She followed her intuition from the worst night of her life to her greatest adventure ever!
“What the hell am I gonna do with my life…?”
Barbara had just listened to the voicemail message again. It was from her husband. He'd left it earlier in the day. In this message her husband told her that after almost nine years of marriage he wanted a divorce. In a voicemail!
“It was incredibly painful, and the greatest disappointment of my life,” she told me later.
That night was in 2015 but Barbara still remembers it clearly. She sat alone on her bed, in silence, wondering how this had happened. Wondering how she could ever make it back to feeling good about her life again.
Then she took some slow, deep breaths and waited for her emotions to calm down a little, waited for her mind to quiet. From the silence came the sound of a tiny bell, then a soft voice whispering, of all things, “Peace Corps.” And she knew immediately that this was her answer.
It wasn’t the first time she’d been guided by that whispered voice.
She’d heard it a few times before--sometimes it was a warning, sometimes a suggestion—and she’d learned from experience that she needed to take it seriously.
“I don’t hear it if I’m loud and boisterous,” Barbara told me later, “but if I meditate, I can hear it.”
This wasn’t the first time Barbara had thought about joining the Peace Corps either. Back in the mid-1970s she’d been living a fun, crazy, and totally unfocused life in the Oregon woods--running wild in that way you could really only do in the 70s. Everything changed when the big house she’d been living in, with a bunch of other wild women, burned to the ground.
The non-stop partying was over. It was time to create a real life for herself, so she decided to go to college. She was virtually homeless, staying at her boyfriend’s house. A few weeks later she decided to hitchhike to Corvallis for the day and find out about how to enroll and get financial aid. It was about an hour away.
She got rides easily and upon arrival asked where the Admissions Building was, and “all the dominoes fell into place.” She eventually got grants, one $600 loan and several work-study jobs to pay for her Bachelor’s degree from OSU.
“I knew I wanted to go to college. My house could burn down, my belongings could be burned up, but if I had a degree, no one could take that from me!”
She attended a Peace Corps recruitment event on campus and applied on the spot, hoping for adventure and a new start after graduation.
She was eventually accepted, but it took a long time and she’d moved on to other things. By the time she got offers to serve in interesting places like Belize and Costa Rica, she’d already married her boyfriend and they’d started a business together. Barbara decided to stick around and continue with her life in the United States.
She had a successful but short career in journalism (too stressful!). She went to grad school, which led to a longer career in technical writing, instructional design and training. In the meantime, she also had a kid, then a divorce, another marriage, and a couple more kids…and that 1970s Peace corps application was a distant memory.
Back to 2015.
That night--the very same night she got the divorce voicemail message from her husband--Barbara followed the clear guidance of her intuition. She found the Peace Corps website and applied once again.
It was a long and thorough vetting process—she found out later that only 8% of applicants make it. It took about a year and required medical evaluations, interviews, references, and lots of personal questions. But she got in.
She would be placed in Colombia--teaching kids to read and write in English--as well as training the local teachers. She’d be leaving in January 2016.
During this time, we were meeting for lunch and pedicures every month or two, and she’d update me on her progress. I remember one day over Thai food, I predicted that she would find a romantic adventure to help her get over her soon-to-be ex-husband, but she assured me that she was done with romance.
Besides, surely running off to live in South America was enough of an adventure!
Barbara found a great lawyer who got her divorce taken care of before the end of the year. She rented out her house, and headed for Colombia.
She received that divorce voicemail message when she was 61 years old. She left for her Peace Corps assignment in South America at the age of 62.✪
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