When I was in my senior year of high school, I remember that right at the beginning, people started warning me that it would be stressful. “You’re about to end a very big chapter of your life and begin a new one that will be totally different,” they said. “This can make you freak out a little bit.” They kept reminding me that I could talk to someone if I felt stressed out.
I didn’t feel stressed out, though. I was 18, knew everything, and had everything under control. Only psychos freak out. I mean, it’s COLLEGE. It’s normal. I knew it was a big step, but freaking out was for things that weren’t normal. Like finding out that you’re adopted and that your real parents are murderers. Or that you have 6 months to live. But college? Come on.
In retrospect, though, I see that while I “didn’t feel stressed, out” several things happened that year that lead me now, as an older and wiser person who is willing to admit that when I was 18 I was full of shit most of the time, to conclude that somewhere in there, I clearly was feeling some stress.
For example, I developed a rather violent eye twitch. It wasn’t really noticeable to anyone but me. I didn’t look like I had Turrets syndrome or something. But constantly, throughout the day, my lower eyelid would start to contract and cause a weird pulsing sensation on the white of my eye. It was distracting but not painful. At the time, I remember thinking it was “crazy town” and made a bunch of jokes about it and then proceeded to ignore it.
Then, starting when I turned 18 and was granted the right to sign myself out of school because I was a legal adult, I stopped attending all my classes each day. We had a block schedule so there were only 4 classes to attend, but for some reason, I couldn’t find the strength to go to all 4 in a day beginning in about February. I honestly don’t think that I made all 4 classes once from somewhere in March to the very end of school. It was a different one every day – I alternated based on my mood and what we were doing that day. Also on how much I wanted to sleep in versus leave early versus take a long lunch break.
The thing was, though, I wasn’t blowing off classes to live a wild, party lifestyle or something. I wasn’t even doing it to hang out with friends. I left alone and would go home and sleep. So for the last 3 months of high school, I suddenly could not get through one day without taking at least a 2 hour nap. And I was not a night owl, catching up on sleep. It was just that suddenly I was so tired all the time. I just needed the extra shut eye.
Again, at the time, this was just how I “felt like” doing things. Now, when I look back, I realize that I was clearly stressed out but refused to acknowledge it because I interpreted “stress behavior” as screaming and going on benders and ripping my hair out. It never occurred to me that stress could manifest in strange ways.
Why am I telling you this? As part of sharing all the details about the Peace Corps experience, I feel it is my duty to inform you that it is starting over again. I have begun to see random stress behavior crop up, although this time I’m more willing to acknowledge it. I suddenly have started needing about 10 hours of sleep a night if I’m going to make it through the day teaching. I’ve had random headaches and bouts of nausea, which I’ve determined through trial and error are not due to any medical ailments or the village water or food. Today, I caught myself staring at a wall for over 10 minutes without moving. I wasn’t thinking about anything. Just starting to turn my brain off. This is how it starts…
I have tried since arriving in Moldova to imagine what it will be like to leave. And I honestly don’t think I can do it, still, being this close to the end. I’ve wanted the reality to hit me for several months now. I would love to have it smack me in the face so I can just deal with my terror of starting over with no job or house or car, or sadness at the amazing experience being over, or confusion as to how I’m supposed to feel about coming “home” to a culture that will no doubt seem alien to me after getting so used to living with no indoor plumbing or running water, let alone a supermarket or a Baby Gap.
But I can’t get a conscious grasp on these feeling. My brain won’t let me deal with it this early. And if high school is any indication (I’d like to think I’ve evolved but who knows), I may not ever feel like they really hit me. As for now, I seem to be having strange physical manifestations but the rest of the time I feel like I’m going through motions.
This week we have our Close of Service conference were we get all the logistical information about leaving Moldova. After that it’s just a few more review lessons, meeting the new wave of volunteers that will replace us this summer, training them a little bit and then it ends. And then I’m a civilian again. With just a backpack, some obscure language skills, a bunch of memories, and, possibly, an eye twitch.