Day of Challenge: Day One
Date: 14 January 2013
Location: Denver International Airport
I couldn’t get to bed the night of the 13th. I remember leaving my parent’s house with this feeling of floating. My life was about to take a left turn. After months of applications, interviews, and medical clearances, I was leaving for the Peace Corps. As I walked to my condo, it was zero degrees outside. The adrenaline was coursing through my veins. I loved the feeling of the deep cold on my skin. When I got home, I went to bed because I didn’t know what else to do. I spent hours thinking about what was to come—and what I was leaving behind.
I woke up before my alarm. I had slept less than four hours. I had a quick breakfast. I folded the sheets of my bed and made the room look presentable. Then I grabbed my backpack of important belongings and left the condo for the last time. I locked the door and started walking. It was four or five in the morning and hovering around negative seven degrees. I was already awake with adrenaline, but the bitter cold slapped the sleep right out of me.
When I got to my parents’ house, we didn’t say much. I did a final check to make sure I had everything with me. We put it in the back of the car. My father got in the driver’s seat. My mother got in the passenger’s seat. I got in the back. I remember vividly the moment we pulled out of the parking lot for two reasons. First, I felt like I was saying goodbye to the house I had grown up in. We moved there the day after I turned ten years old. I was 23.
The other reason I remember that moment is because I had read over the manuals quite closely. The wording was quite clear—the moment you starting traveling to get to the Peace Corps Staging Event, you are covered by federal insurance. So, in that moment, I was simultaneously leaving the house I grew up in and officially working for the United States Peace Corps.
We stopped by Starbucks on the way out of town. The drive takes about an hour. I honestly don’t remember what we talked about. All of my emotions were so heightened that it is hard to remember anything in those final hours. I didn’t realize then that that would be my last cup of American coffee. It’s been such a long time since I’ve had a cup of good coffee. I drank it slowly as we drove. That drive feels so surreal.
We parked in the short-term parking lot. It was much warmer when we got out of the car—about zero degrees. I checked my bags without much delay. I remember looking at my parents several times at the airport without saying anything. I felt like I was communicating more with my facial expressions than with my words at that point. Together we walked to the mouth of the security line. We talked for a short while. Eventually, it was time.
I hugged my parents more than once—tearing up by the end. Eventually, I broke away and entered the security line. My parents left. I haven’t seen them (save Skype) since then. The rest just feels like a blur. I made it to my gate rather early. I looked around for the tell-tale signs of other Peace Corps volunteers (there were six of us from Colorado). I couldn’t find anybody. I sat at the gate, just thinking and people watching. A part of me wanted to go up to a stranger and tell them what I was about to go do.
But I didn’t. I sat there thinking and wondering. Thinking about what was to come. Wondering what I was leaving behind.