started to see… I was actually happy here.
I had the most wonderful ray of sunshine as a room mate (Dayna!) and was making art I was happy with. We live with two of the sweetest kitties and my rent is cheap! Our landlord is great and that is never a worry. I met a wonderful gal I started seeing (Mary!). I love Grand Rapids coffee culture so I applied to every coffee shop I could find an email for. I love kids and I landed a nannying job with my past professor and then she hired me as her first employee for her design business.
Lantern Coffee ended up emailing back for an interview and (WHOOOOPP) I got the job. I interviewed at Starbucks the same day so I was more than thrilled I could work at a locally owned small shop instead of the monster corporation that is Starbucks.
A few months have passed, and I am so happy to be where I am. Working part time coffee shop, part time nanny, part time photographer, part time design assistant, part time administrative assistant, part time doing craft shows, having my art up in coffee shops and cafe’s.
Now I am really embracing the unknown. I am asked quite often, “What’s next?”. To my surprise I can answer with a smile and say “I have no idea!”. All I know right now is that I'm happy, I’m in love with my life and everything isn’t perfect and that’s okay. I have some plans, I do. I want to take trips around the country, I want to go to Amsterdam, I want to go to Peru. I don’t have any set dates but I have faith they will happen. I have faith everything will happen with time as long as I am happy in the day to day.
And I love working in a coffee shop! Lantern has been a serious blessing. The customers and my co-workers rock and I am happy to see them every day. I am so happy and excited learning this new skill that I can carry with me wherever I go and it’s a great thing to know I could find a job in almost any city working in the coffee industry.
Uncertainty is a bitch, but it has taught me to enjoy every moment in a way I never thought I could. I am a planner, I always have been. I am a planner that has planned myself into a deep deep pit of dead ends. I am a planner that has had to let go of all control. I am a planner who has found freedom in uncertainty!
I could run my photography business full time. I could run it part time! I could go into tattooing, craft shows, continue my education, go back for a teaching certificate, do the Ameri-corps, move to Chicago, move to Boston, move to California, stay in Grand Rapids. The possibilities are endless and I’m ready for whatever the next step is, ready to embrace it as much as I am embracing today.
Thank you to every person I have come in contact with in the last six months- I probably couldn’t have gotten to when I am without you. Thank you Shelby and Delaney for always being a text or call away. Thank you Dayna for being my sunshine even when we are snowed in for days. Thank you Mary for showing me the sweetest love, kindness, and patience. Thank you lantern for saving me lots of money I was spending in coffee shops (!!!$$$$$$$!!!) And of course, Thank you Peace Corps for throwing my life off the track I thought was best for me and teaching me to embrace the unknown.