“He said, ‘I was born naked. And I’ll leave here naked. The Lord has given, and the Lord has taken away. May the name of the Lord be praised.'” — Job 1:21
Things are wrapping up here in NOLA. And while last year I could look forward to coming back to this beautiful city, with a new job and a new community, everything is changing this time. I am moving to an entirely new place (New Jersey), to do something completely different (grad school).
People keep saying to me and the other YAVs, “You’re getting really close to the end, right? What are you doing next? Are you excited?” I am not excited. Because change is not fun for me. I hate it. I’m not ready for change yet.
I feel like I’m just getting started. YAV years are actually only eleven months, and at my job at Eden House, I needed about nine to get the hang of everything I have to do. I answer phones, which means I have to know about donations, the procedure for accepting new residents, details about how our program works, etc. I am in charge of Eden House’s Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts, which are completely different. I handle small financials including resident stipends. I recruit, hire and manage interns (this Summer there were 14!) which includes finding projects for them to do and checking in with them on their projects. That’s been my biggest learning curve, and I felt like this Summer, while super stressful, was when I finally got comfortable with it. In addition to these every day things, if anything breaks in the house I’m in charge of making sure it gets fixed (sometimes I do it myself but mostly I call hire outside help) and I helped plan and execute two fundraisers and a beautiful graduation. And now that all of that is done, I’m done. Before I felt like I really got started.
This year has really shown me that everything is temporary. Especially in service work, we come, we do a couple things, and then we move on. It’s not a lot of time to save the world or implement any significant change. The projects we do start won’t really take off until after we leave (if at all), and even if we get the chance to stay in touch with our work placements, we can only watch it be successful from afar. Even if I had been at Eden House for both of my years in New Orleans, I would still be watching projects my interns, co-workers and I came up with grow after I left.
The relationships I formed here are temporary, too. I have no doubt that, especially this year, my housemates and I will catch up regularly. But it won’t be the same as coming home from work to a house full of friends. Or having scheduled community meals or meetings. Those don’t happen “in real life.” I won’t get daily updates on their days or say goodnight to them when I’m the third one to go to bed. The relationships I form with the interns and residents here are temporary. There won’t really be a reason for me to talk to them anymore and while I would like to stay updated on their lives, I’m not sure that’s realistic.
It is difficult for me to face change with a positive attitude. If I can’t be sure it’s going to be great, why do it? Why not stay here where things are great? I’m not a fan of the temporary nature of life itself. You can’t have constantly pleasant relationships with people, people sometimes can’t overcome their addictions and leave their recovery plans, wonderful friends and mothers have sudden heart attacks and die. People move on and I will move on too. It just sucks when I’m anticipating it and not in my new surroundings yet to realize that I’m going to be okay.
This all sounds really depressing and that’s because I’m anxious about the future. But I would like to take the rest of this post to talk about how grateful I am for my time in New Orleans. I will focus on this year, although I am incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to spend two service years in my new favorite city.
I have learned so many skills here at Eden House that will make me a better employee in the future. I don’t know many people who already have supervision experience at 23. I learned about sex trafficking, nonprofits, fundraising, event planning, social media marketing, counseling and social work. All of these skills will be useful to me in the future. I have spent a year surrounded by incredibly strong women; the staff of Eden House, the residents, the interns, the board of directors, my site coordinator Layne, and my beautiful housemates (except Patrick, sorry). I have learned life lessons from each and every one of these women and I am so grateful to have met them.
New Orleans is now my favorite place in the world. It’s an incredibly fun city and I am so glad that I had the extra year to experience it more fully. I am really, really, really going to miss the city and I hope I am able to come back. If you haven’t visited, change that as soon as possible.
I would like to thank everyone who supported me in getting to New Orleans, and to everyone I met while I lived here. These have been the best two years of my life, despite the harsh realities and difficult parts. I wouldn’t trade any part of this experience and I am sad that it’s ending, especially because it feels like I’m just getting started.