We will be inviting Johnson Service Corps alums to write about their experiences with and after their time with us. Alexi Paraschos, 09-10, shares his story below.
My name is Alexi Paraschos, and I am a soul singer/songwriter living in Philadelphia, PA. I was a member of the Johnson Service Corps from 2009-2010, directly following my graduation from undergrad. My year in the JSC (or the “Johnson Intern Program” as it was called then) was hugely significant for me. It definitely was something unique. Every time I tried to explain to people in my life a “year of discernment,” sharing a house with seven strangers, and splitting a budget of $800 per month — all completely voluntarily — I was met with responses like, “What kind of bizarre ‘Real World’ situation is that??” And I definitely wouldn’t call it easy. I still remember the house meetings with my far more Christ-like housemates who insisted on a “non-violent” approach to addressing any insects that found their way into the house, resulting in a uniformly dissatisfying compromise.
But I learned so much about myself during that year. At a time when my anxiety about the future was higher than it had ever been, and my doubts about life and questions about purpose seemed to be never ending, I found something deeper than I had ever known. Through the meditation and spiritual practices I discovered during that year, taking the time to sit with my uncertainties and questions, I learned practices that remain with me to this day. My housemates and program directors were also incredibly supportive of my music as a member of the program. Whether it was tolerating my playing the guitar in the house or attending my performances, they were consistently supportive. I also wrote my song “Broken People” during my time in the program and as a result of a lot of the work we did in the Servant Leadership program. After leaving JSC, in spite of the challenges that I knew would come with it, I felt confident about pursuing a career as a singer and songwriter.
The artist’s life has had challenges. There are challenges of time, squeezing in music video shoots around three part-time jobs or waking up at 6:30 a.m. after staying out until 1 a.m. at a show. There are financial challenges, paying for studio time, merchandise, and musicians all out of pocket and barely breaking even at shows. But I am starting to see the benefits of my labor – my song “Hashtag” received second place in the Mid-Atlantic Song Contest, and the video for my song “Be You” was just accepted into the Universe Multicultural Film Festival in California. But more importantly, I live a life of great meaning. I get to spend a lot of time writing music that I love! I feel like I am fulfilling my purpose. And, with songs like “Be You”, I get to spread messages of unity and encouragement, which I think are desperately needed in our world today. I appreciate my time in JSC for giving me a year of perspective and for encouraging in me the values of creativity and collaboration, which I still live by to this day.
Pre-order Alexi’s next album, “25/8”, now by visiting Alexi’s website at www.alexisongs.com. You can also follow him on instagram and twitter at @alexisongs.