Under My Skin

February 2, 2015 at 8:56 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , )

The last few weeks have been crazy busy for me, and as such I’ve missed all of the annual posts that I do right around the new year, including albums of 2014 and my resolutions. Those will be coming, belatedly, whether you care about that or not.

For the moment, though, I’d like to stick to the present.

I could write 5000 words about the Super Bowl, but I don’t really want to dwell. What I will say is this: while that final play will haunt me forever, I have to give a lot of credit to this Seahawks team for what they were able to accomplish all season and to the Patriots for playing championship football. It’s a great time to be a fan, and I am excited to see us come back strong. My heart does ache, though. Moving on!

Today is the first day of the rest of my life! In that regard, I suppose it is similar to every other day, but in many ways this particular day is different. Friday was my last day as an AmeriCorps VISTA at Portland YouthBuilders. If I haven’t already told you, PYB is an alternative HS and vocational training program that works with low income students age 17-24. My role as a VISTA was to set up a volunteer program, systematize volunteer management, and build capacity in the organization to better serve our students through volunteering. It was challenging, exciting, inspiring, and ultimately one of the most fulfilling things that I’ve ever done. It’s not just that the organization was supportive or that I enjoyed the job, though those things are very real. I think what stuck out to me is the spirit of service that one has both as a VISTA and also working in an organization that is supporting young people who have been put at a disadvantage early in their lives.

If you talk to me, follow me on social media, or read this blog with any regularity you probably know that I am a big believer in kindness and community. It’s one thing to pay lip service to those ideas, but it’s another to put those ideas into action. The past year has been so empowering because it really has validated my world view, and forced me to confront the reality and the difficulty of living like that. I’ve found an inner strength when serving others that has helped me through what has in many respects been a very challenging year personally.

There’s a quote that I really love by Rabindranath Tagore, who was a Bengali writer and artist in the late 19th/early 20th century that goes “I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.” In a nutshell, that has been my experience. I want a life that is filled with joy, but feel compelled to act on the injustices that I see in the world around me instead of pursuing a life that is purely pleasure or for my own monetary gain (which often people equate with happiness). Then when I act and serve I find the kind of fulfillment that I’ve always wanted. If this past year has given me anything it is a sense of clarity about the path that my life will take, even if I don’t know exactly where that might lead. Which is pretty cool.

I’ve now moved back in with my mom for the next few months before I start grad school, which is not the life every 24 year old dreams of, but makes sense financially and will be a good experience, I think. It will be nice to spend a little more time with my sister before she heads off to college (to become a Vandal, of which I could not be prouder) and I will also be much closer to my father and brother. I also will be saving a lot of money, which is important because I’m going to China! That’s right – I’m taking a trip to the other side of the planet to visit one of my best friends and to experience and see more of the world. I’ll be leaving mid-March and be gone for somewhere in the 4-6 week range (depending on how the financial situation works out – I bought a one way ticket). I’m very excited! I’m also hoping to do a lot of personal care, with lots of meditation, running, reading, and traveling to see friends all over the Northwest in the plans.

I’d like to end with a little Marshawn: “I’m thankful.”

I’m thankful for the experiences I’ve had this year, I’m thankful for everyone who is helping me grow into the person I someday hope to be, I’m thankful for friends who reach out to say hello and friends who are far away but think of me anyway, I’m thankful for the kindness of others, I’m thankful for the inspiring students I’ve worked with, I’m thankful for the songs in my head and my heart, I’m thankful for the people that push me to achieve and those who catch me when I fall, I’m thankful for football, I’m thankful for elation and I’m thankful for heartache, I’m thankful for those who make me smile and those who make me think, I’m thankful for all the wonderful attributes I see in humanity and thankful that I believe that some of those disheartening wrinkles can be smoothed out, and I’m thankful for this present moment.

“Service which is rendered without joy helps neither the servant nor the served. But all other pleasures and possessions pale into nothingness before service which is rendered in a spirit of joy.” –Mahatma Gandhi

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