I have always been rebellious. I’ve often times referred to myself as a salmon because I was born to swim against the current. But rebellion for rebellion-sake alone is truly the most basic form of conformity. The goal is to challenge myself – not just the world around me – and to put my passions and ideas to work towards who I want to become as holistic human-being, rather than be defined by what career I chose to pursue.
As a child of immigrants, the pressure to be a high-achieving student and eventually attend university was administered quickly and consistently from the moment my feet touched down in Miami International Airport. I was born in a very different country, with a contradictory ideology and a significantly different standard of living and culture. I had to adapt quickly to what seemed like an altered reality in exile. No more extended family, but more “opportunities”, no more knowing our neighbors, but more food. It was all a give-and-take and it remains that way to this day. Yet, despite all the challenges and culture shocks and language barriers, I grew and blossomed where I was trans-planted. I even up and moved once more from Miami to North Carolina to attend school at UNC-Chapel Hill.
I say all this to show that I am not unfamiliar with difficult life-changing transitions in the least, and yet none of these experiences could have adequately prepared me for the world of confusion that entails being a recent college grad. The sheer amount of possible routes to tread and experiences to pursue is entirely too overwhelming. In a country with a culture obsessed with financial and professional achievement, taking a year off the “conveyer belt of success” to gain mindfulness practices and professional experience working for a small stipend each month is an act of true rebellion.
I can say that was the only comparable transition in my life to becoming a service corp member.
As a corps member in JSC I’ve had the grace of ten other individuals surrounding me on my journey of becoming. As a child, I had my mother and my younger brother for support. We held each other strong through the hardest of shifts in our realities. Now I have this community, this little family of rebels like myself who dared to step out of the hamster wheel of achievement and fill their lives with experiences very different from their own through service and intentionality. The diversity in their journeys is a constant source of inspiration for me even when we all don’t see eye-to-eye and/or our differences get the best of us.
We come from all walks of life, big cities and small towns, traditional Episcopalians to new faith seekers, introverts and a single extrovert (me). Yet, despite all these variations in our paths to JSC, we walk together now holding each other strong through this year of self-discovery and growth. Often times we come home with hope renewed in our faces through the success of our efforts. Other times we come together to renew that hope in each other. We listen, learn, and cry; sometimes we laugh ironically at the horrors of the politics and policy frameworks that hinder us from serving our community better. We clench our fists at the abusive criminal justice systems, at predatory lenders, at the gentrification happening all around us and at the corruption and self-serving energy of those in power at the moment.
It is not easy living in community, just like it’s not easy to do anything in this world that is actually worth doing, but I find that living in community is the key to the success of this organization. It has been, without question, the most wonderful aspect of this year for me.