CTI ended, teams were picked, all 250(ish) of us were inducted and suddenly it was time to go. I knew for weeks that I'd be heading to Texas to assist with disaster rebuild on damaged homes from Hurricane Harvey, but only once we started packing our bags did it become real. After so many weeks in Denver, sitting at a conference table, listening to lectures on safety, vehicle and tool use, leadership styles, conflict resolution, critical incidents and the list goes on, I had almost forgot we were preparing to deploy for something bigger. My team had our bags packed early and were one of the first ready to hit the road, but unfortunately, had to wait for the others. We had an all corps 'send off' at 8 am, a few quick words from our Unit Leaders and the Regional Director, and then it was finally time to go, ready for a 2 day, 16+ hour road trip to Southern Texas.
After weeks of living with our hundreds of roommates, cooking together, attending training, completing physical training and serving together, it was time to pick our permanent teams for round 1. I had a good idea from early on of who I wanted on my team, and had a handful approach me about the topic. It was hard to narrow down the list, considering who would work well together while not dividing themselves from the rest of the group, what personalities wouldn't clash too hard, and also balancing ages and genders. Not only that but the other TLs would likely overlap wants with my own, but thankfully Earth Unit was made up from so many strong individuals that I didn't doubt my team wouldn't be great.
Aside from all of the lectures, power points, discussions and team builders we did have a few opportunities to get out of the ‘classroom’. Our first weekend together the unit assistance had helped to set up a service day for all of the corps members. It was both a good opportunity to get off campus and also get to know our corps members in a different environment. Water and Fire units were headed downtown to work on flower bed removal and mulching while Earth unit traveled only a few miles from campus to Planes Conservation Center to help them with a few different projects. The specifics of the day weren’t 100 percent clear before we had left campus, but we were prepared for whatever they threw at us.
Over the course of my first month here, while spending hours in a conference room learning how to be a leader, there was one message repeatedly reiterated to us, as Team Leaders. Don’t fraternize with anyone, that sounds extreme, but we were directed not to cross lines with staff, corps members and the sponsor, so yeah basically everyone outside the green shirts. I’m all for this on the level of romantic relationships, honestly there just shouldn't’ be any of that in and around Americorps, but on a friendship level this rubbed me the wrong way.
As team leader training came to an end, the 27 of us began to mentally prepare for the arrival of our 240 corps members. We also had physical preparations, hanging posters and door decks, preparing their dorm rooms to look the least bit appealing, and planning all of the training that would be happening over the following three weeks. After the training and storytelling we heard from staff members and previous corps members, I was unsure about what to expected and slightly worried. I had faith though that the corps members assigned to Earth Unit would be amazing people and cause us no problems.
After weeks of training and countless hours sitting in the conference room, it was finally time for us to apply our skills and knowledge to a real world situation. Team green (the not-so-creative name for all Team Leaders) were signed up for a day of service at the Action Center, located in Lakewood CO. The only information we had before arriving was that we'd be helping food and clothing donations which would then be used to support the homeless community and those struggling to make ends meet from the community. I've done work like this on a few previous occasions, but I was not expecting what waited for me at the Action Center. Although they were forced to shut down their shelter services a few years ago due to lack of funding, the Action Center is doing amazing things with the resources they do have.
With training completely under way my 26 companions and I were quickly reminded what it is to sit and listen to presentations one after another, for hours on end. Our first few days of training were just this, without much break in the cycle. We did hold a few sessions outside in the courtyard, unless you count peeing in a cup and getting a flu shot as fun. Beginning last Wednesday though, we were able to get out and stretch our legs, first through driver training for the 15 passenger vans we'll soon be responsible for, and then a half day service project at Cherry Creek State Park. Those were just the warm up though, the big event was saved for the weekend (so yeah minus one day of rest for us), but the high ropes course at Genesee Park was worth it.
I've officially been in Denver for 10 days and per usual it already feels as though it has been MUCH longer. From the moment I exited the arrivals hall at DIA - Denver International Airport I have been in constant, go mode. Tonight it's all finally hitting me, which means a Saturday night of laundry, blogging and binge drama watching, all of which I am totally okay with. It's 8:30 and I feel like I could go to bed, but to be fair I was up at 7 for a day at the high ropes course and team building, but more on that later.
I leave for Colorado in 2 1/2 days and I'm exactly 0% prepared, both mentally and physically. This happens pretty much every time I transition into a new position, country, community, or anything really. I kind of just sign up for the adventure and then flip-flop back and forth between "I can't wait it's going to be amazing" and "What the hell was I thinking?" for a few months, and then BAM it's time to go. So, once again, here I am, one packing list in a random notebook, flight booked and 2 days to get it all together.
The thing is, I've done this routine so many times now that I have no doubts that everything will fall into place. Actually this move should be much easier than my past few, I mean I'm staying in the same country, I'll have the same working phone the whole time, a measly 2 hour time difference, and should I forget ANYTHING, Amazon has me covered. I'm kind of banking on the idea of throwing a few things in my travel backpack and getting on my flight, I don't want to sound too unconcerned, but I'm pretty sure this will work.
Seven years ago I was halfway through my (one and only) year working at Northwestern Mutual, a great company, but not a place I wanted to be stuck for life. Instead I started looking into escape plans. Always in the back of my mind was serving with Americorps and thus it was the first place I turned. I set my sights high and skipped right over the team member application for NCCC and went for team leader. Obviously I was one step ahead of myself, while I was grated an interview, that's where the story ended, until now. I took a seven year detour to teach, live, explore and absolutely fall in love with the other side of the world, but now I'm back. While I'm getting ready for this adventure I decided to share it all with you, so how was it that I came back to the somewhat forgotten dream...
A Year of Service
My life, being anything but predictable, has taken another turn. Rather than moving to Jeju, South Korea - my original plan for Fall '18, I'm going to test drive Denver, CO and its surroundings, an area people just keep telling me "I'd love".