I have been processing quite a few things in the last 8 months. When I first arrived in Chicago I was just trying to orientate myself with the city such as getting around, visiting new places, getting to know new people, learning the trade in the soup kitchen, and learning how to live with 12 other people. Since the beginning of the new year, 2013, I have been trying to stay focused on the here and now but my mind, like most humans, wants to know what I will be doing August 1st (I am finished on July 31st with my year of volunteer service). Even typing that statement made my heart speed up with anticipation and fear.
At the same time I am trying to remember how much I have fallen in love with the job I do on a regular basis. I love talking to the guests and hearing their outrageous comments and stories. For example, I had some time during lunch recently so I decided to play the piano and sing. This is not the first time I have done this but the guests who were there were shocked that I was singing. Some of them were in the lobby and one of the guests came in to say that she thought that the radio was playing a song, not me. Another guests who always has a lot to say about nothing, told me that when American Idol rolled through town that I needed to be there and he would make sure that I was there. Then he went on to say basically that he was the one to really "find" me so he would need some kind of repayment when I was rich. Later I was speaking about where my family lived, in NC and DC and this same guest said, I didn't know Adele lived in DC... as if I were related to her due to my ability to sing. These are the moments I cherish and that keep me motivated when I am cleaning another toilet, taking out trash again, stirring a pan of canned vegetables, or dumping someone's laundry into the washing machine. Recently, I have succumbed to complaining about this or that.. things that never bothered me in the beginning of my volunteer year. I try to put my time now in perspective just like I did when I first moved here. I have so many things to be thankful for on a regular basis such as healthy and delicious food in my refrigerator, a vehicle to use at my discretion to get me to the gym, a great place to live in a youthful neighborhood in Chicago, constant interaction with friends and housemates, service to other people, a piano to play, a leisurely work schedule, and a great church life. I could go on and on about the blessings I have received during my time thus far in Chicago but it would suck up the rest of this blog.
My time has passed, and I have been in Chicago for 8 months; 4 months to go. Recently, I have been filling out job applications, fixing my resume, and writing cover letters. This process has caused me to look at my past and to see who I have become as a 23 year-old female. I can't imagine who I have become because my life is astounding and beautiful. However, some days I get lost in this world and feel that everyone is just like me. Then I meet some one who is on a completely different spectrum then me and I remember again that I am much different then many people I have met in my 23 years of existence. I remember the things I have accomplished, even as a high school student. I remember that just last year somehow, SOMEHOW, I worked over 30 hours a week at the Y, went to school full-time, filled out applications, had a social life, did alllll my homework, and still graduated suma cum laude. That person feels so different and distant from the person I am now. I have no idea how I stayed so focused and awake for that part of my life. Now, 11 o'clock at night rolls around and I get in my bed, read a page in my book and fall asleep.
This year has not been challenging academically like I have been use to since I was 6 years old, rather it has been a test of self. I have always been a student but this year I have had the ability to do things that I have never had time to do or to delve in to things I love or taken time to understand different aspects of life. I have been able to define and understand intentional communities, year-long volunteer programs, learning Spanish, different recipes, different coffee shops, bike riding in a city, putting together a sewing machine, creating my own schedule, challenging my self with no reward system, holding myself accountable, etc. I guess if I had to use adjectives I would say I am a positive person, goal-oriented, self-motivated, happy, outgoing, spunky, talkative, hard-working, hard-headed, friendly, motivated by challenges, creative, and I go above and beyond. These characteristics are difficult to see on a day when I clean some one's shit or when I find myself so introspective that I can't even make myself journal for weeks or when I push away all of my long-distant friends because I don't want to reflect on my difficult day-to-day job that doesn't seem exhausting or hard but is mentally taxing and draining... but there are little gifts that remind me of who I am (I know that was a run-on). For example, my mom was here recently and she was talking to me about watching me grow up and seeing who I have become. Since I was in high school, she said that I have known exactly what I want in life and I accomplish those things. This was a reminder on a day that I felt lost and confused as to what I will do next. Also, the other day my boyfriend told me that if I have a goal, I accomplish it. That was potentially the nicest thing he has ever told me.
So here I am. This is who I am. What do I want to do next year? I want to either be a Public Ally or become a community organizer. How have I gotten here? Through God's intervention in my life... One night I was waiting on the commuter train to go see my boyfriend. Myself and about 5 other people were waiting but realized that the train is only meant for the summer months. So a group of us went to the bar to wait for the next train. In the mean time I met a lady who was also waiting on the train who is a community organizer here in Chicago. She and I had a one on one at a later date and then she put me in contact with the executive director of the community organizing non-profit where she works and told me about the AmeriCorp Public Ally's program. Then the executive director gave me the information of other community organizers who could possibly be hiring. I feel that God has been blessing, leading, and forming my life, with my own discernment, toward a better me even though some days I don't know who I am and can barely understand who I am.