Monthly Archives: March 2013

the last time i saw Boston.

About two months ago, I made an impromptu purchase: a plane ticket to Boston. While visiting had been on my mind since the day I left, I had planned on waiting until at least the spring to return. I figured that would give me time to save money and hopefully guarantee better weather. A quick glance at the Southwest Airlines website on a Tuesday morning changed all that, and twelve hours later, I had a plane ticket waiting in my email inbox for a trip three weeks later. What can I say? I can’t pass up a good bargain.

In the few weeks leading up to my return to Boston, my mind was constantly preoccupied with how it would feel be in Boston again after six months of being away. My heart was so nervous and excited to be back that I hardly knew how to feel.

The last time I’d seen Boston was a perfect summer day almost exactly six months prior. The sky was unspeakably blue with puffy white clouds. The bright August sun shone down on me and the crowds at the Boston Common created a familiar backdrop. I was drenched in sweat, tears, and emotions, as I hugged my community members goodbye and walked from our house to the T one final time. This day still feels both like yesterday and a lifetime ago.

One thought kept coming back up in my mind as I pondered all of this: leaving Boston once was hard enough. How will I do it again? It’s was tempting to think that maybe it’s easier to stay away sometimes: to not go back, to not continue to forge bonds and relationships, to not continue to find reasons to be in love with Boston.

But obviously, I went back to Boston. And how did it feel?

It was unspeakably wonderful be reunited with so many people and places and memories that I hold dear. Because of that, there were moments twinged with regret where I questioned the decision I made last summer to leave and go back to Missouri–that split second when I just knew what I needed to do.

However, perhaps most striking is what I didn’t feel. After my initial arrival (and the correlating extreme excitement), I didn’t feel much of anything but a sense of normalcy, of comfort. Boston felt like second nature, like I’d woken up and six months had slipped by overnight.Being back was walking to Casserly House in the mornings, breakfast from Dunkin’ Donuts, lunch with S. Nancy and Jim, continued conversations and relationships with ESOL & After School students, falling asleep to the sound of the commuter rail rattling the windows, reversed Casa Taj water faucets, wandering around the city, picking up with Maggie, Abby, and Kateleigh exactly where we left off, continuing to watch every movie ever set in Boston, and going to mass at St. Cecelia’s and making a stop into the Starbucks across the street after. It was all of the routines and memories and people I spent a year cherishing.

Maggie and Abby drove me to the airport to fly back to St. Louis, and we took a rather meandering route by the Boston Common, across the Charles River into Charlestown, over the bridge back into the city so we could see our favorite view, and then to the airport. Every speck of that city is sprinkled with memories for me, in the best possible way.

And now? Now, the last time I saw Boston was a snowy February day. The wind stung my face, and snowflakes got caught in my hair. I still left with hugs and a few stray tears, but with a new sense of who I am, what I love, and gratitude for the city that helped shape me.

See you again soon, Beantown. Love always.

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on the beauty of brokenness.

During JVC, I met with a spiritual director once a month.  My spiritual director had also been a JV, and as I questioned where I was headed post-JVC, she shared pieces of her own journey with me. She talked about moving home again, trying to figure things out, and said that doing so was ultimately a time of healing because her JVC year had left her so broken.

At the time, I didn’t quite get it. “Broken?” Yes, there was that day I cried in the bathroom at work and many more where I felt completely overwhelmed, but I wouldn’t have characterized my emotional state as broken. That word didn’t seem to quite fit.

Then, the last month of JVC happened, and I have rarely been so overwhelmed by emotions (and as a self-proclaimed emotional person, that’s saying a lot). By the time I stepped on a plane to leave Boston, I felt like my heart had been ripped out, put through a wringer, and stepped on a few times for good measure.

That first week back in Missouri, I was quiet a lot, as I scribbled down memories in my journal and unpacked my suitcases. I realized that the epiphany I was secretly hoping for regarding my life’s direction wasn’t going to happen; I wasn’t going to wake up and magically know what I was supposed to do next. I felt lost, afraid, and even though I was now surrounded by the people I had spent the past year missing, just a little bit lonely.

The physical distance from Boston, my community, and Casserly House allowed me to take stock of my year as a JV in a new way. During the year, I don’t know if I ever fully admitted to myself how hard JVC was. But back in my comfortable home, suddenly I realized that, even though I loved JVC, it was easily the most difficult thing I have ever done. I grew so much during JVC, and I began to see that growth as a result of pain and hurt and… brokenness

Finally, I understood what my spiritual director had been saying. I realized how broken I was–and how broken I still am. My heart aches for the tragedies and injustices I witnessed, for the relationships I left in Boston, and the times I got burned when I allowed myself to be vulnerable.

Slowly, I have begun the process of healing, and I have started to make peace with myself about the past year of JVC–all that transpired, my own failings and shortcomings, and the lessons I’m still learning.

While my heart needed this time to recover, I also believe that there is still value in brokenness and in the beauty of vulnerability in my life now as an FJV. The reality of brokenness is just as important because it is a way for me to continue to live out the four values I now treasure so dearly.

By staying broken, I continue to hold dear the people and stories that affected me so deeply during JVC and those that continue to affect me. I remember the injustices, the prejudice, the shame, and the pain. I remember what poverty looked like, sounded like, felt like on emotional, spiritual, and physical levels. I  I remember the story, not just the statistic. Ernest Hemingway once wrote, “The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.”  Maybe the purpose of JVC was not just to break me, but also to show me that I’m supposed to stay broken… because that’s the only way I am able to love and embrace this tragic, messy world for what it is.

In the words of Pedro Arrupe, SJ, “Falling in love with God… determines what will break your heart.” Last year, I fell in love with the face of Christ in the the “dear neighbor” at Casserly House, in my community members, and in the kindness of strangers who welcomed me in a strange city. Some of those relationships broke my heart, but what are we called to be if not “bread broken for others”?

I don’t want to stop caring, to leave my heart guarded and aloof instead of raw and open, to close my eyes to what I see around me. As I continue to embrace my own brokenness, I trust in the words of Henri Nouwen that “the risk of loving is always worth taking.”

twenty-four.

Sometimes it’s hard to know where to begin these days when it comes to writing. My life isn’t as easy to compartmentalize since JVC is over, but I had a birthday about a month and a half ago, and here’s a few thoughts on the first few months of being twenty-four.

The thing about having a birthday so close to the beginning of a new year is that I just finished reflecting on the ending of a calendar year, so I’m usually not too inclined to do much thinking about what my birthday means.

But I’ve already made a lot of progress on my goals/resolutions for 2013: I became a Big Sister, visited Boston again, joined a bunch of fitness classes at the gym, and made a few recipes from my ever-growing list. I still need to get a library card, but that will happen soon. Anyway, that’s a to do list, not a resolution.

More broadly, some friends and I have proclaimed this year to be “No Shame 2013”

Take that for what it is, I want this year to be about loving myself, about wearing what I want, when I want to, even if it’s being overdressed, or wandering around in yet another flannel shirt. I will wear red lipstick even when it’s a little bit over the top. I will goto the gym because it’s fun and it makes me feel better about myself and I’m trying to care about my health in the most holistic way.

No shame for my choices, past, present, and future. No shame for who I am. No shame about what I do.

I want to continue this journey of focusing on figuring out what I want and doing what I love.

My dad has been talking to me about knowing what I want since I was a kid, I have a letter saved that he wrote when I was 9 just on this topic. I spent most of high school and college being pretty indecisive about what I wanted. But deep down, I think I’ve always known, it’s just hard to name it and claim it sometimes.

I’ve also really started the process of discernment again. After JVC, my thought process just went something along these lines: find a job in St. Louis so I can move out of my parent’s house. I was fortunate enough to stumble upon a job working for a organization that I believe in doing work I find meaningful, that also gives me paychecks and health insurance and all of that good stuff. I managed to find an apartment and roommates in a neighborhood I love. Settling into all of that has taken some time, but I’m finally there, and now I can begin to really think about the ever present question of “what’s next?”

Those are a lot of big questions that I’m only beginning to sort out, but here’s just a few more concrete things that have summed up these first weeks of being 24:

Tea every morning at work.
Spending too much money at Trader Joe’s.
Tights and boots and pining for spring.
Nights at zumba and yoga classes.
Working too many Saturdays and loving my job all the same.
Spending afternoons with my little sister.
Trying to strike this strange balance between college-JVC-professional life.
Painting my nails a new color every week just because I can.
A new (to me) car.
Bills and budgets and savings.
Boston and birthdays and Mardi Gras and reunions and celebrations with my favorite people.
Lots of brunching.
The longest hair I have EVER had.
Journal entries every night about where I see God in my life.