Lacking more direction but refusing to move back in with my parents, I decided it would be best if I did some volunteer work before entering the real world. AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps was my route, and like any person in my shoes I was nervous. Being a germaphobe meant I didn't do well in less than ideal situations, so of course that's where my first project would be. I hated having other people's things in contact with my own, despised other people touching my things, and loathed having people touch my pillow.

I didn't take any chances and made sure everyone on my team knew not to touch my things, but everyone knows saying something like that makes people want to do the opposite. My team contained a total of six males. We were given a standard bedroom for sleeping. The only problem was that we were all given the same bedroom, so we had less than two inches in between our cots. This meant that I had no space between my things and the things of others, that they constantly touched my belongings, and somehow they found a way to get dirt onto my pillow.

Every night I'd stare at the ceiling and want to die. I could hear the germs crawling around on the back of my head, clawing at my face and arms. To my increased horror, I later realized it was the deer ticks that they told didn't exist in the area.

They informed us the only ticks in the area would be wood ticks, which did not carry Lyme disease. Of course they stopped saying that after a member of my team contracted the disease. Then they told us to be careful. You never really know how easy it is to stay awake until you spend your nights worried that every itch and every sensation on your body is a Lyme-disease-toting germ sack waiting to drink your blood. Drinking death's nectar sounded much sweeter than staying there.

My fear was coupled with anger when I would find people's dirty underwear on my bed or pillow. I never thought of myself as a spiteful person, but I wiped my share of other people's toothbrushes around in the toilet bowl after I found out they would throw their dirty clothes where I lay my head just to make me mad. It felt good for the moment, but now I'm paranoid. The main guy that would try to mess with my mind actually contracted Lyme disease. I'm pretty sure he placed a few ticks in my sleeping bag as well. Karma got him. If Lyme disease was his payment for his actions, what will mine be? If my teeth fall out I'm going to become a saint.

At the end of the day, I didn't die. I wanted too, and I'm still a germaphobe, but suffering through the situation allowed me to understand that I can get through anything. Might make me lose sleep for a few months, but I can handle whatever life throws my way if I put my mind to it.

J Guy

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