August 15, 2011.
The date that I embarked on a life dedicated to service. In my mind I knew that I had prior experience in helping others, ranging from tutoring, advocacy, and fundraising to name a few. I only recently considered dedicating a full year to full-time service, and the idea itself was equal parts hope and stress. I would get the opportunity to put into practice what I had learned at Northern Illinois University but what if what I learned was not good enough…and my limited experience too paltry to make an adequate difference? ‘Service’ is not an action or concept to be taken lightly; there is an immense responsibility to oneself and the served communities in it, so the pressure is one worry. Additionally, this decision, this choice would uproot me from my hometown of Chicago, IL (which I had lived my entire life) to Boston, MA; so even the comforts of home that ground me will be absent.
Even with this all rattling around my brain as I made my transition, there are so still many pieces of knowledge that I would whisper in my own ear if I were given the Marty McFly-esque gift of Time-Travel. Something like, “Trust in yourself so that you may trust others better”, or “Sometimes to be selfless, you need to be a bit selfish” or just, “Stop stressin’ and have fun”.
Not that my first year of service was bad, but as all things (I think) it was “perfect-able”. In order to work with young students it takes a lot of patience, but I also feel it can take a lot more patience to work with adults that work with youth. The joy of youth is awesome and awe inspiring, and the dedication of all adults interested in helping them is inspiring, but it can be hard. Yet, if learning this idea earlier would have allowed me to put my idealism to more effective use; thereby, putting me in better postion to help myself and others.
Then, I would turn around and make a sequel so that I could improve on my proud choice to become an AmeriCorp VISTA in 2012. Because even with the lessons of my first year, they may not have been fully digested, and there’s always something to learn. As such, I would definitely inform myself of the need to know my own limitations. Knowing when to say ‘no’ or when restart a task is a fine art, because not being careful with ones energy can lead to works that fall to live up to potential. I think there is a strange balance in service/volunteering where gumption or motivation can adversely effect results. One can start out with a great idea and put an amount of enormous energy towards it, but unless oneself and the idea are let to rest it might not reflect the energy put in but the exhaustion that came out.
So, as I am here closing out my second year of service with Serve Rhode Island I hope to repeat my successes and reflect on my mistakes, continue to follow my passions and see the beauty in both the good and bad. Now, I don’t know if my experience can or will help another AC member, but I will say have fun in your experience and invest in a DeLorean.