Walk On


It’s okay to quit the Peace Corps.

I’ve gotten a couple of email lately that made me really nervous. I responded to them personally, but it made me want to say something here, on this blog. I know a lot of Peace Corps volunteers read this, so:

It’s okay to quit Peace Corps. It’s okay to ET – leave your stint early. It’s okay to leave after two weeks if you can tell the situation is wrong. It’s okay to leave after 18 months if something is making you nervous. It’s your life, and it matters, and it’s okay to get out early.

Leaving Peace Corps won’t ruin your life. 33% of all PCVs do it. It won’t ruin your career, either. I promise. Not even if you want to work in development. It will not ruin your dream of having meaningful work and an international life.

If you want to leave Peace Corps and you think you can’t because it’ll ruin your career, email me. Alanna.shaikhATgmail.com. I’ll help you figure out what to do. Not some paid careers list thing, just me, pro bono, helping another person because I like to help.

Don’t do anything drastic. It’s okay. Your life isn’t ruined and it isn’t over and you are not a failure. Sometimes things are just a bad fit and that’s all right. No one will hold it against you.

We all make mistakes. I left a job I loved because it was the wrong job for me at that point in my life. I got fired from my very first job out of college. I flaked out on an internship with a woman I respected and I think she still dislikes me as a result. I cancelled an internship with CARE Egypt because I needed to go home already and not be in Cairo any more. And I still got to go have a whole career full of stuff I love to do with brilliant colleagues surrounding me.

You thought Peace Corps was the right fit for you and it’s not. Just fix your error, get out, and find the next step in your life. I really will help you if you like. My email’s right up there.

Don’t do anything drastic. Your life is not over. Neither is your career. Don’t make any dangerous decisions because you feel bad right now. Just get home, wherever that is to you, and find your next step once you get there.

Don’t stay if you fear for your safety, and don’t stay if you’re afraid you’ll harm yourself. Nothing is worth that.

(photo credit: marysuephotoeth)

Suffering does not make you special

Some people – disaster response personnel and Peace Corps volunteers in particular – come home to the US and can’t re-adjust. Fat, sedentary Americans and their trivial concerns strike them as ridiculous. Those people bug me. They bug me a lot. They stand around airports looking superior and worldly and they can’t buy a damn sandwich without talking about the decadence of choosing between so many kinds of meat.

I understand how you can get that way. The contrast in lifestyle between the US and the developing world is heartbreaking and stunning. No thinking person can live through that contrast and emerge unscathed. It leaves a mark on you, and it should.

The thing is, though – pudgy happy Americans, drunken Brits, and overfed Germans are living the life that everyone on this planet wants. Those Darfurian refugees who shattered your heart would give both arms for the chance at a place to live, a gas-hogging car, and as much McDonalds as they can eat. The actual purpose of development work is to help the whole world reach a point where they can live in blissful ignorance of poverty.

There is nothing noble about suffering. People don’t do it on purpose, and a difficult life does not automatically make you stronger, wiser, or morally superior. Mostly, it makes you hungry and miserable. And having met and cared about people who do suffer does not require you to despise those who don’t.

Photo Credit: Amapolas

Sunday night blog round-up

The Thirsty Palmetto is pondering why she chose the life she did. A very candid look at what motivates aid workers – beyond idealism.

There is a whole bunch of fascinating new content up at Tworque. I particularly liked the post on TechShop.

Kevin has a bitter point about what’s happening to the developing world’s money.

And Chris Blattman is thinking about Peace Corps. (Aside: note the many lame and self-aggrandizing comments on the blog post.)