I started watching Scandal this week. And by that I mean I have watched the entire first three seasons on netflix in less than a week. But my TV binging is beside the point:
Like all young women who dutifully follow whatever is the newest thing on TV, I admire and want to grow up to be Olivia Pope. Her beautiful clothes, perfect apartment, never-take-no-for-an-answer attitude, and ability to fix anything. Anything, that is, that she is not personally involved with. Her own life is a mess. She has “fixed” all of her loved ones: their jobs, their personal lives, their security, is all taken care of. But when it comes to Olivia herself, she can never make the hard decisions to keep herself out of trouble. I don’t envy the problems in her life, or the danger she seems to always be in, but I am obsessed with the idea of being a “fixer.”
Not a political figure, but a personal fixer.
Almost a month ago I was told by a close friend of mine, who I’ve always looked up to as “having his shit together” and having an impressively positive outlook on life that has led him through incredible feats, that I should be his life coach. I can’t even comprehend how he always has an optimistic view in situations, and looks at life’s challenges as optimal learning opportunities; so I was incredibly flattered that I was the person he turned to for confidence in the face of uncertainty. He also said another important thing: I am not good at taking my own advice. Like Olivia Pope, I feel confident in passing out advice, helping my friends search for jobs and giving them the words to express to their convoluted feelings about tremulous relationships. I will edit or re-write anything my friends need help with. Taking care of the people I love in this way is one of my favorite things to do. Honestly, taking care of those around me is what brings me joy.
I was thinking back over my Peace Corps service, trying to find times when I was really happy. The month of December 2013 was that sweet spot. I had been in country a year; I had reasoned away my disappointment with my work; I had a promising project in the planning stages with my best friend; and there was a small herd of new volunteers who I felt responsibility to take care of. My region hadn’t seen a lot of productive work, and my site-mate was given a great opportunity: being sent to a village with a known, hard-working, work partner. So I turned on my “I’m going to teach you the truth about this place but I’m also going to make sure you don’t make the same mistakes I did”- charm, and regularly visited, called, and generally bugged my site-mate until I knew she would be successful and have a more optimistic attitude about the area than previous generations. I think she appreciated all the advice, and she’s some back to me as a second-year confirming all the predictions I had made were correct.
Another thing I was known for was always being in the kitchen. Whenever we had a group event at our Regional House, I loved cooking for everyone. This was most evident Christmas 2013. I bought-out the local boutique of flour, butter, and sugar to make cookies, cinnamon rolls, and quiche. Thirty-six hours of baking latter I had produce delicious baked goods, and perfect quiches for our Christmas meal. Before this day, however, I had never made quiche, or even a pie crust, and I was so excited that it turned out great! Thus began the habit of taking responsibility to make meals with dishes I had never made before, and experimenting with limited ingredients and cooking utensils: pasta sauce, pizza, refried beans, and countless salad and drink concoctions. I gained confidence in my cooking abilities, and took joy in sharing with my friends, especially hungry PCVs.
I love cooking, I love caring for people, and if people want me to fix them, I’ll go ahead and do that too.