Monthly Archives: August 2012

“fear is not from God.”

When I think back over the year and try to pinpoint the “defining moments” of my JVC experience,  there are a few I consistently come back to (this day is a big one), but a conversation from our Re-Orientation retreat always comes to mind.

That day was one of the first times I was brutally honest about how I felt about my work with someone outside my community–my frustrations, how much these kids broke my heart, and my self-perceived inadequacies. It wasn’t easy, but I let myself open up and admit that I felt like I had no idea what I was doing 90% of the time and that work left me feeling broken and insufficient most days. I talked about being afraid and how crippling that often was.

In that moment, as I was struggling not to cry (and only halfway succeeding), a friend reminded me that, “Fear is not from God.” Somehow those simple words were exactly what I needed to hear. It was only after admitting how far in over my head I was that I realized I wasn’t alone in feeling lost while doing this work completely out of my comfort zone.

The darkest days of JVC, literally and metaphorically, followed that retreat. (This was written in the midst of that time.) January and February in particular are just a blur of dark, windy evenings when I remember almost running home from the T station to work off some frustration. Those words stuck with me throughout it all, and it was a constant mantra in my head during those dark days. Fear is not from God. Fear is not from God. Fear is not from God. 

Slowly, I learned to quit letting fear control me and to take bumbling, awkward steps, although it was a rocky road. I embraced making mistakes, as per my 2012 motto, not just in work, but also in life and in relationships. I was still nowhere close to perfect, and After School still felt like a mess most days, but I learned to take joy in the little moments right in front of me. Things didn’t always turn out the way that I had hoped, but I know that I am better off for the chances that I took, rather than the times that I stayed away and kept my distance in a corner.

Now, seven months later,  I have to admit that I am a little bit irrationally afraid again. I am afraid of losing the relationships that made this year so meaningful, of forgetting the ways that this year changed me, of settling back into my old comfort zone, and mostly, of taking these next steps into the unknown again.

And that is when I once again remind myself: Fear is not from God. Those are words I hope I continue to carry with me throughout all that comes next.

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month twelve + a few days.

So… it’s not the 11th, but even though JVC officially ended for me on August 10th, I was in Boston until the 13th, so that’s why this is delayed.

In short, I spent month twelve saying goodbye. The first week: end of camp and most of the kids. Second week: Dis-O and most of JVC. Third week: Casserly House, the rest of the people there, and S. Nancy. Fourth week: Boston, our house, and my community. Honestly, I have just felt overwhelmed by emotions; I’m not kidding when I say that this past month was one of the most emotionally intense experiences of my life.

However, while I did cry more in public during this past month than I think I ever have before (you will not be seeing those pictures), month twelve was a fitting way to end my time as a JV. Yes, I had to say entirely too many goodbyes, but that is a testament to the beautiful relationships I spent this year building. And the fact that those goodbyes were so hard is a testament to what a wonderful year I had.  I have consistently felt overwhelmed by gratitude, and having the chance to say thank you to the most important people from this year over the past month meant everything.

I had the blessing this year of never once doubting that JVC was the right choice for me, that Boston was the right city, that Casserly House was the right placement, and that this community was the place where I belonged. This year was right for me; it was where I was supposed to be, but somehow it is now time to move on. Month twelve was about beginning to figure that out.

Transitions are never easy for me, even when I know that they are necessary, and month twelve had extreme highs and extreme lows. But when I think back over this last month, I mostly think about faces. Hugs that couldn’t last long enough. “Till we meet again’s” and encouraging words. The promise of being together in prayer. Shared meals and final drinks together. Laughter and even more inside jokes to add to our list. Promises to call and text and Facetime and visit and generally still be obsessed with each other.

And once again, I am grateful. Thank you, JVC, for a beautiful ending to a life-changing year.

month twelve.

the end of astronomy. movies, movies, movies.  revere beach sandcastle competition + fireworks.

camp: week 2 – africa. an emotional upset. sleeping on the balcony as a form of self-care. jvc year timelines + high’s and low’s. mfa fieldtrip. pizza + beautiful sunset. mud. amanda’s visit. thank you party + a well-represented casserly house. boston movies.

batman. wawa + live tweeting. dis-o. swimming. reflection. community time. forgiveness. finding peace. realizing that this is only the beginning. fireflies.  emotional exhaustion. the final roadtrip. amish country + lancaster brewery. ain’t no party like a scranton party. the end of days. so. many. goodbyes.

the tub fiasco. “what a joker.” the final week at Casserly House. scrambling to finish everything. basket shopping. new irish intern. the fighter. letters from the ESOL students + pizza with the kids. the most extraordinary kindness + the last day at Casserly House. final sam adams tour. gone baby gone. mass at st. cecelia’s. maggie’s birthday cake. jfk library. naptime. the roof of DR.

a last week in Boston. monday night beers at foley’s.  jar + bracket of top moments. cleaning + packing. goodbyes to fjvs.

the beehive + top of the hub on our final night out. saying goodbye to kateleigh. one last round at sissy k’s. wheat thins. one last mass at st. cecelia’s. target with maggie. philadelphia. running around finishing everything. “where is macedonia?” all of us sleeping in kateleigh’s room. 6am with maggie. breakfast with abby. lunch with cristina. one last round around the common + a red sox hat. leaving 7 patten st. crying in public. the kindness of strangers. re-reading my journal on the plane.

and finally… home. (for now at least.)
p.s. This doesn’t mean that I’m done with this whole blogging thing. I still have a lot of things left to say!

dis-orientated + somewhat finished.

dis-orientated + somewhat finished.

So, now that the end is here, I guess this is when I am supposed to write the blog post where I tell you about all I learned this year, the impact I made, and how it made me realize what I want to do with my life–essentially, how I figured everything out. And then I would conclude that JVC is over, and I’m done with it, and “wasn’t-it-great-but-now-it’s-time-to-move-on.”

Well, that’s a funny joke.

While I have learned so much this year, one of the most important things I have learned is that life is not as simple, neat, or orderly as we want it to be. I’m still trying to find a way to understand everything that happened this year myself, and I certainly haven’t found a way to explain it to other people. One thing I do know: doing this work was never about results. I know I did make a difference, but I couldn’t quantify it for you, and I think it would be a disservice to what I did do to try. While my future is somewhat clearer at this point, it is still very, very hazy around the edges. And frankly, JVC is technically over, but the journey that I began last August? It never ends (that whole “ruined for life” thing).

Yesterday was technically my last real day of JVC, but emotionally, spiritually, and mentally I am still in the middle, still bound up in the midst of it all. It’s still messy and complicated. When I try to wrap my mind around this year as a whole, I can’t do it. Over these past twelve months, there have been too many people, experiences, feelings, moments, and memories for my brain to begin to process. Sitting down and somehow condensing it down to a few neat phrases is impossible at this point. Even though I have officially been “dis-orientated,” I am not finished.

And that’s the beauty of JVC: it’s never finished. I will never stop being a Jesuit Volunteer (even though I guess I have to start calling myself a FJV) because to stop would mean leaving these values behind. I don’t think that social justice, spirituality, community, and simple living will ever stop meaning something to me. Leaving Boston, Casserly House, and my community doesn’t mean abandoning all that I have held dear this year.  It just means learning to live it in a different way. Now it’s just a new chapter.

the places where my feet have been.

About two months ago, I started a project for myself as a way to both commemorate my final days of JVC and to remind myself to be present in every moment. Basically, I started taking pictures of my feet and posting them to Instagram. Why my feet?

Two reasons:  

Almost two years ago, as part of CLC Coordinator training at SLU, I took part in a reflection that focused on the places where our feet had been, as a way to look at the places/people/events in our lives that have been formative. That image – of the places where my feet have been – is one that has stuck with me ever since.

Over the past few years, my feet have been a lot of places, from SLU to Rome to Boston. Just over this year, my feet have been all over the streets of Boston, the fields of Blue Ridge, the rocky coast of Maine, New York City, and even a sticky basement floor (here’s looking at you, JVC parties). I think I just needed another way to remember to cherish my memories from this year, the moments both big and small that had an impact on me.

As I began this project,  I was wrestling with a big dilemma about what to do at the end of JVC – the classic question of “should I stay or should I go?” (Stay = Boston, Go = Missouri) I had a lot of questions about where my feet would take me next, and those questions were frequently overwhelming. Enter reason #2 for the feet pictures. On our Silent Retreat back in May, someone threw out this simple phrase, and it summed up exactly what I wanted for the next few months: “Be where your feet are.” So often, I get caught up in what’s ahead of me or memories of what happened before. I wanted to dedicate myself to continuing to just be present in the moment.

The end is almost here, so here is wrap up of the pictures I took, as well as the approximate location/occasion. To say that I had a lot of fun doing this would be an understatement, but it also ended up being more meaningful than I had originally imagined.


rainy days waiting for the bus / the street in front of our house


Castle Island with the ESOL students / the front steps of Casserly House 


Stellman Road / Boston Harbor outside of the Aquarium


Spectacle Island / reading on the Boston Common


Charlestown / the Freedom Trail at the Bunker Hill Monument 


hanging out in NYC / lazy Sunday on the balcony


fountains by the North End / waiting for the T


Boston Public Library / Fenway Park


MFA field trip during Camp / the pond at the Public Garden


a day at Cape Cod / the beach in Nahant 


Oregano Field at Dis-O / my last steps on Stellman Rd. 

the final moments at casserly house.

This morning I rolled out of bed around 6:30. I got up, got ready, turned on Pandora in the background, and put on one of my favorite gray dresses on. I went downstairs, ate a bowl of cereal and drank a glass of orange juice, and packed my bag for the day. By 7:30, I was ready to go, and I began the 1.1 mile walk to Casserly House that I have done almost every day for the last year.

On the surface, it looked and seemed like today was a day like any other, but my heart knew differently, and the people passing me on the street could likely see it in my face.

Today was my last day at Casserly House.

—–

It’s been over 48 hours now since I walked away from 42 Stellman Road for the final time. Honestly, I was so emotional about it on Friday that I could barely talk about it in any sort of coherent manner, even to my housemates, mom, and best friend. I’m still not sure if I’m to the point of talking coherently, but I am at the point where I can at least try.

—–

The first time I ever walked to Casserly House was during our site visits the Friday before I started work last August–almost exactly a year ago. I still remember that morning like it was yesterday, trying to soak up every bit of my surroundings in an attempt to process all of the transitions. I wore the same gray dress that day that I wore my last day; I guess I just appreciate the symbolism of coming full circle.

Speaking of symbolism, a brief note about my walk to work: I did that walk daily this year, through rain, snow (briefly), and heat. I came to recognize the faces I would pass each morning and had regular chats with the kids as they waited for the school bus. I spent the past year learning how to walk with people on a spiritual/emotional level, just learning how to be with them. That daily walk kept me grounded; it reminded me of why I was really at Casserly and who I need to be.

—–

In a year full of blessings, the last day at Casserly was one of the biggest. It was, in short, a very good day to end a very good year.

I have spent all week floored by gratitude. There were so many beautiful moments that I wish I could share–people stopping in just to say goodbye, generous gifts and even more generous words from the ESOL teachers, the most beautiful letters from the ESOL students, the kids who made me promise that I would come back to visit (as if they could keep me away), sobbing for most of my walk home and not caring about the strange looks I was getting (still haven’t decided if this was high or a low in my life)… and finally, the moment as I walking home when I realized that I did it. I’m done


And while that is heartbreakingly sad on some levels, I don’t know if I have ever felt more accomplished.

—–

After a morning and lunch of goodbyes, I really had no reason to continue to stick around after about  2:00 pm. However,  I couldn’t drag myself away quite yet. I ended my day (and my year) by sitting with S. Nancy on the front porch for almost an hour. I just needed to soak up Stellman Road one last time. Finally, it was really time to go, and S. Nancy walked me part way down the street before we went our separate ways. However, I didn’t make it far before one of the kids chased me down on a bicycle for one final goodbye. “You’re coming back, right?”

—–

We come, and we go; we fall in love with people and places, and then we have to say goodbyes. Thankfully, there is always the “till we meet again’s” and memories to pull us through and remind us of what we have loved, what has changed us in a profound way, and what has broken our heart. Such is life, and such was my year.

I will carry these people, their stories, and these memories with me always.