Putting the Wind in Windy City

I’ve officially been a southerner living in Chicago for about two months. Last year’s winter coat is now serving as my fall coat here, and they weren’t lying about the wind.

Since moving to Chicago in late August, my days have been packed. Prior to my move, I had a week of orientation with all of the PCUSA Young Adult Volunteers in Stony Point, NY that was filled with sessions and trainings and fellowship that would prepare me for this year of service. Once I landed in Chicago, we started a week of city orientation that was focused on getting to know each other and the city.

I start most mornings around 6:45 (apologies to my roommate Hannah who knows that my alarm starts going off then but truly I’m not up until 7). I am out the door by 8:15 to catch two buses to be at my site placement by 9.

From 9 to 5, I work as the communications and outreach coordinator at New Moms, which is a nonprofit in a nearby neighborhood. New Moms has three main services that we provide to moms 24 and younger in Chicago. We provide stable homes, a paid job training program, and family support services. In my role at New Moms, I do some appeal writing, newsletters, social media, in-kind donation management, church outreach, narrative collection, and some graphics. All of these are tasks that I am really enjoying because I love New Moms and their mission to provide support to young moms.

 

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Madison, fellow YAV/roommate/coworker, and I at the New Moms Gala

I live with five other people who are also doing a year of service. We live in intentional Christian community which means a lot of things like we eat together as a community every Tuesday, have community days every Friday, volunteer together, and do reflective activities and retreats together. Right now, we are reading The Road Back to You about the enneagram which is helpful for us to navigate conflict while living in intentional community. We’ve explored together quite a bit from the Indiana Dunes State Park to the Garfield Park Conservatory down the street.

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One of our first community days exploring Chicago

Living in Chicago as a recent graduate is awesome. There’s always something to do! Living in Chicago as a recent undergraduate doing a year of service is still awesome but also means something different. I’ve pledged this year of my life to do service, live simply, and live in intentional community. As you can imagine, meeting other young adults while I have a stipend of $100 a month is challenging. A GOOD challenging. Hear me out though, I CHOSE this. Not everyone has the privilege to live simply by choice. But through that, I’ve learned all of the cool free things this city has to offer and ways to create community that doesn’t stand on the foundation of spending. I’ve found a really wonderful church that I enjoy attending, a young adult group that I look forward to every week, and have gotten through podcast episodes and book chapters faster than ever before.

I knew this year would challenge me in a lot of ways, but I didn’t think I would see growth as a product of being challenged so quickly. Living in community in a city I had never been to was a leap of faith quite honestly, and it challenges me every day to rethink how I navigate this world and the people I encounter in it.


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Part of my commitment this year is to raise funds to offset the cost of a year of service – so rent, utilities, public transit pass, community building, etc. I have not met my goal yet and am appreciative of all support! For my fundraising efforts, you can give directly to DOOR, a PCUSA partner in Chicago, that is my host this year. If you have questions about financial support or DOOR, check out the support page or email me!

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“Are you ready?”

The top question on my list of post-grad summer FAQs is, “are you ready?”

When I see old friends, their parents, members of the church I grew up in, the conversation for a recent post-grad quickly turns into what’s next. Some have heard and some are just finding out that on August 21, I will embark on a year of service with the Presbyterian Church in Chicago. While in Chicago, I will work for a nonprofit, New Moms, whose primary focus is to interrupt the cycle of poverty by equipping new moms with sustainable support and tools to find a place to live and a job while aiding and supporting in the glory and challenges that come with motherhood and newborns.

I applied for the Young Adult Volunteer (YAV) Program at the earliest application deadline. YAV is something I’d heard about from multiple people and YAV alum, some of whom mentioned that it would be a good program for me based on my interest and passion of putting my faith into action. I applied with the intention that this would be my thing after graduation. As I did interviews with various site coordinators and then received my site placement, it became more real and exciting. After more interviews, I was offered a position with New Moms which seemed like a perfect fit for me. Not only was I excited about the work that I would be doing in Chicago, but it was a real and legitimate answer to the dreaded question every soon-to-be-graduate gets about “what’s next.”

So, am I ready?

I’ve sincerely been telling everyone, “as ready as I can be.” I’ve spent the first 22 years of my life in Raleigh, North Carolina. Even when I went off to college, I chose NC State (one of my best decisions yet). But even during my college years, home and my family were never more than 15 minutes away. I’ve lived in three neighboring zip codes for as long as I can remember. In late August, I’m not only changing zip codes or states but changing time zones (it’s only an hour time difference but still!)

Most of my feelings in regard to this upcoming year have been clouded by my logistical worries and anxieties. How do I pack for a year? What does one wear to work at all – but especially in the Chicago winter? What kind of bag should I take to work? Where should I switch my pharmacy?  What time will I need to leave for work to catch the bus(es)?

As I step back and try to put the logistical worries to the side, I’ve tried to reflect on what “being ready” for this year means.

I’m ready to dive into the unknown. I’m ready for a new place to call home. I’m ready for new experiences and looking forward to a year of challenging myself. Most of all, I am ready for a year of growth. So, I stand by my answer that I’m as ready as I can be.

You can read more about the YAV Program, here. Interested in how you can support me this upcoming year? Click here