Welcome to California.
Welcome to the next 10 months of travel and adventure found in the diversity of experience and ourselves.
I arrived in Sacramento 4 days ago in a haze of jet lag and excitement. I was surrounded by people who believed in the worth of doing the sometimes hard or monotonous work to serve others. It was one of the most inspirational things to realize. 285 of us, ages 18-24 settled into our dorms at the retired McClellan Air Force Base, ready to start the next chapter of our lives. We will be on this campus for the next month completing trainings on the heart of the mission of NCCC, and covering topics such as culture competency, potential projects for the coming year, and how to drive the dreaded 15 passenger van.
Over the past 4 days, we were split up into teams of 10, plus a team leader. There are 4 units on this campus, identified by different colors: Gold, Blue, Silver, and Green; each with 7 teams of 10 on them. I am team Green 6, evenly split with 5 young women and 5 young men as Corps members, plus one team leader. These are the 10 people I will be working and living closely with during my time in Americorps NCCC. We come from different states and cultures, hailing from the far reaches of this country, to a couple states over; the oldest of us being 23, and the youngest just out of high school at age of 18. I am confident I will learn something from each of them; and though I feel like one of the old ladies of the group, I hope I can use the experiences I’ve already had to help others realize their worth as well.
I keep stressing that I don’t know where this journey will take me, but it seems that I won’t have the answer for months and months down the road. For now, each day here is unique, and every day I meet more and more people. Though most of our trainings so far have been about the Americorps NCCC policy, it has still given us a chance to socialize and grow together. I have never been somewhere where so many people are open to speaking with, playing with, and all around getting to genuinely know the people around them. It’s lovely. These first few days seem to be much more about self-exploration and satisfaction than service for others, but I think that’s ok. We are finding our purpose and place here, and I think that will help us to grasp more firmly to our mission when times get tough.
Last year, I struggled a lot with introversion, and overcoming my own prejudices with it. I viewed my quiet nature as a negative trait of my personality. For the first half of my experience in New Hampshire, wished I was someone else – perhaps more confident or outspoken. It’s funny how you are shaped by the people you choose to let into your life. They can have such an impact on your view of the world, and either help you see your worth, or crush your spirits. Thankfully, I was surrounded, though not in terms of physical distance, by the former. A good friend sent me this message on a day that I was feeling of little worth in my quietness, and was highly envying a co-workers outspoken nature. “You are such an inspiration to me just because of who you are. And who you are is not and cannot be ——. And I’m really glad because I need Chrissy Lynne in my life and not ——. ” She went on to remind me that it is only through who I am, completely unique from anyone else, that I was making an impact. By the end of last year, I came to realize how much of a gift my introversion was through the lessons I learned in moments of listening, in silence, and in reflection. It is in reading the quiet between the words that we can sometimes find the meaning behind them.This year, I am already finding that being truthful with who I am and what I need as an introvert is keeping me happier and more sane being around so many people all the time.
We are always told that this isn’t going to be easy. I came into this thinking about the most obvious things that aren’t easy for people: mostly being away from home or being nervous that they wouldn’t fit in with the people around them. Being confident that I had already conquered these things in New Hampshire, I had no nervous spark coming into this experience. I was just anxious to learn. I am coming to see, however, that my reflection of “not going to be easy”, though not homesickness, will be creating new relationships while still treasuring and maintaining the ones already established. It’s going to be a delicate balance of finding trust in others’ listening ears, being present for the moments that will have the most impact on me, and creating my own future through the decisions I make. It is when I move to a new place that I know most that the support system I built before this adventure will still be behind me, no matter how far I roam. This is when I realize my life is beautifully dotted with the colors of others, and the enormous worth that comes with it. For that, I am so thankful.
I have come to California with the worth of my introversion already found, and the beauty of my support system already in place. Hopefully, others will find their worth in themselves through this experience, and be able to build up others from it. This is what it’s about – finding strengths and creating something truly amazing from it.
Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. ~ Leo F. Buscaglia