It was in the spring of my first year of teaching when the call came. I was at Greenwood Elementary in Greenwood, Nebraska. I had applied to the Peace Corps the year before. They had just seen my application. They wanted to fly me to Chicago for an interview that weekend. They gave me 24 hours to let them know.
That weekend? I had plans. It wasn’t enough notice.
Two years? That was a long time to commit.
Move abroad? I had just gotten settled into my farm house. I had a dog! I had a boyfriend, sort of, although he lived three states away.
Yes, I spoke Spanish. Yes, I had a teaching credential. Yes, I understood that I was just what the Peace Corps was looking for.
I had lived in Venezuela for ten weeks the previous spring, student teaching and traveling on the way back by way of Peru, Ecuador and Colombia. I had spent two months in Spain the previous summer finishing up the Spanish half of my dual degree.
I was tired of suitcases. I liked the routine I had going with my current job — drive to Greenwood, teach remedial reading for half a day, drive to Ashland, eat lunch, teach high school Spanish in the afternoon.
Yes, the Greenwood kids threw rocks at my car because of the Iowa license plates, and this was Corn Husker country. Lincoln, home of the University of Nebraska, was just fifteen miles down the highway.
Yes, the town was red-necky and hopelessly small.
Yes, my classroom was a basement with a piano in the morning and a band room with a piano in the afternoon.
Yes, the Peace Corps would be another adventure, but two years? What would I do with my dog? My furniture? My lease? My car? I was already part of the rat-race.
I’d taken the Civil Service exam. I had an interview with the U.S. Postal service for a summer job. What about that?
I slept on it. In the morning, I didn’t have a change of heart.
I’ll go when I’m older, I thought. When I’m sixty, when I’m done with my teaching career.
Who knew the world would be a much more hostile place now? Or maybe it was always hostile, but I had the luxury of ignorance when I was twenty-two.
At any rate, I didn’t go. I weenied out. I put it off. I failed. I was a chicken shit.
Couldda Wouldda Shouldda
Who knows what direction my life would’ve taken, had I done what I’d always said I wanted to do? Go out and help the world? I might’ve met the love of my life or died of some tropical disease. I would’ve had three different children, not the ones I have and am so proud of now.
If I would’ve gone to the interview and been offered a job with the Peace Corps, I would be bilingual, for sure. I would know too much Spanish to write little picture books teaching the basics to non-speakers. I would’ve written my memoir of living in Honduras or Nicaragua during times of revolution. I would be famous or dead, or both.