One of my main priorities for the past few days (okay, the past few months; OKAY, the past two years) has been to be careful not to develop too high or detailed of expectations for myself and for the Peace Corps. Expectations beget desires, which beget happiness and fulfillment. I am happy and fulfilled when I have what I want, and I have what I want when I have what I expect.
So it stands to reason that if I have huge expectations for myself or for my Peace Corps service that will ultimately go unfulfilled, I will be unhappy. The overwhelming advice from current and returned Peace Corps volunteers is to go in with as few expectations as possible. However, telling myself to expect one thing (i.e. nothing) and actually expecting that thing are two very different animals.
So what does this have to do with tigers in Africa? Well, first, tigers are animals. Second, I read a blog post this morning written by a Zambia RPCV who had compiled a tongue-in-cheek list of the top ten things she learned during her first year. And number eight on the list was that there are no tigers in Africa. Now, I know that there are no tigers in Africa. I paid attention in 4th grade biology. And yet, seeing this still felt like a gut punch to me. WHAT. There are no TIGERS in AFRICA? It’s Africa! Of course there are tigers! Tigers come from Africa. There’s a tiger in The Jungle Book. Oh wait…The Jungle Book wasn’t set in Africa. I paid attention in kindergarten movie time.
Expectations are like tigers in Africa. I know I shouldn’t have them, just like I know tigers in Africa don’t exist. But try as I might, I still do have expectations for what the Peace Corps will be like, for how I’ll adapt, for what my mud hut will look like, for how awesome I’ll be owning 5-year-old Zambians in soccer, I mean, football. And try as I might, I can’t fully shake that fundamental idea, ingrained in my head since I made the discovery that Mowgli was ME (come on, we could be identical twins), that Africa has tigers.
So here’s to finding or not finding tigers, shattering expectations and worldviews along the way.
P.S. There actually are tigers in Africa. They’re called tigerfish, and they scare the living daylights out of me. I’m going to try to catch one.