This is the story that I wrote and read at Church this past Sunday 9/20
I spent the last year in Portland, OR where my heart, mind and body were out of sorts. I graduated from college in May 2014 with a degree in Political Science, and I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do with my degree, but I knew I wanted to move to Portland. I had visited the city a few times as a kid to visit one of my Mom’s cousins and her husband and I had fallen in love with the cool weather, all the green foliage, the nice people and as I learned in college, it is the city with the most microbreweries per capita! I attempted to get a job in an area relevant to my degree, I applied to a few organizations working with homeless youth but they weren’t interested since I had little to no relevant experience. The Political job I was able to land was as a canvasser, one of those people who stand on street corners or going door to door with clipboards asking people to support a cause and donate their money to lobbyists. That was perhaps the most difficult job I ever had since it hurt my conscience, asking people who already didn’t have much to donate to a cause that their money wouldn’t be affecting anyhow. So I wound up getting a job in a couple restaurants since that was where I had experience. I worked mostly nights and weekends eventually working 40-60 hour work weeks, a strain on my body and mind. I still loved where I was living but my jobs were draining my life from me. That wasn’t the work that I felt called to do. I was hoping for a job that would allow me to go outside on a regular basis that included working with people who are passionate about what they do and to have the feeling that I was making a positive change in the world, not to say that taking away people’s hunger is not a positive change in the world! The other factor that I didn’t take into mind was how hard it is to move to a new city by yourself, where you don’t know anyone else in your age group and hope to find a new social circle of people to hang out with. I met people at bars and had friends at work but nothing concrete or long term manifested from most of those relationships.
My heart was not happy with the work that I was doing, it was all very much same work different day, I wasn’t being challenged and stimulated at my job in the ways that I wanted to be. As for my mind, I was struggling with my faith. I had been questioning what I believed in throughout college but in my time that I was alone I was actually able to think on my questions. The overwhelming realization I came up with is that you don’t know how good something is until you’ve had something bad to compare it to, just like how I didn’t know what my faith was until I had been without it. And even though I had started going to the gym on a regular basis for the first time in my life, my body wanted to be used for more than just serving food all day and then cleaning up and getting ready to do it all over again.
So I decided to sign up for the YAV program! The only little hiccup was the fact that there was about a month and a half between when I had to be out of the basement I was renting and when my YAV year started in the form of orientation at Stony Point, NY. So I decided to move back in with my parents in the meantime but since I had so much time I was going to split up the 24 hour drive back down to Tucson into a two week road trip to see family, friends and as many National Parks as possible on my way down.
It just so happened that those two weeks turned out to be the most aligned my mind, heart and body had been in the past year and a half
The parks I stopped at were Smith Rock and Crater Lake in Oregon and Arches in Utah. After working in small, hot kitchens for most of the year it was great for my body and mind to get out into these wide open spaces and do some hiking and exploring. What I remember most about those places was just finding an isolated spot and taking in the complete majesty of those parks that reminded me how insignificant my problems are compared to everything else in the world. At Smith Rock, it was standing in the creek that ran in front of the huge volcanic deposits and taking in all of the detail of these enormous stones and watching eagles or hawks fly around from the top of them all the way down to the creek which was surprisingly thriving with mussels or oysters or some shelled creature. For Crater Lake it was in the drive out there, all by myself, this lake is about an hour and a half off the beaten path just hoping I was actually going the right way. And then finally getting there and having my breath taken away by this giant lake sitting in this collapsed mountain we call a crater and not being able to believe that the water was the same blue as the sky. Trusting I was going the right way even though I couldn’t see where the path I was on was taking me, and then the payoff of getting there and having my mind blown, I wasn’t aware I was aligned then, but I was. The highlight of this trip was when I was able to stop and see some family along the way, family I was hoping to see more often now that we were in the same state but due to my intense work schedule I couldn’t see them as much as I would have liked to. I stayed with another one of my Mom’s cousins and his family with four kids aged between 7 and 16 (since I have no first cousins of my own on either side of the family I usually reach out to my parent’s cousins). Family is important to me and I was passionate about connecting with those kids now so years down the road that connection hopefully still means something to all of us, I know it still means something to me. One of the quotes that I will always remember from that week was when the second youngest, Megan, made me promise to come back and visit before she was a teenager so we could still have fun! During that week that I was with them, even though my attention was being pulled in many different directions at once, I was frequently being climbed on and my hair was put into multiple man buns, that was the most aligned my heart, body and mind had been all year.
As much as I intend to get back out to Oregon and see those guys again before they’re all grown up, I can think back to that week that we were all together and it helps me feel like I’m all realigned all over again.