Snail Mail from Cassandra Ernst

Do you like a good story? Here are some snail mail from Cassandra Ernst that give you some insight into her thoughts, her heart, and her very soul.

Finding clarity in the midst of inner chaos: Peace Corps Interview Edition

Or how Herbert the Snail always reminds me that I need to calm my inner crazy and slow the fuck down. Because when you’re preparing your life for a possible 27 month commitment, some inner peace and clarity is a must.

Written By: Cassandra Ernst

The song I would sing to myself while growing up when I felt myself getting impatient. Except I would sing Herbet’s lines as fast as I could.

I take a quick glance around the check-out lines and see that there are some self-check-outs open. I begin to make my way over before stopping. I pause and then head over to the longer of the lines.

It’s a self-imposed lesson in patience.

One that’s too easy to forget nowadays. It’s not that I’m impatient—or at least that’s what I tell myself—it’s not that I hate waiting.

Okay, I do.

I hate to wait.

I hate the waiting not because I feel like it’s a waste of my time. It’s not a sense of boredom. I rarely feel bored.

No.

Waiting is not my game because waiting often implies that the power is no longer in my hands. And if there is one thing that I am, it is proactive and deliberate in everything that I do. I am conscious about the choices I make in my life because I want to ensure that nobody else is choosing my life for me.

And so, I choose to stand in the longer line. And I choose to put away my cellphone. And I allow myself to bask in the complete powerless that comes from standing in a grocery store line --- do you really need that extra fifty cents off?! Do you see the line that’s here?! And why do you need somebody to go fact-check the sale?!

Applying for the Peace Corps is like one long line in which you don’t even know if the check-out person notices you’re there.

And at this point, all the RPCVs come out of the woodwork and start talking about how they had to wait over a year just to figure out they might be going to one country, only to then find out a few months before departure that they’re going to an entirely different place.

Trust me, I’m not here to complain. I know comparatively, I have it pretty good. I know that waiting three months for an interview isn’t all that trying . . . and the one month that I have to wait now until I have a definite answer (unless I’m placed on the wait-list, but I don’t even want to envision how that scenario will wreak havoc) is a leisurely walk on the beach.

But that doesn’t mean that I took to the wait easily.

Sometimes I’m afraid that I want the Peace Corps too much. It has become more than a want to me and has transformed into a need. I wouldn’t even tell people that I had applied because I was so afraid that speaking it into existence would make the dream instantly dissolve.

And as I waited for that hallowed interview, I feared that I wasn’t doing enough—that I wouldn’t be competitive enough—to be a viable candidate.

Other people have always shown more confidence in my inborn capabilities than I have shown myself. Since moving to Denver, however, I’ve come into my own in a way that used to terrify me. Now I’m at the place where I know what my next step is supposed to be. I know what I need to do in order to find that next level of Cassandra.

But waiting has a way of bringing back old insecurities.

Despite the fact that I’ve used this time of waiting to the best of my abilities – finding proactive means to learn more about the program and gaining experience in teaching English as a second language – I still have countless hours each night to remind myself that just because I want something, and just because I’m considered “competitive,” doesn’t mean that I’m guaranteed a seat at the table.

And if I’m not chosen, what will my next step be?

I found myself falling back into habits of over-thinking again. What I hated most was knowing there was literally nothing I could do. My neurotic mind was centered on the black hole of bureaucracy paperwork with an extra sprinkling of over-privileged college kids who could afford the private colleges they attended, and thus had months of overseas excursions where they could BS some life-changing cultural experience to advance them ahead of my years of concrete experience with youth and program management.

When I had personally emailed the placement office with an update on my status, I was basically told in a polite, yet official stock letter to stop emailing, they were dealing with way too many people and just stick to the damn system – we’ll interview you when we interview you. I really didn’t mean for my pro-active professionalism to come off as desperate.

Of course, the moment I made like Elsa and decided to just let. it. go., I found the greatest gift of all.

I woke up the moment of January 28 and checked my email. Then I made the decision not to check my personal email for the rest of the day. I admitted that I was powerless.

There wasn’t anything I could do about the other applicants, or the fear that my resume didn’t showcase my capabilities to the correct extent. I couldn’t call the placement office and tell them why I was perfect for the program. At this point, I couldn’t even research more about the Peace Corps because I had uncovered just about every stone in the web of Peace Corps and discussed experiences with just about every RPCV I knew. There was only one thing I could do.

Wait.

And the day I finally accepted my fate of waiting—and not the proactive, “I’m going to use this time to do everything in my power to prove how perfect I am” kind of waiting. No.

Just the, “rest in the moment, let the worries fall away” kind of waiting.

It was on that day—while sitting in a public restroom of all places—that I saw the hallowed email. The Peace Corps Placement Office had emailed me for an interview sometime within the next two days.

Discovering the most important interview of your life thus far would be upon you in under 48 hours would be cause for a major freak-out, but to be honest all that waiting made me prepared. And not just because I spent far too many hours finding out everything I needed to know about what it would mean to make the 27-month commitment.

No, I was prepared because with waiting—when you truly accept your fate to wait—comes an inner peace and self-assurance that reminds you . . . que sera sera. What will be, will be.

At this point, I’m feeling confident about my interview. I truly believe that this time next year, I’ll be writing to you from Morocco.

All I have to do is wait.