Skydiving home: Thoughts on returning from service

By Tarah Waters
Sept. 28, 2015

Coming home after the Peace Corps is a lot like skydiving, except pulling the parachute only becomes an option moments before you hit the ground.

The flight up to the jump point fills you with anxiety, excitement, fear, happiness – really everything a human can feel. The weeks before Close of Service were much like that flight. I dreamed of being home and eating all the foods I missed, seeing the people I loved and spilling my heart out about how much I love Morocco, but in the same breath I had a great deal of anxiety. I knew leaving was going to be hard. I was leaving my family, my friends and the love of my life and there was no telling when I'd see some of them again, let alone when I would return to Morocco. So in my final week I partied, I sang praise to the people I love dearly and I swallowed the reality of coming home.

Then you get to the point where they open the window and say it's time to jump – or get onto your departing flight, as the case may be. As I unwrapped my arms from around my girlfriend, tears streaming down my face, I felt my stomach drop and heard a voice in my head screaming, "Are you making the right decision?!" I walked through the gates and sat on the plane, tears still flowing, and took off feeling a weird mix of solace, adrenaline and fear.

Even after I stepped off the plane I felt like I was still flying – or falling – into this completely uncontrollable fate. I was overcome by how fast everyone was moving; my ears rang from all of the English talking; my heart raced with nervousness at what was to come. I held my head high and pushed to keep going despite the reality that no one could hear me falling. I tried to engage, tried to listen and tried to make sense of the new "me" I was living back in America.

Then the ground started to seem closer and closer. My heart beat harder and harder. No one wanted to hear my stories, conversations seemed pointless and my mind remained blown at the self-centered lives people were living. I tried to speak but conversations were too simple. I tried telling a story but was silenced by the fear my audiences felt at the difference of the world I had come from. I tried to pretend the ground wasn't coming but then... I pulled the parachute and let my tears pour from my eyes, let my heart break into small pieces and let my mind say everything it had been thinking.

But still, I keep going.  I know the scene around me isn't going to change but I don't need to change to fit back into it. There is a reason we speak so often of resiliency.

Tarah Waters