Wander Into –

A Collection of Journeys

A letter to those afraid of getting stuck January 9, 2017

Filed under: Volunteering — Wanderhere @ 9:45 am
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I never thought I would end up here. I’m sure I never expected to end up anywhere, but in the rare moments that I would try to plan my future, here was never part of the package.

Let me explain.

For the past 3 and a half years, I have been living in the small town I grew up in. Even admitting that now brings me a wave of shame and guilt as I have been taught to feel by almost every peer that I grew up with. I am marrying a man who has never lived outside of Northeast Ohio, and loves his family more than anything else in his life. I assure you, many people never would have guessed that I would have ended up here.

They’re wrong.

The words ‘ended up’ are fundamentally wrong for any statement about my life, and it is partially the fault of social media that had made me feel this is the end. But that is an argument for another life.

I’m not ending up anywhere. I’m not ending. This, all of this, is the beginning. I wouldn’t be marrying this wonderful man if I didn’t truly believe so. And that says a lot. Because it’s taken a whole hell of a lot to get me to stay.

 I’ve never known much about my life. I mean planning-wise. I’ve never been a planner. I always just thought things would work themselves out if I found things I enjoyed doing and people I enjoyed being around. That’s not to say that I haven’t worked hard. Many of my closest friends know the, “I’m too tired and stressed to function,” face which rears its ugly head far too often. I remember panicking in the fourth grade because we had to do a career project. I had no idea what I wanted to do. Even then, the decision for a career felt so concrete.

In college, I remember wandering around outside, talking to my dad, crying that I wouldn’t know what to do with a creative writing degree, that I didn’t want to teach, that I didn’t have any clear path.

The world likes clear paths. It likes logic and step by step analysis. It likes rushing who you are into a box so everyone else can compartmentalize you into a theory, an allegory. You’re easier to swallow that way. When I looked around at 21, I saw no one like me. The path to graduate school didn’t suit me. I had no clear understanding of what I could do with all of these new critical thinking skills.  

I traveled. I had 2 years of gritty, real experiences. I found faces that longed for the sun, and hearts that wandered. But during that time, I missed things. I wasn’t there for family, for illness, for near death. I was too far to hold them. Part of me felt that it was ok. They told me to live. They told me to go.

But I am missing the point.

This letter is for those souls who feel stuck. For those who feel like they ended up, instead of chose, and are bitter and shame-driven and guilty about it.

There is a whole world out there, and yes, I know that to you it is already painfully obvious because you feel like you are missing it. I know, I feel it too still. But to those who are still in their hometown or not where they want to be, please know –  this place that you are in is a place. It is somewhere. Maybe you are the change that it needs for now. I know you do not need these things to rest only on your shoulders when you already feel so heavy, but understand that when you shed the weight of guilt and shame, you can now carry this responsibility.

You’ve heard it before – you are not here forever unless you actively chose to be. The things that happen in your life take time. Think of what has really shaped you. The things that are worth it take time, and you’ve got plenty of it. No matter how young or old you are.

These reasons seem frivolous. Ultimately it’s your decision to make amends with this life. 

 

You Don’t Have to Push Through November 1, 2015

Filed under: Employment — Wanderhere @ 12:48 pm
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Running late to yoga on Saturday morning as I often do, I rushed to set up my mat and take a few deep breaths before class began. I am a newbie when it comes to yoga, and I catch myself sometimes trying to coax those over-blissful, I am a blade of grass -type  thoughts during practice to try to emulate a ‘real’ yogi. But a thought came to me that morning in an unsolicited sudden rush on my second deep inhale that I was not ready for. All of sudden, it was there without hesitation or persuasion  – You don’t have to push through.

Jolted out of my concentration, I perseverated on this peculiar idea the entirety of the class, and am still grappling with why it would appear so suddenly in the first place. Ok, I feel like I know why (keep reading), but why now?

I have been a long distance runner, honors student, and overall over-achiever for a majority of my life. In 5th grade track club, I wanted to try distance running because it was harder than sprinting. At one point in high school, I was involved in 3 sports, drama club, choir, science club, and had a 3.8 GPA. College was no better – with a double major in two separate schools of thought, I also worked 15 – 20 hours a week, trained for marathons, and was involved a service organization. Just thinking about this makes me tired. And now, at the age of 26, I am responsible for the prosperity and integrity of an entire organization as executive director. Does it ever stop?

Don’t get me wrong, just listing out all of those accomplishments makes my chest swell with pride, and more often than not, I get a burst of serotonin from the acknowledgement of my laundry list of activities. But, I also know full well that in the midst of all of those practices, exams, and service projects, I was/am entirely worn out.

There is something to the “just be” culture that I wish I could hold on to. I’ll catch myself entirely content waiting at an airport just people watching, or having an unfettered, illogical love of public transit as an anonymous passerby – feeling a warmth coming from the simple knowledge that I am, and other people are as well. But the thing is, this concept of Zen, the power of now, content-where-you-are has never really stuck. I have always bounced back to the power of competition and over-involvement to make me feel like my life matters. I don’t understand how to sustain the “just be” that is supposedly innately buried. Can anyone sustain it? And what about motivation? I have pushed so long to be better, not than my peers, but better than my current self. I fear that once I am satisfied with who I am or the job I have done, I will no longer strive to make the world better.

So when this thought came upon me in yoga class, just as I was ready to show what I was made of, I didn’t know what to do with it.

You don’t have t push through. Of course I do! How am I ever to get anything else accomplished? What about pull, would that help? Maybe a little cajoling…

It certainly cannot mean what I want it to mean, what was once described as word porn – to quit everything and move into the mountains, grow my dreads back, live free. You 20-something millennials know what I mean. But the thought of it does serve a point – to be without the things or people that “know me” would be to leave the weight of expectation. Maybe this is why I have enjoyed moving so much in the past several years. It is when I start being described as the smart one, the care-giver, the leader, that I push to achieve.

Maybe this message will stick. Maybe it’s the first part of unraveling an identity based on accomplishments and failures, and coming back to the parts that just make me happy…whatever that abstract concept means. I hope so. I also hope I know where to begin – what small steps I might take to help me ‘be’, without feeling the need to push or pull.

Oh, and if there are any other mysterious voices out there who want to give me input, just send me an email next time!

 

The Hardest Part Of Traveling No One Talks About July 27, 2014

Filed under: Volunteering — Wanderhere @ 9:24 pm

My thoughts exactly.

Thought Catalog

image - Flickr / Corie Howell image – Flickr / Corie Howell

You see the world, try new things, meet new people, fall in love, visit amazing places, learn about other cultures – then it’s all over. People always talk about leaving, but what about coming home?

We talk about the hard parts while we’re away – finding jobs, making real friends, staying safe, learning social norms, misreading people you think you can trust – but these are all parts you get through. All of these lows are erased by the complete highs you experience. The goodbyes are difficult but you know they are coming, especially when you take the final step of purchasing your plane ticket home. All of these sad goodbyes are bolstered by the reunion with your family and friends you have pictured in your head since leaving in the first place.

Then you return home, have your reunions, spend your first two…

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I am a Wilderness First Responder, can I help you? January 7, 2014

My favorite parts of life are when I can do something that makes me nervous. It helps remind me to absorb the experience fully – to be an active part of this life. Since August, I have been finding 1 new thing to experience each month, all stemming from the fact that I didn’t want to lose myself during unemployment.

August: Road trip by myselfIMG950168

September: Live in Cleveland for a week

October: Volunteer for a trail crew with Ohio DNR

November: Learn the Ukulele

December: Get my Wilderness First Responder Certification

The day after Christmas, I traveled to Seattle, Washington to take a Wilderness First Responder certification course. I paid for it with some of my AmeriCorps Education Award money, and signed up for the course back in October when I was jobless and entirely frustrated with being at home – my entire body aching for adventure and that nervous feeling you get when you do something completely new.

The only problem with my plan was that in mid-December something happened. I had 4 interviews in the same week. I got a full time job offer to work for a well-respected non-profit that was going to start in my home town. I was given the title of ‘Director’ and told to run with it. I have constantly reminded myself that I could do and live anywhere for a year – I never imagined that would mean the place I grew up. I wrestled with what the job would mean for my life goals – would I ever make it west again? Was I giving up on my personal development for professional goals?

In time, I came to accept the position and where I was. I knew the good work I would be doing with children would make a difference. I felt busy and useful. My first two weeks helped me feel more comfortable, maybe even vaguely content. I was lucky enough that the organization even allowed me to miss work and travel to Washington for my WFR certification.

Can you see Mt. Rainier?

Can you see Mt. Rainier?

The day after Christmas I flew west for the course, and it felt like a homecoming. In the edited words of John Muir, “The mountains (were) calling, and I (did) go.” Flying over the crinkled brow of the earth, seeing the Cascades out my plane window, I remembered what bliss felt like.20131226_124633

Something happened in those 2 weeks I was away. I fell in love again with the Pacific Northwest, with every raindrop that created the coast’s beautiful vibrancy of being. Things there are textured with life and the reminder of the motions of it. The stunning mountain views, and chill of the wind off the sound awoke that part of my brain that was slipping into fallacy. I could finally let go of the portion of me that was worried I would forget the lesson that, yes, this beauty does exist, and it beckons with every part of mother earth. It was no dream I lived last April when I lived in this place.

Our class was 10 days on Bainbridge Island filled with wilderness emergency scenarios, growing friendships and an underlying respect for the outdoors. The 30 of us grew to know names and palpate spines. We looked for signs of life in the airways we spoke from, the precious breaths we took, the reminder that each pulse was such a sure fire sign that our hearts could still feel and decide, and lastly, that we were trained to expose something deeper. Our communal living was a force with which we built resiliency. I love the potential of the human body, hence my degree in an anatomy/physiology field, but to combine it with the awe of nature, and complexities of the human condition, well, I was in my element.

My entire WFR class. I palpated everyone's spine at least once.

My entire WFR class. I’m sure I palpated everyone’s spine at least once.

Another of my favorite things in life is to meet new people and become a part of their lives, if only for a short time. It is because we make ourselves vulnerable to others that we can feel this acceptance and acknowledgement of the humanity that surrounds us. When with good people, it’s never a choice. There is an irresistible flow to life that draws us to one another – our friendships and stories that carry us sometimes far beyond whatever was intended – beyond comfort or anticipation of the reaches of even our greatest foresight.

After we were all officially WFRs!

After we were all officially WFRs!

My trip to Seattle was a perfect storm of bliss and nature and people and learning.  Upon the touchdown of my plane wheels in Ohio, it seemed as though my molten and dynamic self was thrown into water to harden. It was like reliving the utter halt of adventure I felt when I arrived home from California. There was such a drastic shift in my attitude toward the place where I am – my head still filled with mountains and playful hearts.

There are two conflicting thoughts that make my stomach drop, that make me nervous – the first being that I am stuck here for another few years as I build myself professionally. The second being that I am scared of what I now know to be true – I feel most at home when I am wandering and seeking new journeys. Though I never want to lose that spark that keeps me moving, that way of life seems so out of my comfort zone that I’m not sure I can handle it as gracefully as the people I surrounded myself with these past few weeks. I can only hope to hold on to the one absolute I am entirely sure of – that I will never love anything more than helping, loving, and learning from people.

For now, it seems I am a broken record proclaiming that home is still not home, and the meaning of my life is based on the culmination of something I’m not quite grasping yet. I hope my journey isn’t inhibited by a distracted existence – only thriving on moments when I am away instead of here, head in the clouds and dreaming of mountains.

 

What Living Without a Door in Oakland Taught Me November 21, 2013

It’s coming up on the fourth month of my unemployment, and sometimes I feel like the last 2 years of volunteering never happened. To keep this from happening, to remind myself of the important things I learned about the world and my place in it, I drift into memories that have stuck with me, even over the miles and minutes.

The last round of my AmeriCorps NCCC experience had my little band of misfits living in Alameda, California – an island suburb of Oakland in the Bay Area. We were serving Reading Partners, helping them stuff over 1,000 new curriculum packets to be sent all over the country for their tutoring program (It’s really an amazing organization that takes full advantage of all AmeriCorps factions, and utilizes volunteers to connect the community. Check them out!).

Obviously working hard at Reading Partners

Obviously working hard at Reading Partners

Since the organization an NCCC team serves is compelled to provide housing for its poor volunteers, my team had stayed in everything from tents and yurts to fully furnished lodges and dorm rooms. Much like transportation and food, our living spaces were usually communal, where bunk beds were commonplace. This is why, when the contact person at our sponsor organization told us that they had rented us a house, we high-fived in excitement. A house meant separate bedrooms. It meant personal space and alone time. It meant dancing in your room naked if you really wanted to.

“I must warn you, it’s not furnished. Don’t expect the Ritz Carlton,” our contact cautioned.

Didn’t care. We had our own rooms.

When we arrived at the house – a Victorian style fixer- upper – we rushed up the stoop and into the house. The hallways were adorned with dust and pale, yellowing paint. The rooms were crusted in memories – you could feel it. Several trinkets had been left by the previous owners – a small note of emergency numbers, hash marks on the wall to mark growth, bent and dirtied spoons still sitting in the drawer.

Morning coffee on the porch before work.

Morning coffee on the porch before work.

Though these spaces we would inhabit were on loan to us, they became our homes, even to us nomads. The only thing our rooms were adorned with this time around were the shelter cots we had brought with us, and our issued red duffle bags. To an outsider, our rooms seemed barren, but to us, a group who had already traveled thousands of weary miles with only these few possessions, we found that we had the fullest living space in the world.

In order to pick rooms fairly, we drew numbers. Unfortunately, I picked the second highest number, leaving me with the choice to live on the ground floor/basement level, or a room on the main floor that was probably the front sitting room at one point. The front room was the first one after entering the house and had no door. I had big objections to living on the ground floor, which smelled of cat urine and housed our inevitably noisy communal kitchen. I chose the room without a door. It put a new meaning to an open door policy.

2013-06-13_11-48-10_336By this point in time, I had spent the better part of 8 months with these 6 other people – through disaster relief in New Jersey, to climbing mountains to maintain trail in Washington. Our lives had become patterned in live work sleep live work pick up and go. Beyond anything I ever imagined, we were a functional and entirely dysfunctional unit.

At the beginning of NCCC, I wanted nothing to do with being a leader. Though one of the oldest ones on my team of 18 to 24 year-olds, I purely wanted the experience and excitement with none of the responsibility. About half way through, when our team was falling apart due to internal struggle, I realized I was so disappointed in my participation and had a decision to make: quit or invest. There was no admiration in being a stagnant body in the experience. I tried to step up, trying to become a sounding board or a better person along the way. I’m not saying I got it right all of the time, but I hope my intentions became more transparent. I believe I gained so much more out of those last 4 months than I thought possible.

So when it came to living without a door, I at first reverted to the me, me, me mindset. This seemed different than all the other times I had to live in the same room other people. It felt like everyone else had the privilege of privacy, and I still did not. Eventually, I bought a 3 dollar, salmon colored sheet from a thrift store and used push pins to hang it up. I could still hear all the comings and goings. People would come into my room without a thought. The front porch and stoop was right next to my front window, revealing both early morning coffee drinkers and my late morning bed hair.

That first week was rough on me. Depending on moods, doors to others’ bedrooms were opened or closed. Depending on whether my push pins would stay in the wall was what determined my space. My teammates would make remarks on how messy my room was if my sheet was down. Even when I put the sheet up, I’m pretty sure I broke the record for fastest change of clothes, knowing the sheet was semi-transparent, and not knowing how soon someone would walk through the door or down the hallway.

Beach time in Alameda

Beach time in Alameda

I put up that sheet as a boundary line. This flimsy, pinkish colored piece of cloth was supposed to keep people out. Little did I know, it served much better to let people in.

The second week, I tried something new – patience…oh, and ear plugs. There was nothing I could do (besides move to the basement) about living without a door. As time went on, the sheet seemed silly – my boundary was entirely penetrable. But you know what else I discovered? So was everyone else’s.

I realized how false our space was. In these close quarters, the illusion of personal space gave us all comfort, but these single rooms were no match for the already intertwined support beams we had become. Even without rooms, we had earned the respect and understanding to meet each individual’s needs.

It was in those final weeks that I think my teammates understood my privacy needs best, and for that, I let more people come in and out of my room. I put up the sheet as a boundary, but it seems that all those lines had been crossed months ago. Sure, there was varied frustration when people would enter my room, my space, without asking, but there was also a sense of kinship as we began to reflect on who we had become.

My door was the blanket we laid out at the beach. It was the tablecloth to picnics and barbeques. Though I would never admit it at the time, I could keep tabs on who was out, and who was making breakfast. Because I had no door, my room was the place we gathered when we found out one of our teammates was in crisis, and formulated how to help him. “Can I borrow your door?” became a rallying cry of togetherness as it was utilized for group activity.

I ended up in the room without a door because of luck of the draw. That salmon colored sheet, stained with sea water and foot prints, proved how my boundaries were broken down time and time again. It proved how trust and respect was maintained, even in such a close space. It proved how letting people in was so much better than keeping them out. I couldn’t escape those people, and now, months later, I’m sorry that I ever wanted to.

 

Unless. September 26, 2013

There was a glimmer of hope this week as I finally got my first interview since I started applying to jobs 2 months ago. I was excited that it was with a well-respected youth outdoor excursion organization, and was in Portland, Oregon to boot! The position was for an assistant instructor for their outdoor education program.

“How familiar are you with Portland?”

I should have known when that was the first interview question…

Still, this didn’t stop me from fantasizing about road bikes, flannel, and all around hipster atmosphere a job in the Pacific Northwest would allow. I dreamed of taking a chance and driving my car out, having to live out of a duffle bag, and be sustained on the passion of my dreams and the outdoors for the first few weeks. It was going to be something that scared me into being a better, more complete person. It was going to be one of those stories I told with pride as listeners said, “You really did that?” My next great adventure was within sight.

And then yesterday happened.

It was one of those days I just felt like I couldn’t get it right. After scouring the internet for non-profit jobs, and realizing my qualifications didn’t match, what felt like, anything, I gave up. I started questioning my experiences, feeling as though they were worthless in the eyes of any employer.

Earning the Presidential Service Award, Congressional Service Medal, Hurricane Sandy Disaster responder pin, and AmeriCorps VISTA completion pin mean something, right?

Earning the Presidential Service Award, Congressional Service Medal, Hurricane Sandy Disaster responder pin, and AmeriCorps VISTA completion pin all mean something, right?

I didn’t do anything on my to do list. I spent a majority of the day watching the second season of New Girl and relating to the character Jess’s unemployment woahs. When I wasn’t zombie-ing in front of the television, I was lying on the floor, contemplating how useless I was.

And then the email came. The, we appreciated you applying email, the you weren’t the right fit email, the better luck somewhere else email.

No Portland. No west coast. No usefulness or worth.

And then my car broke.

I was waiting in line for to go food as my brother parked the car, and, after a few minutes, he came inside, fiddling with the keys in his right hand. “Your power steering went out.” I just kept staring straight ahead. It took most of my concentration not to let my tears break the surface.

Unemployed, no car, broke.

I felt completely defined by these things last night.

But then this morning happened.

As I walked back downtown from the mechanic’s, I glanced at my phone to see what time it was. For some reason, the background stuck out. It was nothing new – a collage of postcards and remnants from my 2 years of volunteer work that I had taken a picture of back in July. There is a white bumper sticker in the picture with the phrase, “Your world. Your chance to make it better.”

YOUR CHANCE TO MAKE IT BETTER.

YOUR CHANCE TO MAKE IT BETTER.

Plain and simple, the message was clear.

There are moments that are meant to act as clear indicators in your life. A Wednesday evening dinner at a camp in Southern California was one of them. At that point in time, I was seriously considering quitting AmeriCorps NCCC. Team dynamics seemed to be all sorts of complicated, and I felt as though I could be doing volunteer work much more happily somewhere else. I was on track to make a decision by the end of the week about whether or not to stay.

Before each meal at the camp, we said a prayer or were read a quote. That evening, the camp director picked a quote at random. It was the ‘Unless’ quote from Dr. Suess’s, The Lorax

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing’s going to get better. It’s not.”

If I was looking for a sign, that was it. Obviously, I decided to stick with NCCC, and completed one of the hardest and most rewarding experiences of my life.

Finding a job in something I’m passionate about is my chance to make “it” better, whether that be someone else’s life, or an organization, or the world with a capital w. If I don’t commit myself to doing this, who will?

I’ve thought about giving up on this whole job thing recently. It would be so much easier to find something I could stand day to day instead of a job I am seriously passionate about. In the long term though, how easy would it be to live with myself?

I am thankful for the small things - a beautiful fall day.

I am thankful for the small things – a beautiful fall day in Cleveland.

I am going to keep caring about this job search. I am going to keep looking for something that has me helping people in a way that is meaningful to me, whether it’s in Portland, Oregon or Bow, New Hampshire or any town, city or wilderness in between. I could make ends meet working at a Subway or substitute teaching or staying as a cook at the camp I’m currently making money with. But I can’t. I won’t. I’m going to keep at it.

Unless. Unless. Unless.

I had my self pity day, and even though I have felt like I have been on the verge of tears for most of the past 36 hours, I find myself trying as hard as I can to not define myself by my unemployment or monetary worth.

For now, it’s all I can keep believing in.

Special note: Thank you, thank you, thank you to all my friends and family over the past few months. I could not do this without your encouragement and love via phone calls, texts, letters, posts, and hugs. You are the reason I bounce back. You are the reason I believe I can take on the world. I can only hope to repay you somehow in the future. Sending you all much love.

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I Will Hold on Hope – Local Journeys and the Job Search September 10, 2013

Coming into these past few weeks, I felt a gray cloud of apathy starting to creep in. I am so anxious for my next step that I have been afraid to take any while I am still at home. I keep willing the phone to ring, praying for my email inbox to show a sign that I would be moving on soon. It hasn’t yet, and I am left sitting, alone, waiting, stagnant and holding my breath. The minutes pass with so much effort that by 8pm each night, I am ready to let the rest of my waking hours escape me as hope for new things fade with the sunlight.

Last week would have been the first day of school for my graduate program in Boston. I know it wasn’t a mistake that I didn’t go, but even so, the sting of what could have been a new adventure is still fresh. Even though I could see my mind slipping into feeling sorry for myself, I didn’t quite know what to do. Luckily, I had several trips scheduled for Labor Day weekend that made me feel like my world was still moving. They made me acknowledge something past this computer screen and my constant refreshing of Idealist. 2013-08-31_11-35-47_364

My first stop was to Troy, Ohio, a small town on the Southwest side of the state, famous for corn fields and aviation. The town was part of the Gentlemen of the Road Stopover Tour – a weekend music festival that included bands like Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Old Crow Medicine Show, and the headliner, Mumford & Sons.

Camp city at the Gentlemen of the Road festival in Troy, Ohio.

Camp city at the Gentlemen of the Road festival in Troy, Ohio.

To say songs like Home, The Cave, and Wagon Wheel got me through marathons, long nights of studying, and roads that stretched the California coast, would be an understatement. Countless hours were spent with friends humming the lyrics, or on runs pushing myself to the rhythm of folksy banjo playing. Not only was I excited to see some of my favorite bands perform, but I was also able to meet up with friends I had not seen since last December. Celebrating the music with them, and finally forgetting my shortcomings of not finding a job was all I could have asked for.

As Mumford closed, I couldn’t help but believe in what the band was crooning to me – I will hold on hope. Thousands of people were raising their hands in belief, knowing something they must hold on for or to or with. We were all holding on for something, and knowing that our humanity held us so close cradled my thoughts as I traveled away from Troy the next day.

2013-08-31_19-27-08_893After an exhausting 2 days filled with music, humidity and plenty of hippies, I drove to the other corner of Ohio to Cleveland where I met up with former AmeriCorps NCCC teammate and irreplaceable friend, Rachel. She and her mother had driven in from Baltimore for the long weekend to see the Orioles take on the Indians.

The last time I had seen Rachel, we were embracing after graduation from NCCC in Sacramento, California. It was one of those formidable moments of friendship, knowing that past that moment, nothing would be the same. She had been with me for 10 months as my roommate, confidant, and super hug giver, and I had missed her dearly over the past month we had been away.

Like the cliché, it was as if no time or distance had passed at all. We talked about our team boys, reminisced about the best and worst AmeriCorps had brought out of us, and what life had been giving us lately.

Our team carried lumber to build a bridge along a Washington trail. 12 miles in the rain!

Our team carried lumber to build a bridge along a Washington trail. 12 miles in the rain!

For the first time in a month, I felt normal again. I felt at home. Here was someone who knew what I meant when I spoke about carrying lumber 12 miles in the rain, who knew what it felt like to live with 7 other people and love it and hate at the same time, who could describe the bitter cold of a New Jersey winter and the extreme heat of a Sacramento summer in the same breath, and who had gone through something that others simply wouldn’t understand. It shaped us. Applying for jobs had felt so hopeless because it was impossible to convey what I had learned through volunteer work and travel in 3 lines of my resume, but being around Rachel, words could finally form about the experience. For the first time since coming back from California, standing still felt ok because I finally was no longer alone.

Maybe my experiences over Labor Day are to say, I need my people, or new people, or more people. I need others there to make this feel worth it, to make it feel like I can hold on hope because they’re holding on just as hard and as long. I suppose it’s something I can take with me on my job search as well – I need people. Whether it’s making them feel loved, or strong, or they’re reminding me over the distance of cornfields and storm clouds that I’m home just hearing them –  I need them.

Rachel and I at the Indian's game.

Rachel and I at the Indian’s game.

Throughout the time I spent with Rachel in Cleveland, Edward Sharpe was echoing through my head, “Home is whenever I’m with you.” I have written before of the homes I have built in people, remodeling my homes when I start something new, but always keeping treasured pieces of my past displayed on the mantle of my heart.

Home is whenever I’m with you.

And even when I can’t see these people, when they’re not in close proximity, I know they are part of the foundation of who I am and who I once was. Even though they’re miles from me, and even now when I feel our lives diverging, their love surrounds me. Even in the people I have never met, I share a common humanity with that allows us to love one another, and feel empathy for their hard days too.

We will hold on hope because we can build homes in each other. My heart sometimes breaks for the unemployed of my generation because this job search feels like broken promises. I honestly hope young people don’t give up on pursuing what they love or feel they are called to do. It’d be a shame to stop believing we can reach our potential simply because no one is there to tell us that we still CAN, after every rejection letter.

So let’s join hands like those hippies I saw in Troy (maybe minus the tambourine and washboard). Let’s feel like it does to hug a friend you simply can’t live without. Let’s believe in what we’re doing and who we’re becoming, even if it feels improbable that we’ll ever make it out of here sometimes. Let’s know there is a world out there waiting to embrace us, even when all we want to do is scream at the skies we’re under.

My last words to you come from Rachel, and I hope you believe them too. “Don’t you know? You’re going to be ok.”

Hold on hope!

Billy Joel speaking truth at the Roack and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.

Billy Joel speaking truth at the Roack and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.