To say that the YAV experience has been turbulent would be a bit of an understatement. From Orientation being one of the most disorienting learning experiences of my life to getting hit by a truck, a lot has happened over the past few months. I’m long overdue in giving everyone an update on how thing are going so here you go.
First, a small piece on national orientation. It’s been so long since that week of rich and challenging community building that I struggle to remember it all. There are a few things that remain clear as day in Albuquerque. Key among those is the prevalence of white supremacy and the systems I witness all too often that keep it in place. Here in ABQ it is hard to miss the ways in which the Military Industrial Complex, Housing assistance, treatment of lands sacred to local Pueblos, the Doctrine of Discovery, and so much more effect people of color every single day. Even in trying to fully understand the extent to which white supremacy has affected generations of Native peoples is difficult to comprehend, especially when you retreat at Ghost Ranch, a Presbyterian retreat center located on lands originally inhabited by Ute and Jicarilla Apache, as well as the Ohkay Owingeh, Picuris, Santa Clara, and San Ildefonso Pueblos. Reflecting on the role of the church, the program, and myself in this larger community has been a constant and difficult struggle I imagine will likely continue for the remainder of my time here. As my site coordinator Luke would say “I invite you to sit with that struggle.”
Other rather obvious struggles I’ve been dealing with have been the whole truck business. Funny enough, that morning we had a bible study on Genesis 32: 22-32. That's the one where Jacob wrestles an angel and gets a limp because the angel messes with his hip socket. Luckily I did have any issues with my hip, but I certainly developed a heck of a limp that day. In the following days and weeks I was inundated with cards, messages, support, and love from afar. It was so comforting knowing so many people were caring about me and I really appreciated it. Unfortunately there were plenty of setbacks to balance out things. For one, you really get a chance to reevaluate things when staying in the hospital learning how to stand up again. I found myself incredibly lonely and depressed, despite visits from my entire family and the constant outpouring of support from my community back home. Fear of missing out certainly took hold of me and I certainly felt some bitterness towards my housemates living a few blocks away from me. We barely knew each other, but I desperately wished to be with them, building relationships and the intentional community we had all committed to. Luckily when you’re young your body is apparently made of rubber and heals at an exponential rate. Once I was moved into the YAV house and my healing began moving at a lightning pace, that sense of community I longed for was fostered and flourished. Today, two months ago I was learning to stand without passing out. Now I walk the .8 miles it takes to get to work and go on hikes with my fellow YAVs. Progress is wonderful and I am so appreciative of my community here and afar.
Speaking of my community afar, I feel like I need to do some reflecting on the community I left behind at Washington and Lee. I didn’t really process leaving that community behind very well during the summer and in the past few months of being a YAV, but I found myself today struck with an incredible amount of sadness and nostalgia for my W&L community. I don’t really enjoy reflecting on my departure from the institution but I sincerely miss my friends and the larger community therein. I see so many things happening from afar, both good and less than great that I wish I could still be a part of. In some ways, I see the growth I’ve made personally since leaving school and have an immense appreciation of the experiences I have been exposed to; but that does not lessen the loss I still feel today in having left that community behind.
I feel like I mention those things to demonstrate the complexity of the human experience I feel I’ve felt these past few months. There’s so much that’s happened that I’ve left out but at the moment feel I can’t do justice. I hope to be more diligent going forward reflecting on my experiences so I can better include readers in the community I have here in ABQ. Tomorrow we depart Albuquerque for Tucson, AZ and Agua Prieta, Mexico. Expect some reflections on that experience in the coming weeks. Until then, Love Neighbor, Love Enemy, and Love Self.
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