Get your mind out of the gutter.
If my YAV year were an iceberg, I’m at the tip. This terrible metaphor is what first came to mind when deciding how to start this post. One of my housemates, Patrick, suggested I use part of said metaphor as my title. So there’s that. Maybe it’s my love of Titanic, maybe I’m just really cliché; regardless, the sentiment rings true.
My toe is in the water as I’ve tentatively stepped into this year. I still feel a bit guarded. Living in a house of seven people leaves me vulnerable to misunderstanding. So many personalities, so many different ways of interpreting each other. I crave being known. This leaves me missing a lot of people–people who do know me… my people. With that said, I feel really good about my new people. Each person in the house is their own island and I’m slowly building bridges. I love getting to know their favorite things and learning about their pasts. They each have a unique story to offer. They each have lessons to teach me. We are still figuring out how to live with each other–how to stretch our food budget to where we don’t run out of food on Fridays. How to interact with each other in a way that respects each person’s experience. One of my housemates, Haley (who is a second year NOLA YAV), says we are still in the honeymoon stage and I’d have to agree. But I feel it getting real–the remnants of newness and excitement fading away as we walk deeper into our respective jobs and year together. Conflict is inevitable, but so is facing it. One terrifying/beautiful thing about living in community is that you can’t avoid conflict. We have no choice but to be real and vulnerable. About everything; not just conflict. I think it’s such an opportunity for growth and to be validated in how we’re feeling. We belong to each other.
Aside from community happenings, my days have mostly been consumed with my new job at YMCA Educational Services (YES!). I work in a library (dream come true) with some pretty amazing humans. There are three other service corps members serving at my site and I’m so grateful to have them. Micah is an AVODAH Jewish Service Corps member and Camille is with Jesuit Volunteer Corps. Hillary, my fellow YAV, is also working for YES! but she will be doing Community Education at the New Orleans East branch. She’s been at the Main branch with us these past two weeks for training and it’s been so nice having a buddy on the bus, which I now take to and from work each day. Working for YES! is overwhelming and already so rewarding. I spend three days of the week doing one-on-one tutoring sessions with students. One day is spent upstairs helping in the main classroom and Fridays are for staff meetings and professional development. The tutoring sessions are in one-hour time slots and my students range from 20s to 60s age-wise. We spend most of the hour working on reading and writing, but I also teach basic math and life skills.
Yes, I, certified English teacher, am TEACHING MATH. This blows my mind. I’ve been relearning fractions, long division, algebra, and so much more. Some of my favorite moments have been teaching a math skill because I never knew I could do it. It makes me feel proud and happy. I remember sitting in math classes in high school and feeling so stupid and small. It triggered a lot of insecurity when I first started relearning the skills a couple weeks ago. I can understand, even if it’s just a little bit, what my students must feel like when they look at a page of words they can’t comprehend. I can teach with empathy and love knowing what it’s like to feel inadequate. One thing my students have that I didn’t have for math in high school is the passion and desire to learn. It’s incredibly rewarding to teach people who soak in what I’m saying and ask questions. I feel so much more able to give of myself and my gifts when the other end is willing to receive.
A beautiful thing about teaching adult education is hearing their stories. My students have lived full lives, full of beauty and pain, and they want to share it with me. I am honored to hold their stories in my heart and become a part of them. I’d love to share some stories this year, with their permission, and hope I can do so.
Another highlight of these past few weeks has been returning to St. Charles Avenue Presbyterian Church as an adult. I went to SCAPC as a little girl and have been returning throughout the years on random Sundays and most Easters. It’s a beautiful building with a strong congregation, especially in the 20s/30s department, which is very exciting. I’m looking forward to actually sticking around this time and getting involved. I attended youth group tonight and I plan on continuing to volunteer there throughout this year.
As I write this I’m sitting around the living room with my housemates, the smell of Patrick’s roast filling the air. It’s 8:11 pm and we are hungry. Very soon (I hope) we will sit at the table together and share a meal. As I sit here now, I’m feeling a lot of things: anxiety, excitement, a little loneliness even, but most of all is gratitude. The opportunities before me are opportunities for growth; at work, in the YAV house, at church. All the new relationships and experiences are set before me and I am open and ready to dig in.
Spirit of the living God,
Fall afresh on me.
Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me.
Spirit of the living God,
Fall afresh on me.
– Daniel Iverson
“But now, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.”
– Isaiah 64:8
Louisiana Flood Relief = our first community day. From left to right: Courtney, Hillary, Haley, Cherokee, me, Savannah, Patrick, and Joey (not a YAV), whose mother owns the house where we worked on Saturday in Denham Springs, LA.
The chapel in St. Charles Avenue Presbyterian Church.
Fam at Chick-fil-A for a snack attack after deconstructing a house all day.