Monday, August 9, 2010
A "NEW" Me!!!
So – How do you like the new look? The new Me? I know that it sure makes me look different. And I think I like it - - a lot!! I have been thinking of “shaving” my head for almost two years. But I was not sure it was a good idea while I was still working, and then not sure it was a good idea before Shawn and Chrissy’s wedding. I think there would have been an excuse forever unless I just did it. So, after getting some help from Chrissy with her photoshop skills to see what it might look like, I got it all cut off.
Actually, I think I will be very happy this way. I was not happy with a “comb over” that always seemed to “blow over” the wrong way every time there was a breeze. Unless you washed your hair daily, (which is hard to do in Bulgaria) it just seemed to “flatten” out and all the bald skin showed through anyway. Most importantly, I just did not like it.
Several people have said that I look “younger”. That is a sure way to get me to keep it - - even if they are only being nice. However, I think the “new me” is more than the hair. I have lost 20+ pounds here. I walk more than 20 miles per week. I am eating more fruits and vegetables than I ever have – and enjoying it! I have a tan like I had in my twenties because of all the walking in the hot Plovdiv sun. And I just feel good! So why not make a change to symbolize all of this – and get rid of my “limited amount” of hair. However, I have been thinking that the symbolism may be much more than just the physical aspects of my life here.
During the past year, I have had a unique opportunity to work at the “Close of Service” (COS) conference for the last two groups of volunteers leaving. I just did the second one last week. It is an emotional time for volunteers. It is just as stressful (if not more) than coming here in the first place. You need a job, or you may have a significant relationship. Are you going to grad school, where are you going to live, or is the future just very “fuzzy’?
During these COS conferences, there is lots of discussion about the “Peace Corps Experience”. I know that I have mentioned it many times in other blogs. The PC Experience is amorphous. It is a blob that slowly gets eaten away by small microbes while you don’t even know it. But it is changing all of us – all the time – in ways none of us really understand. And it is when you are getting ready to leave, that you have a chance to think about it, analyze it, talk about it, and try to better understand it.
An important part of the COS conference is the former PC volunteer panel. This is a two plus hour session with six to ten other volunteers who have served anywhere in the world, and may have finished their service one year ago, or 30 years ago. I have been amazed at the consistency of feeling and experiences among all the volunteers.
They all say similar things. “Don’t expect your friends, and relatives to really want to know about your life in the Peace Corps. Most often their eyes will glaze over after five minutes”. Then you will hear them ask “What about those Rockies – or Cowboys – or Celtics?” Most often panel members will say the PC Experience has had a significant impact on their lives (and in many cases directed their job choice, mate selection, etc.). But they almost all also say that they have rarely been able to explain the true impact of the experience to anyone else (unless they were talking to a former PCV). That may explain why the returned Peace Corps network is so strong. Just like West Points “long gray line” of brothers, returned volunteers have a unique “one of a kind” experiences to bond them together.
Having worked with two groups of volunteers preparing to close their service”, I would have to agree with the panel speakers. Almost all of the volunteers getting ready to leave know they are different – but very few who could simply say what the difference is. Most of the time they stumble over feelings, and try to find the correct words, and other times they hug each other with tears in their eyes.
I saw this for the first time a year ago with the B22 group, and did not understand it all. But now it is different. I have been here for a year. And even though it is not a full two years worth of changes, I know what they are talking about. For – yes – I too have been changed. Changed is ways that I don’t fully understand, and can not even begin to explain on paper. In fact, I am not sure I will ever be able to express it appropriately. I just know I feel it. I feel it in my being, and in my heart. We all join the Peace Corps to make a difference and to change the “hearts and minds” of others. But, the irony is that often we may not make the impact on the lives of others which we hope we would, but almost always our PC experience has a substantial impact on each of us.
So – yes I have cut my hair and there appears to be a “new me”. I did not cut it to make any “grand statement”. Yet, in retrospect, I find it interesting that the symbolism of the “new me” may mean so much more than just a superficial look.
Thanks for reading!