“The choices you make now, the people you surround yourself with, they all have the potential to affect your life, even who you are, forever.”
- Sarah Dessen, The Truth About Forever
Friends and Foes, Family and Fawns,
Spring is finally here in North Central Massachusetts! The last of the snow has melted and the days are slowly (very slowly) getting warmer when the sun is present. My cat Olive, who turns a year old next month, shakes her butt and stomps her little hind feet when she watches the Robins through the blinds from the desk top. This makes me happy.
I don't think I even adjusted to being back in my hometown for the past 6 months. For the 3 years prior, I yo-yoed my way around and didn't even spend 6 months in total at home! I finally chose last Fall, to return home for winter because that's what my gut told me to do.
I spent time with friends and family. I continued to work for Habitat for Humanity. I applied for lots of jobs, listened to lots of music and watched too much television. I ate and hibernated like a bear. I remembered to reflect and waited for a new perspective.
Reflection is especially necessary in our busy lives as to not forget where we are from, what we stand for and how we have got ourselves to where we are. Remember, we are all where we belong.
I was on a service trip to Mexico in 2010 when I discovered my wings. I realized I was part of something much bigger than I had ever imagined and I finally felt it in me and around me. I couldn't describe it and of course, I didn't know what to do with it. I certainly dropped the ball several times before I was able to direct my energy and efficiently move forward towards a goal. I had always been afraid to make a wrong choice but I soon found out, it was never about the right or wrong choices, it was simply about making any choice.
You would think I'd clearly remember the moment I drove away from my parents house in September 2011, en route to the West Coast, to start what would be 2 years of serving in AmeriCorps, however I only see that month as a choppy slideshow. After my Meme past away, the weddings I attended, the suitcases I packed, the loose ends I tied, the 12+ hour days of driving, the grief I finally was able to shed passing through Texas, they are all just snapshots now, already aged but forever permanent.
I had finally made choices. I had applied for AmeriCorps. I worked the extra hours. I traveled. I worked more extra hours. I made the goal to better myself, those I encountered and the communities I entered. I had known what it was like to receive and give back on a personal level, but never on the worldly level. That was tremendously rewarding and I realized how much we personally benefit from allowing ourselves to be of complete service to others. Not feeling the need of the crutch anymore, I even chose to quit smoking cigarettes! It's been over a year!
In the recent past years, I have served long and short terms with roughly 20 non-profits, I have made personal connections with hundreds of people of all ages, cultures and histories; I've traveled through 70% of the US, started to venture internationally and learned what the terms “goals and values,” “communication,” “hands-on,” “team based,” “community” and “work ethic” in all essence, truly mean.
As the support of AmeriCorps came to a close, my contract with Habitat for Humanity Portland / Metro East was extended and then also came to an end. So, I packed up my year-in-the-making in Oregon and retracted back to Massachusetts for one last time. I still can't answer, “why?” but eventually, I'll be able to piece together my recent perceptions, emotions and new connections from a different perspective. Again. I swear, it's not what I'm running from, it's what I'm chasing.
Like my favorite pair of jeans I keep in the dresser, as soon as I slipped back into Massachusetts, I couldn't even get in up to my hips let alone button up! I always know they won't fit, but I just. keep. trying. Massachusetts isn't mine anymore, was it ever? I want to feel pride in where I live and I want to share my neighborhood. Coming back to momentarily settle, opened to options (maybe too many), I was listening to the universe.
I went to Argentina on a Habitat for Humanity Global Village Trip (which still deserves a blog of it's own) to deal with the dreaded “Life After AmeriCorps” that was rapidly setting in. They don't tell you “LAA” is actually an emotion and NOT the actual events that follow your service year. Remember that. You heard it first, here. Buckle those belts... it may be a bumpy ride.
In my #JobHunters2014 adventure, I applied to many positions at non-profits, for-profits, colleges, cruise ships and hotels galore. After 3 steady months of resumes, cover letters, references and applications, the rejections started to roll in. Ideally, I was thinking “volunteer coordination,” but all my skills/experience are in-field. As many options where in-office, I was not most qualified. I did participate in phone interviews and receive offers for positions in different locations that financially could have worked but above all else, I was focused on listening to my gut. And my gut was always asking me “can you see this as a long-term opportunity?”
I have been grateful for the luxury of time. After learning how to effectively speak in all the noise of the previous years, I've finally learned how to actively listen in all my recent silence.
After being encouraged by a friend who works for the website, Airbnb.com, I applied for a Customer Experience Specialist position with them. Airbnb.com is an online marketplace where folks can rent or host rooms, apartments, houses, tree houses, yurts, igloos and other unique spaces as alternatives to hotels. Thus, producing a reality out of an on-line social network, providing the guest with a personal connection and insight to the community they are visiting.
The application process was lengthy, yet thrilling (kinda like my blogs). After filling out a simple application and submitting my portfolio of paperwork, I was instructed to complete videos and creative written responses. Then, I was invited to a “hiring group meet-up” in Portland. I flew across country and participated in the role playing scenarios, team builders, more written responses and a brief one-on-one interview. The next day, flying East with a new friend, we received email invitations to complete Skype interviews.
I can now say, that after an itchy 2 month process, I am a proud soon-to-be employee of the AirFamily that is Airbnb.com. As a Customer Experience Specialist, I'll answer questions/concerns/emergencies out of Airbnb's brand new North American hub offices and facilitate experiences where “travel” meets “making the world a better place.”
In total excitement, I posted a quick Facebook status last night, that was a bit out of style for me. I blurted out the fact that I “GOT IT,” never really elaborating on what “it” was; I made effort to mention I'd be in San Francisco for my birthday, failing to mention it was during a week of training. And I clearly typed something along the lines of “the start of a wonderful life.” I definitely acknowledge I already have a wonderful life. 24 hours after posting the status, the post-er's remorse settled in but much to my surprised, my little update clocked in 127 “likes” and almost 50 comments. Holy fuck, right?! The people I've surrounded myself with most certainly have had a huge affect on my life. It shows and I love you for it.
It took equal parts time, support and courage to finally make some damn choices for myself, to start climbing and in retrospect, I don't regret anything. Now that I've made a few, I can reflect on my choices and map the experiences and connections they have provided. My choices have shaped who I am. They aren't “right or wrong.” They weren't “good or bad.” They just are what they are.
Maybe I wasn't suppose to be listening to the universe after all. Maybe the universe was suppose to be listening to me. I am so excited to have followed my gut and found a long term opportunity I could finally set roots into. I'm entering a new (hopefully longterm) career of Travel and Tourism. I'm finding a studio apartment in the city and I'm moving Olive back West. Find your direction. Choose something. And stick to it. No excuses. Only goals... and values... and communication... and “hands-on...”
“I'll never know, and neither will you, of the life you don't choose. We'll only know that whatever that sister life was, it was important and beautiful and not ours. It was the ghost ship that didn't carry us. There's nothing to do but salute it from the shore.”
- Cheryl Strayed, Tiny Beautiful Things