wherever you go there you are (or… the regrettable use of cliche because i can’t quite find the right words)

This morning the sun was shining.  There were birds chirping and pecking at uncovered earth.  I took a bath.

I almost went home this week.  Home.  Where my family lives.  Where I get to go to my little sister’s softball games.  Where I go on long walks with my older sister.  Where my parents and I stay up for long talks in the kitchen.   Where Survivor provides an excuse for us all to sit around and eat tostadas and gossip.  Where they are BUILDING A SONIC AT THE END OF MY STREET.

The whirling of emotions I have felt over the last few days has been unwieldy, terrifying, humbling, revealing.  I’ve been harboring these flighty feelings for so long that I let myself sink into them finally, let myself actually enter the mental processes of going home.  Over the course of the weekend, I actually imagined conversations and phone calls I’d have to make.  I planned for the swift departure that happens right after you tell the Peace Corps office that you’re ready to call it quits.  I started to divvy up my hoard of books, planned who I’d give them to.  I divided my things, decided the people I’d leave them with.  I imagined dropping a coveted hat in the covetor’s mailbox at the Peace Corps office. I imagined dancing with friends, imagined the moment we’d look at each others’ faces, imagined how we’d start to cry in the midst of bass thuds and synth riffs.

I went as far as looking for jobs.  I collect job announcements for refugee organizations in my web browser’s bookmarks folder.  I made a mental timeline for working and applying to grad schools.  I imagined running through the neighborhood back home on morning jogs, imagined visiting Abilene and my favorite burrito places.  I imagined breaking down with the monumental tidal wave that seems to have carried me in the last two years, crying into the cushions of the big green couch in the living room.

I called my friend, told her I was going home.  She was sad but recognized that inertia is not enough.  She’s right, this intertia, this ‘Peace Corps Experience’, is not enough for me to keep floating along a lazy river.  And let’s be sure, it would be a really easy way to spend two years.  Lonely, but Peace Corps is an easy way to put off loans and live on American taxes for the next two years with little responsibility.  I could float.  But I miss home too much to float through something 7,000 miles away from them.

“I am going home.” I said it outloud.  I said it many many times outloud just to hear the sound of it as it swirled out into the air.  “I am going home.”

And then these things happened:

-I visited the office and saw some of my Armenian coworkers (I think I can call them friends now).
-I talked to my mother who said I needed to find my “little piece of heaven” no matter where I am.
-I tossed and turned and tossed and turned in bed.
-I recognized my fear of being a disappointment to family, friends, myself.
-I realized that I really want to be in Stepanavan for the first spring rain.

Fixed on the image of a spring rain, I fell fast asleep.  I woke up in the morning topsy-turvy again but was immediately fixed on the cat-turd Sanity had left on my floor.  I had been neglecting the cat dirt for a few days thinking that soon I would be going home.  But I can’t neglect an actual turd on my actual floor, so I went outside to dig in the snow for new dirt.  And I looked at the layers of white and dark brown.  I looked at the patient sunflower stalks waiting for the year to start again.  Back inside I stood at the window and looked along the stone wall  towards the mountain and realized that I wasn’t ready to give up yet.

I’m not ready to give up on people here.  I’m not ready to give up on the ideas that my Armenian counterpart and I have had.  I’m not ready to give up my little cottage and nardi games with my landlord.  I’m not ready to give up my kitten.  But mostly, I’m not ready to give up on this dream I’ve had for my life, the one that has carried me through Mexican dustbowls, Abilene tent-villages, Indian slums and Armenian domiks.  There’s a part of me that I’m not ready to give up on.  And going home right now would mean that I let it go

So, here I am.  Not getting on a plane anytime soon.  Apologizing to my friends and family members who listened to my internal drama spill out all over the place.  Working hard again on projects.  Things continue on much the same as they have been.  But inside, it’s like I’m in a new country.


  1. Brent-jan…good to have you here, for realz. I’m watching MILK- always gets me repumped for service work. Take pride in your internal orientation to fighting poverty, the world needs your passion- no matter where you go ;-) xo,z

  2. Brent! You are doing great things! I’m sorry it is so hard and I can’t imagine what being thousands of miles away from home in another country around the world is like, but I’m so proud of you. Have perseverance through this hard time and you won’t have regrets. “…rejoice in [your] sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” Romans 5:3-5 Another scripture that brings me peace is Phillipians 4:4-7, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your heart and your mind in Christ Jesus.”
    I try to read it slow and really take in the meaning of each word. I hope this is encouraging for you Brent. I didn’t realize the struggle you were having. We are so proud of you and the great work you are doing in Armenia! Hang in there and I hope God gives you new motivation each day! Miss you and Love you! ~Jennifer:)

  3. I’m glad you decided to stay. I think the first spring rain, and so many other things, will be worth it.

    But if I’m still in Abilene when you get back, we are SO going to Sharky’s. And out for coffee. I’ll buy you a drink. :)

    1. Katie, I am soooooo there. Seriously. No matter when I come back I’m coming to Abilene and will need a meeting with my writer friend (and no better a place for it than SHARKY’S!).

  4. Though I don’t know you, I’ve enjoyed this glimpse into your mind and soul. Thanks for stopping by my blog and commenting on Baby Cakes!!! Even if your name isn’t drawn, where might I send you a tiny baby?

    Bayou Woman

    in the far reaches of south Louisiana.

  5. Lori Schmidt Lutze

    Your thoughts remind me of my own eternal dilemmas. Your mom’s words just touched my heart. I sit in Milwaukee wondering if I need to find a job or just be, and blog in the spirit of fun and laughter. My dad, The Bobster, was just diagnosed with a malignant tumor that has metastasized. It’s hard to try to stay funny when your heart is breaking. But we’re all in this thing called LIFE together, right? Spring will come. xo

  6. I went through much of this same process (though I hadn’t gone quite as far as dividing things out, but I think that’s because I had almost nothing to divide out to anyone). last year, perhaps a month and a half earlier than you. I had just moved out of my host family, and was so disappointed that being on my own was not actually the panacea that I thought it was going to be. I was looking seriously at several jobs, retooling my resume to send off, and then just stopped myself. I realized that much of what was going on for me–though I don’t think by your post that this is the same for you–was a massive pity party that was in some major ways–though not all–my own fault. For me it was an internal process of realizing that I could, in fact, stick it out for two years, and that if I was going to do it I had to massively change my own attitude and change my own situation to actually make my life more productive and worthwhile here.

    Anyway, I thought it might help to know that some of us have gotten to almost this exact same place but pulled back from the brink. It’s possible to change things for the better yourself, if you find it worthwhile.

  7. the Mom

    Wisdom: The ability to discern or judge what is true, right, or lasting; insight.

    I am proud of you not for staying but for being wise.
    Love you and your tiny dog too………Mom

  8. PC Invitee

    Love the honesty which left me with shining eyes. How many times do we get to ask: stay or go? How extraordinary to reach that dark place and look in, look all the way down and find the strength to make the return trip. Bravo. Thanks for the inspiration.

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