Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Waiting Game Part 5 - South by Southwest

Zlata will be serving with NCCC at the Southwest Region this fall. What is she doing in the meantime? Find out below!

Zlata and her fiancé, Justin
Since I graduated high school in 2010, my highest ambition has been to join and serve in the Peace Corps. I started my first year of college in 2013, and have had some trouble deciding what education I'd like to pursue long term, although I know I want to help people. Social work, the medical field, community development - these are all options I want to pursue, but have no hands on experience. A friend of mine suggested I look into the AmeriCorps NCCC program, and after reading every scrap of information I could find, I fell in love with the idea. After applying to serve in October, I found out in February that I had been invited to Denver, Colorado for the fall term! I could/can barely contain my excitement. I thought that the next 8 months would drag on; I just wanted to pack up and jump right in! I was caught off guard by a series of events that have given me plenty of excitement to last until the big move.

I planned a trip to California in May with my best friend Jesse, my first visit to the west coast, expecting it to be my "big bang" before I left this fall. 8 days before I was to leave, life threw me a curve ball and I got into my first car accident ever. The cause? If you've ever been to South Carolina, you know it's not exactly heavily populated, so the interstates can be pitch black on some roads. I was going 5 miles under the speed limit, and I realized about 5 seconds too late that someone must have been pretty careless that night, because there was a full size mattress in the middle of the road! I know, who does that? Luckily, no permanent damage was done, although I did get 30 stitches in my face and ear. I walked away with my life, my limbs, and a Disney villain's scar by my left eye. Despite this, I took the trip to California the next week, and saw San Francisco, Berkeley, Oakland, and my favorite, Sacramento. The best part was seeing one of my best friends, Ronald, after he had been gone serving with the Air Force for 4 years. It was a blessing to be with two of my best friends at once after so many years.

Zlata, her fiancé, and his son
After the trip, my plan was to kick back, spend time with my friends, maybe save up some money from my job at Tokyo Grill, a Japanese restaurant in our area. I figured the excitement was over for the most part. The biggest thing on my mind was spending as much time with my boyfriend Justin as possible. Justin stole my heart long before we started dating 3 years ago, and until August 2013, we had been living in Florida where he was attending school. Justin was the first to know about my Peace Corps dream, and has done nothing but support me and help me work toward achieving it. He constantly tells me how proud he is of me for joining AmeriCorps, but, as you can imagine, that makes the idea of leaving him terrifying and painful. It was a decision I had to make: take a step for my future, or stay in SC with the one I love. He assured me, and keeps assuring me, that I have made the right decision. Even though 10 months is a long time to be separated, I know that Justin loves and cares about me and will wait, and that this is a golden opportunity that won't be available later.

Needless to say, that thought didn't make the idea of leaving any easier, and I had the same worries that many people have leaving their loved ones for programs like this. Were we going to grow apart? Was he going to get tired of waiting? Was he still going to love me after almost a year of me being gone? On May 21st, 2014, all these thoughts evaporated from my head. My Prince Charming asked me if he could make me his wife before I leave for Colorado! There is no question in my mind that I have found the person that I'm going to spend the rest of my life with. He has comforted me through the most difficult times, and celebrated with me through the best. I've been waiting for this day since the moment I met him.
Zlata and her brother, mother, and stepfather
So, during the next 4 months I'm going to be planning a small wedding ceremony with the man I love and those closest to me, followed by a big wedding with all of our family and friends upon my return in July 2015. In addition to that, I'll be working to save money to replace my car, enjoying the 90 degree weather, and spending as much time with my friends, family, and Justin as possible.

To any prospective members who are scared of leaving their significant others, especially since we are all so young, I hope you will make the right decision for yourselves by joining this program. Ten months is a blink of an eye when you're spending the rest of your life with someone; but you only have the chance to be young once! The person who loves you will support you and wait for you; this upcoming experience is a once in a lifetime chance. Not only to contribute service to our country and the people who need it, but to grow! To travel! To adventure!  And most importantly, to find out who you are, because let's be honest, none of us really know that yet. And if you ever have any doubts about whether or not to take the leap, remember that you can always come back to where you came from, but once you settle down, you may not have the opportunity to leave again.

What are you doing while you wait to begin your service term? Are you interested in serving with NCCC, but haven't yet applied? Let us know what you've got going on this summer, or if you have any questions, at anccc@cns.gov. Apply to serve with NCCC and FEMA Corps at www.nationalservice.gov/nccc!
Brought to you by AmeriCorps NCCC, a program of the Corporation for National and Community Service.
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