Let me introduce you to my friend, Karen Campbell. Karen and I met several years ago when we worked in the nonprofit arena in Houston. She is one of the bravest, most fun, open and adventurous people I know. Here’s the story of her mid-life change in direction, courtesy of Facebook.
Guest post by Karen Campbell:
Though it causes me to cringe slightly when I confess it, Facebook played a role in getting me where I am today, which is in a bedroom of a friend that is covered by a small stipend I receive.
I’m a Peace Corps Volunteer in Costa Rica. And as they say here, “Si Dios quiere” (if God wants), this is where I’ll be celebrating my 55th birthday in a few months.Facebook played a role in getting me where I am today. Click To Tweet
The cringe comes from hearing so many people lament the time spent on social media. I understand their desire to see people’s eyes rather than the tops of their heads while seated across a dining table, but frankly, I’ve been able to connect people to great causes and stay connected to family and friends from hither and yon as a result of posted pictures, likes and shares.
But the big benefit came one night as I scrolled through my news feed before going to bed as part of my job as a communications consultant for nonprofits. I was actually in a great state of mind.
- I finally believed that my turn toward Public Relations after almost two decades in the church world wasn’t a fluke and I really could do the job.
- I enjoyed working with my clients.
- I had friends and family who loved and supported me.
- And I had a comfortable home in Houston that was always open to them.
I couldn’t deny that there were days when I thought “I’m successful, so now what?”I couldn’t deny that there were days when I thought “I’m successful, so now what?” Click To Tweet
I knew there was something else and I was more than open to it, I just didn’t know where to look. And then the promoted Facebook post from the Peace Corps popped up.
I clicked … and before a year passed I was packing my bags for Costa Rica.
What drew me to the click?
As usual, changes come because of relationships.As usual, changes come because of relationships. Click To Tweet
My friend Roger had been a Peace Corps volunteer 30 years prior and the experience shaped him into the man I love like a brother today. He often said that the older couple who had served with him was a major factor in his love of his two years of service. He kept up with them until they passed away.
Reading about the opportunities, I thought, “I could be that person for one of the volunteers I serve alongside.” I also thought that maybe a couple of years in a new place with a service organization might pave the way for me to discover a means of satisfying my love of travel and needing to have a paying gig that would see me through to retirement.
So here I am … working in the Teaching English as a Foreign Language program in Costa Rica. In my first 10 months:
- I’ve been a co-teacher in a small community in the hot and humid rainforest.
- I helped put on the first National English Festival.
- I wrote and helped produce a video promoting English.
- I contributed to the new curriculum being developed as part of a nationwide reform effort.
- And I’m now assisting the equivalent of the Department of Education and doing … wait for it … some strategy work to get Peace Corps Costa Rica’s social media off the ground (yes, including Facebook).
To get here I sold or gave away all my things save for my art which is in what I call foster care (must be on the caregiver’s wall or displayed until I return), started on a health plan to be able to walk the miles upon miles I walk since we aren’t allowed to drive, and celebrated those I love with numerous going away parties and heartfelt goodbyes.
And now I am welcoming them to a Costa Rica they may not have seen before – busses and walks across rivers with suitcases overhead, waterfalls they had to climb muddy walls to see, zip lined views of the rainforest, beaches with monkeys living nearby, cold showers on hot days, rivers for contemplation and rafting, and people who will warm your heart from the first “Buenas dias!”
I’m not a missionary. But the Costa Ricans have a saying that I could be evangelistic about with ease, “Pura Vida.” Translated exactly it means “pure life” but the intent is to suggest that life is at its finest when in a state of tranquility, comfortable with where you are and whatever comes your way.
I may not be there every day but it’s certainly easier to come by as I realize my role of helping the helpers. A while back I discovered that was my purpose and with one click on a Facebook post, I have the purest joy, the greatest sense of life lived abundantly. Pura Vida indeed.
Karen Campbell is a Peace Corps Volunteer in Costa Rica. She blogs about her experience at FoKCers (Friends of Karen Campbell).
Have you made a major mid-life career, location or life change? What prompted it?