Tuesday, November 5, 2013

My BIG life announcement

I grew up in one of those households that most people only ever dream of. Truly. My parents loved and supported us unconditionally, they kissed us and each other, said "I love you" every day, and we even played the "what was the best part of your day" game during family dinners. We didn't have the fanciest of anything, but we loved the hell out of each other, we were blissfully happy, and that's what we preferred.

My mom came from a big Italian family where money was minimal, but love was grand. And my dad in the sort of household where it was acceptable to carve my moms name into his dresser in his early teens for all of us to see and reminisce over some 30 to 40 years later :). They were the kind of people who loved each other from the beginning, and the kind of people who married for nothing other than for the love of being together. The kind of people who gave me everything I needed, while simultaneously instilling in me the undeniable urge to be independent and work hard for things that I wanted. They highly valued experiences to a whole bunch of meaningless possessions, and I learned to do the same. And above all, they were the kind of people who taught me that showing an unconditional compassion and love for others is the key to mastering one of life's most important lesson: making a difference while you're here.

They also taught me to fall head over heals in love with traveling through yearly cross country road trips that became a tradition we'd give up almost everything else for. They taught me to appreciate everything we have, because somewhere else, people have so little. And although we struggled quite a bit early on, through lots of moving, sacrificing, and hard work, we had managed to create our own little beautiful version of the American Dream.

And I'll never forget the little moments that made me truly relish in this wonderful life we had created for ourselves. The moments that warm my heart to this very day when I recall them:

  • Like sending balloons to my Grandma in heaven every year on her birthday. 
  • Like my dad giving me my first packers shirt in Wyoming before we moved to our new home in Wisconsin, and saying, "This is our team girls".
  • Like belting out John Denver and Roger Miller on road trips and arriving back home to my HUGE extended family in Montana. 
  • Like having easter egg hunts while my dad dressed up as the Easter bunny. 
  • Or like our long embraces before yet another departure and not knowing how long it would be until we saw each other again (ahem.. most recently about 2 1/2 months ago). 
And I'll never forget the day a seemingly pretty insignificant event, gave me an undeniable compassion for people and completely changed my view of the world and how to live in it.

We spent the day making cupcakes, while Steph and I drooled over what was to be a special birthday treat. And in our crazy rush to get things ready for another meaningless celebration comprised of excessive gift giving and game playing, we stumbled upon a mother and two daughters who were homeless and hungry. And in that instant, I think we realized that none of what we were doing really mattered. Presents and cake meant nothing, when these people had nothing to eat and nowhere to go. And so, we stopped our birthday excessive craziness, and did the only thing we thought might make their day a little better. The only thing that at that point, we could really offer them. We went home, and brought them every last cupcake we had. And although quite the small gesture on our part, I've never quite seen the sort of joy I saw in their faces that day, ever again. 

And this is when I learned that even the smallest of moments can dramatically influence the person you become and the way you view the world and your place in it. See, these moments might seem small or insignificant to you, but to me, they were pivotal turning points in the creation of my current 25-year-old self. And I now know that people, moments, and experiences matter, and that all of the other STUFF, doesn't.

And through these experiences, I've learned to: 

- be kind
- be generous
- understand the struggles of others
- be selfless
- be mindful
- and do what you can to change the world, even if it's a simple as making someone's day by giving your cupcakes away. 

So with that, I'd like to thank my family for teaching me to be self-reliant, friendly, and adventurous. For teaching me to be compassionate, loving, and for showing me to see the value in making a difference. Growing up in such a wonderful environment has given me the tools I need to commit my life to making the world a better place, and I'm ready to take another BIG LEAP. 

Which is why I applied for the Peace Corps.

I've dreamed about this moment since High School. I even planned to go after college. But I was too scared then, and I was quick to make excuses. I was falling into the trap of what I thought society was expecting of me and what I was expecting of society. What about graduate school? And my boyfriend? I'm not ready to move. Should I be thinking about marriage? Nothing I was experiencing at that time was saying commit yourself to the Peace Corps, and so I didn't.

But as I've gotten older and strayed more and more from the conventional American life, I've realized that now is the opportune time. A lack of commitment to bills, people, and a life built anywhere specific, means that I am now ready. And I know now that timing is everything and to take advantage of every incredible experience you can get your hands on.

And for me it all really comes down to this:

I want to know what it's like to live in poverty, and what it's like to struggle. really struggle. I want to know what it's like to have nothing, and I want to live without the luxuries we've all so easily become accustomed to. I want to know what it's like to live in someone else's shoes (or lack thereof), and what life is like somewhere else. I want to know what it's like to be somewhere dramatically different, and maybe even a little bit scary. I want to serve people who need help, by offering my skills and my life to them for nearly 2 1/2 years. And most of all, I want to be given the chance to be reawakened and to truly know what the meaning of life is all about.

I know that my life and my skills can be better used to benefit others. And although a pretty terrifying thing to commit to for 27 months, I feel that through loving and encouraging friends and family, I am well equipped for anything! Thank you to those of you who continue to be such a constant source of support in my life and for pushing me to live out one of my life's biggest dreams. I wouldn't be in this very position without each and every one of you.


  1. Proud of your selflessness and caring heart. Your parents did a great job! Good luck and my prayers follow you. I am an old (in more ways than one!) friend of your mom from back in the Havre days at the Post Office. Wishing you the best.

    1. So good to hear from you Kathy and thanks for taking the time to read my blog :) Means so much to me!

  2. I'm so proud of you Jerrica! You bring tears to my eyes and I have to go to work so hopefully I can quit crying before I get there! I love your selfishness and kind heart!

    Love you!

    1. Aw. I love you so much daddy. So blessed to have grown up in such a loving and supportive household. Couldn't have lived out all of my crazy dreams without you guys! Ps. I hope by selfishness you meant selflessness ;). Miss you and am counting down the days til I get to see you again!

    2. Jerra! Words cannot even begin to express the love I feel for you. I thought at lunch I could come home and finally put some make up on, but after re-reading your blog, that just is NOT going to happen! No one even noticed, as I have been beaming with pride all morning! Keep living your dreams. You are an inspiration to many!
      Love, Mom

    3. Love you too mom! Wouldn't be half the person I am today without either of you. xoxo. miss you so much.

  3. What a neat young lady and awesome family... have fun on your adventure! Ronna

    1. Thank you Ronna! If I get accepted, it will be another year at least before I go, but thanks for the well wishes :)

  4. Great blog jerrica. You truly came from and have a wonderful family. I love seeing your mom everyday. She is so very proud of you. Follow your dreams and god bless you. My son wsd in the army and in afghanistan 3 different times and saw a lot of poverty. We sre so proud of his acomplishments too.

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting Kerri. It means the world to me. Your son sounds like a wonderful man. I truly commend anyone who so selflessly defends our country.

  5. Jerrica, I love reading your blogs, you are truly an inspiration. Keep up the great work. Congratulations on being accepted to the peace core, it will be an experience like no other.

    1. Hey Becky! Thanks for reading my blogs :). It's so good to connect with people this way, and I really appreciate you taking the time to read. I haven't actually been accepted. That process is pretty grueling as well, but I got the first step over with which was having the courage to want to go and to apply! But I am VERY excited. Hope all is well with you. And as always, it's was great to hear from you :).

  6. Hi Jerrica!
    I came across your blog a couple weeks ago and I'm so inspired by your posts. You have such a love for life that is infectious and causes me to want to get out and explore. I've been looking into aupair.com recently and wondered if you had any tips for finding a good match in a family? I'm 23 and a nanny now but this family won't need a nanny for too much longer... I figured saying goodbye to my little loves would be easier if a radical adventure was on the horizon! :) Congratulations on applying for the Peace Corps, that's an incredible goal to achieve!!
    -Hannah Bentley

    1. Hi Hannah :)! Thanks so much for commenting. Have you read my post on the step by step process of becoming an au pair by chance? That will give you some good insight. For me, it was the way they wrote to me. They told me I would be an extended part of the family, and that they would do whatever it took to make me feel welcome. This was HUGE for me, because I've heard that sadly, that's not always the case. I had a good feeling about them from the first time I read about the family. And I had the same EXACT experience. I had to leave my two year nanny job, and believe me, I sobbed for days about it (embarrassing). But.. I was super attached to them. A longtime dreamed adventure sure helped to ease the pain a bit though. My next stop is New Zealand for hopefully another au pair job starting in summer 2014 :). It's the best way to experience new countries in my opinion. Best of luck. Please email me if you have any questions or message me on facebook. I'm happy to help you through the process!

  7. Hey Jerrica!
    I recently came across your blog and absolutely love it! I am thinking about being an au pair, but I am also considering the Peace Corps. I read that you will be an au pair in New Zealand next, and I was wondering if you are still considering the Peace Corps and why or why not. Thank you so much for inspiring me and being open to questions as I try to figure out the next step of my life! I have such a passion for travel, children, and helping others and reading your posts are so refreshing.

    Thanks again!

    1. Hey Madeleine! I did apply for the peace corps, but my application is deferred until February. I then have to decide if I want to continue forward with the process, or my application will be canceled. I haven't yet decided what to do! There were a few reasons I chose to go directly to New Zealand to au pair. The first is the time commitment. The peace corps is 2 1/2 years, and with best friends weddings, babies being born, etc. I was afraid I would miss out on too much, and wouldn't be able to control it. I was especially worried about my sister getting married or having a baby within that time frame and me not being able to be a part of it. With au pairing, I choose how long and where I want to go. I can go for a year (which I usually plan to do), or stay as little as 3-6 months. But it all depends on what I want out of it. Another reason was my age. I'm 26 now, and Aus and NZ working holidays are only good until age 30. I wanted to make sure I did both before the peace corps. With the peace corps being usually a year long process to get accepted and placed, and another 2 years gone, I would be cutting it too close. Plus at 30 years old, I don't know how cut out I would be for au pairing anymore!

      However, the peace corps is still a WONDERFUL option! It's been a lifelong dream of mine, so I hope I can still make it happen someday. For now though, au pairing has been a great solution to make money, immerse yourself into a new culture, and travel, travel, travel. I love the bond you get with the children, and the freedom to choose your job, your country, your city, and your level of commitment to them. I've been able to do tons of traveling while in Australia, and am leaving with a good chunk of money in the bank too. So that's an added bonus. If you have any other questions, please feel free to email me at peterson.jerrica@gmail.com . I'm happy to help! Best of luck!