I just came back from my COS conference. For those of you who are not Peace Corps Volunteers, obsessive researchers of the Peace Corps, or parents of Peace Corps Volunteers, “COS” stands for “close of service.”
Somehow, I have made it to my COS, or at least to the part where we have a lottery to choose our COS dates (anywhere between late October and late November). Only I didn’t even do that – because I’m doing a Fulbright or, as I like to think of it, an “extended Peace Corps service in a different country with better pay,” and need to be in Albania in October, my date has been set for a while. It’s October 27th, if you were wondering.
Even though I know (kind of) what I’ll be doing until July 2012, I feel like I’m graduating college all over again. Suddenly I have to think about things like health insurance and What I’m Going To Do With My Life. Do I really want to move to Texas and become involved with high school football, or is that just a pipe dream inspired by watching too much Friday Night Lights? Do I still want to go to graduate school now that I’ve decided getting a Ph.D in English really is too stupid for words? Is it totally pathetic that I will be pushing 27 when I get back, and still have no idea what I want to do with my life?
Going home for a few weeks over the summer provided me with a strange picture of what life will be like when I get back to the States. Some things, like discovering I can eat Ben & Jerry’s and still weigh less than I do in Macedonia: awesome. Other things, not so much: a lot of my friends wouldn’t even return my phone calls after two years away; I kept saying “opa!” despite my best efforts not to; cultural references were lost on me; American beer was too rich for me to enjoy; the only person not in my immediate family who wanted to hear about my Peace Corps service for more than two sentences was a creep in a bar; and learning that the only people who won’t think you’re stupid for stopping halfway through a sentence, saying, “I can’t remember…that word…” before coming up with something like “seatbelt” are other Peace Corps Volunteers.
Coming back from the conference, I began to feel sad about the impending close of my service for the first time in a while. Today I was sitting outside with A., watching her color in a mermaid coloring book I found in Struga, arguing with her about the value of school, and I realized that a few months from now I won’t have a six-year-old yelling at me, “Two plus two! Is what?! So boring, Ellen, it’s so boring. And it’s hard! I’m little! We’re so little! They teach us math, English, writing the alphabet, we’re too little for all of that!” I guess I am apprehensive about finishing my service about a quarter because I’m freaked about returning to the States in less than a year, a quarter because I’m freaked about not returning to the States in three months, a quarter because I don’t know what the Fulbright is going to look like, and a quarter because I won’t have a six-year-old best friend in Albania.