As I enter into the last 1/3 of my year, I’ve put together a few pieces of advice for future YAVs – but I think they also double as life lessons I’ve learned over the past 7 months.
EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED.
There’s no such thing as a normative YAV year. Let me say that again – there’s no such thing as a normative YAV year! After knowing several fabulous women who have completed their own YAV experiences, I could not help but enter into my YAV year with grand expectations, and I don’t think I’m the only one that does this. Afterall, there’s a reason we feel called to do this program. We all have our own reasons, intentions, and goals for the year and these things tend to lead to having a certain level of expectations, whether we acknowledge it or not. However, in my experience, nothing’s turned out how I imagined – not my work placement, not our community life, not our intergenerational housing situation. These things have been challenging and difficult, even disappointing at times, but the unexpected has also been delightfully surprising and beautiful.
INTENTIONAL COMMUNITY DOES NOT MEAN YOU’LL NEVER BE LONELY……but it does mean you’ll have people to support you when you are.
We arrived in Albuquerque seven months ago as independent individuals and as different as can be. I think we all thought to ourselves, what the heck are we going to do this year? But over the past few months, humanity has taken over and bound us together through the good and the bad. Today, I’m unbelievably grateful for this community, the strong women I get to see every day, and the ways in which we love and support each other. We aren’t a perfect intentional community, and often, we tease and annoy each other like siblings – but we always extend grace to ourselves and others and manage to make it through. There’s certainly times I miss my family and friends back home and the feeling of being truly known, but the beauty of intentional community is that we are all in this together. Each day, we chose to be here with each other, and we continue to learn how to be supportive and show up for our community members in the ways that they need. We can have honest and sometimes difficult conversations with each other and remain a loved and valued member of the community. We are going through real life together and that means we have good days and bad and that we are experiencing real emotions.
BE PATIENT. THE CHANGE AND GROWTH WILL COME.
I spent the first few months of my YAV year searching for that personal growth and change that everyone promises you will have. I was frustrated when my year wasn’t like all the alumni had promised at YAV orientation. We weren’t fighting over the dishes. I wasn’t making lasting connections with my students, who couldn’t even remember my name for the first few months, and we had way too much going on in our community life to even take a crack at discussing the many systemic problems in our world. How was I supposed to accomplish all my goals for the year and grow in the ways I wanted to when things weren’t going as planned? I knew YAV was intentionally designed to be challenging and that we were supposed to embrace the uncomfortable, but for some reason, I thought our challenges were supposed to look like everyone else’s.
I’m learning to let go and be patient. Life happens at the speed it’s supposed to. I didn’t always think that this was going to be a transformational year for me, but it is – just not in the ways I thought. When I envisioned my YAV year, I always imagined participating in protests, serving food to the hungry, and becoming really good at reading the bible every day. While I’ve done all of these things (okay, I’m still not great at reading the bible), these aren’t the things that I’m going to remember from my YAV year. Instead, the moments that surprisingly stick out the most when I reflect on the last few months are the everyday, mundane things that demonstrate how far we’ve come. From conversations we’ve had walking around the track in the evenings to the people we’ve met and formed relationships with, I’ve learned that growth and real change happen when you least expect it.
To read more from Julie, click here.