Why I'm joining the Peace Corps

"Hey, dumbass."

This is my dad's favorite nickname for me. Depending on my mood, I either respond to it by laughing at him, or by getting angry and fighting back. But mostly, the "nickname" is a signal to me, a sign that I'm doing something right, that I'm being 100 percent myself.

When I first told him I was joining the Peace Corps he called me a dumbass and went through a million reasons why I shouldn't do it. And when I got my medical approval, he cringed, called me a dumbass, and repeatedly played "Bless the Rains in Africa" in an attempt to get me to face the reality of it. When I finally got the invitation, the "hey, dumbass," was followed by 40 lectures about the size of bugs in Vanuatu and all the natural disasters that threatened the string of islands.

While my dad was hoping I would decide not to go, what he doesn't realize is that each time he calls me a dumbass he reassures me that I'm doing something right. My dad is practical: money and job first, don't do things you don't need to do, don't go on unnecessary adventures that might contain unpleasant discomforts. Find the crowd and merge. Don't get me wrong, he has never once told me he doesn't think I can handle it or anything like that. He supports me, he just sees no sense in it, no point. And his constant, unwavering dissaproval of my decision has been for me, all the more reason that I should keep moving forward.

He IS right though. My reasons for doing this are entirely impractical. I'm disregarding money, comfort, my safety. I'm leaving all the people I love and care about for two long years. And you can call me a dumbass all you want, but you haven't seen what I've seen. For three years I worked at the Center for International Education at my college. I often sat at a lunch table surrounded by people that were from countries that had been at war with one another, that had never been on good terms. And all these kids were so smart, were the future leaders of their countries. And maybe when they sit down someday in the future, deciding whether or not to go to war, they'll remember that their friend lives in the country they're about to bomb, and they'll try to compromise instead, to spare that person, to spare their friend.

I don't believe in peace. I think it's the most alien concept imaginable. Friends fight, married couples fight, siblings fight, we all fight. Fighting is an expression of opinion, an acknowledgement that we are all so different. Fighting is ideas, is growth, is beauty. So, no, I don't believe in peace. But friendship? Yeah, I believe in that. I believe that when all my friends from different countries sit down to eat a meal together that it's magic, that it's better than peace, stronger than peace. It's the promise that even when there's no peace, death won't follow in its wake. It's the promise that we're stronger than fighting, that even when we disagree, we'll still laugh and smile and love eachother.

I was born to join the Peace Corps. Not to teach English, or help people, or to go on an adventure, but to foster strong, unbreakable frienships that will hold in even the harshest of times. To remind people that we are not a reflection of our government, that we are all truly and really and completely, at our core, just simply humans. Humans that, above all else, need the hope and solace and light found only in friendship. And anyone at all that can't see that, or thinks that such a mission is naive or hopeless, is, quite frankly, a dumbass.