How, you may ask, do you tell someone that you’re moving to Africa for the Peace Corps?
Well, let me tell you – there’s no nonchalant way to do it. Whether it’s your family, your coworkers or even your eye doctor, there’s no casual way to slip it in. So sometimes you just have to come right out and say it, no matter the anticipated reactions.
One of the best conversations I’ve had thus far was with one of my coworkers. We have an open floor plan, so we have desks in little pods but no cubicles (praise Jesus), and my teammate is looking up something on his computer in a brief moment while we’re both not answering phones, and goes, “Hey, Ali, have you ever thought of doing the Peace Corps?” Now, I haven’t told pretty much anyone at work because I’m seasonal anyway and I know I’ll just be done at the end of my contract this summer and then jet off to Namibia, so this question was out of the blue. I kind of thought he was kidding, but this seemed like a simple enough opening to share my news, so I answered: “Yeah, actually, I leave in July for the Peace Corps.” Silence. I was still working on some customer’s account on my computer, so I tore my eyes away and looked at him to see him staring at me. Unblinking. Eyebrows furrowed. He was so confused. After a long, uncomfortable pause, he just goes, “Wait, really?” And then I told him more details and it turned into a jolly little sharefest, but that conversation literally captures the majority of conversations I’ve had when I’ve told people I might be going or now that I am. Because moving to Namibia isn’t a normal thing. And taking a moment to realize that I’m serious causes awkward conversations because moving across the world isn’t typical. It’s not an everyday sort of occurrence.
I’ve been reading Love Does by Bob Goff (read it if you haven’t already) and he has this paragraph that has stuck in my mind:
“There’s nothing wrong with being typical, I guess, but there is nothing fundamentally right about it either. I’ve never read in Genesis that God created “typical” and called it good. Instead, I think men who were bored made up typical and called it, if not good, at least acceptable. People who follow Jesus, though, are no longer typical – God is constantly inviting them into a life that moves away from typical. Even if they have normal jobs, live in normal houses, and drive normal cars, they’re just not the same anymore.”
And as I’ve been scheduling doctor’s appointments and struggling to apply for a passport (make sure you have the right kind of birth certificate the first time, people), I have been fighting with this innate desire to be typical. I want to belong. I want to have a niche. It feels like freaking high school all over again, but this is about the condition of my heart. I want to be married right now, like so many of my friends. I long for permanence in a season of transition. And yet I choose Namibia. I chose leaving over staying and absolute unknowns over what I might predict. I feel like I’m constantly at war fighting my absolute need to just be status quo, to fit in, to be noticeable enough that I matter but not so much that I’m ostracized. But, like Bob Goff said, no matter what I’m doing or where I’m doing it – God is inviting me into a life that moves away from typical.
So I’m learning to embrace those awkward conversations. Because I really am moving to Namibia in less than four months! I’m choosing to be thankful instead of angsty, choosing to embrace my “I don’t knows” and my “I’m afraids.”
And because I love this song so much, here’s “Joy to You Baby” by Josh Ritter just for you:
(buy his new album, The Beast In Its Tracks – you won’t regret it)