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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

How did I get here and why did it take so long?

During my freshman year at Penn State President Kennedy created the Peace Corps and I was immediately enthused about the possibility doing something positive for my country while living in another culture,  helping people in need and also helping fellow Americans learn more about the rest of the world. I became even more motivated to complete my undergraduate studies from that point on so that I could qualify to serve in the Peace Corps. Upon graduation, I sought employment in human services to begin to live my values as well as support myself while pursuing long-term goals. However, life began to get in the way. I got married, went on to graduate school, then post-graduate school, raised two children and pursued a varied and rewarding career as a state licensed and nationally certified social worker and behavior therapist with experiences in child welfare, hospital social work administration, community behavioral health services and staff development/training.
From its beginning, my life has been one of travel and constant exposure to people of differing cultures, classes and lifestyles. In addition to traveling throughout all of the continental United States, many Caribbean island nations, Senegal in Western Africa and most of the European Continent, I have lived at the summit of Mount Washington (NH) for six months and on a farm in the South of France also for six months. My mother had always encouraged me to understand the differences among people and to appreciate the good points of different religions and cultures. My father had frequently impressed upon me during my childhood that aviation was going to help solve a lot of the problems in the world by facilitating more direct contact of people from different cultures with each other. Through such experiences, he reasoned, people would become more understanding of each other, more accepting of differences and more appreciative of the positive aspects of each others' cultures. He believed that greater use of aviation by larger numbers of people would be more significant than even military strength as the greatest deterrent to future wars.
Now, my children have each completed graduate school and are into their own careers and I have recently retired. Shortly before and immediately upon retirement, I became anxious about what I will do if I am not working and I was filled with a feeling of emptiness. I realized that I do not wish to go quietly into a retirement of “nothing to do” and I am still compelled to work with marginalized individuals, their families and communities to enable them to improve their lives and assist them fulfill their wishes to improve the lives of their children. I sorely miss helping children with developmental delays. So what better time than now to follow-through on my long held desire to serve in the Peace Corps? When we got married, my wife and I initiated our application to join the Peace Corps together. However, our first child came along before we could complete that process and we decided to pursue raising our children and pursuing our chosen careers while doing so. We never gave up on our original desire to serve in the Peace Corps and would console each other over the years with our promises to each other with renewed pledges to apply to the Peace Corps "some day." My wife is a few years younger than me and not yet ready to retire, so she has encouraged me to enter on my own while she continued in her career for a few more years. After all, she reasoned, if I have a successful / rewarding experience, perhaps I can serve another term together with her when she retires. This logic seemed logical and sound to us partly because we had the experience of her transfer to one of her employer's offices in Europe for almost a year while I remained here in the States. That experience gave us great assurance that we will do well if I serve in the Peace Corps while she continued to pursue her career and we will be able to continue to work toward joint long-term goals.
Therefore, with the support and encouragement of my wife, I decided to retire at the age of 66 and begin the Peace Corps application process. I did both this past April (2010). Hopefully, there are some other applicants as well as some PCTs, PCVs and RPCVs in my age range with whom I can share information and from whom I can learn more about the application process and serving in the Peace Corps. I will begin an application time line in my next entry.

1 comment:

  1. Hello - you are in the same place so many of us have been in...retired and feeling like we still have something in us - and then it hits us that we can actually do Peace Corps now! Amazing. I don't know what life would have been like without it. I was so afraid I would be the only "over-50" and actually about to enter the next decade...I was wrong. There were quite a few of us. Some were married couples serving, some singles and one who is in your situation. A therapist who is married and serving while his wife continued to work her career in the U.S. It was a great experience for me. I wish you luck and if you have any questions, let me know.