I get to see amazing things everyday. Among many things, I get to see women receive housing, obtain professional clothes for a job interview, and feel proud of the artwork that they create. Even when sad things happen, like when a woman loses her social security funding, gets evicted, is beat by her partner, or relapses, I still see something amazing when the community of women at The Gathering Place rise to the occasion to comfort the woman in crisis.
Even in my own community house, which is challenging to be a part of, I feel incredible things. The eight of us in the house were all strangers when we met and are all completely different. While that has caused many conflicts, it has also created a fascinating learning opportunity. I have learned more about myself and who I really am this year than I have in my entire life. It’s been incredible to see what kind of community has been created from all the differences that the eight of us bring to the table.Working at The Gathering Place has been empowering. Recently, my job includes teaching our artists to put their artwork up on Etsy.com (a website where artists can sell their work and connect to other artists). They also manage the art that they sell and package it up to mail themselves. I’m also helping mothers apply for Medicaid and CHP+; these programs are very difficult for one to navigate on their own. I receive hugs as well as overwhelming emotions when I hear the astonishing tales of these very strong women. At the same time, the work is very challenging. It’s easy to experience Secondary Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder with all of the stories that we hear and to mentally bring our clients home with us. I’ve been well trained to deal with that aspect of the job, so I’ve been making it through with relatively little stress.
There have been times when I wanted to bail out, when it seemed too hard to be working for free with the intensity of the work that I do. There are more times however when I feel like I’m exactly where I need to be at this time. I’m going to be so proud of myself once the end of my year of service arrives. I’ve grown significantly more than I would have if I had gone straight into the workforce after colle. I’ve learned to live on an extremely tight budget, become resourceful with saving money, how to live with all types of people, how to practice positive conflict resolution, to live sustainably, what the real world looks like, and how the non-profit field is run. It’s still too early to figure out exactly what I’ll be doing after August, but I hope to continue in the non-profit field, particularly in the communications field. I find this amusing because this was exactly the career that I wanted to have when I graduated a year ago. Basically, this year has also confirmed that that is the field I’m supposed to be in. My passion has grown stronger along with my sense of who I am.