A year ago, I can tell you, I was really really nervous. My bedroom was full of half-packed bags, my day was full of errands, and my head was full of questions. Most of them seem ridiculous now: will my roommates think I’m not JVC enough if I pack a hairdryer? Is it wrong to stock up on some things ahead of time? How can I possibly work with 12-year-old boys? What will my neighborhood be like? Silly, right? This post’s title courtesy of “Oh No! Oh My!” (yes that’s their real name).
I opened up my old journal today, and read through the pages from last summer, trying to get a feel for what a year has meant to me. It’s not all that interesting reading, a lot of anxiety about a whole new place and all new people, a lot of fear about starting all over again. And then, I read this line, “I’m going to be 22 in a few weeks. That seems old. It seems like by 22 you should be really truly brave. And I’m not. I’m still shy and anxious and confused.”
I don’t always know what bravery means. I saw a lot of it this year, in my community members, and my coworkers, maybe especially in my students, but I can’t really define it. In just a few hours, I’ll be 23, and am I still shy and anxious and confused? Yes. A year hasn’t changed that.
But, at almost 23, I’m pretty sure I was pretty brave this year. We all were. Despite all of us being very afraid (I now know I wasn’t alone in that), we moved to a city with strangers, started a new job, and settled in for a year of challenge. We put our hearts on the line with each other, with our clients, with ourselves. We worked to improve our own character, to change our habits, to see things in new ways, and then, perhaps the bravest thing of all, we admitted it to each other. We said, “this is really difficult for me,” or “I’m really trying to work on this.” We held each other accountable, even when it was scary or frustrating.
The reward for bravery is experience, adventure, a sense that you have taken a leap and landed (at least somewhat) on your feet. For our last community night we did an activity in which we took a piece of string, and passed it to someone who had taught us or given us something this year, and explained what it was, and so on, until all 7 of us had said something to the other 6 (that’s 42 little speeches, 42 things learned or given). By the end, we had created a web between our fingers—a very physical reminder of what we’ve meant to each other, and what we will carry with us, always. Because we were brave we got this. Because we were brave, we will always have a sense of home together.
I feel like I’ve been saying goodbye for months, now. I’ve got to say, not fun. And now, I have to say goodbye to this blog. I want to thank anyone who ever read this, anyone who ever commented or said something to me about it. It’s honestly been a huge part of my experience this year—not only because it was a way to reach out to those I love who I wouldn’t necessarily be able to stay in touch with otherwise, but because it kept me in reflection, reminded me what I was thankful for and happy about when it was hard to remember, and gave me a sense of perspective. I’ll start another one soon, I know, but it’s kind of hard to let go of this one.
All this perspective, all this looking back, has made me realize something. We are always looking forward, always thinking about next year, but we never know what we’ll write in our journal a year from now. I certainly didn’t know the relationships I would form, the places I would love, or how I would change. So, what’s next? What is 23 going to mean? It’s perfectly unclear. But hopefully, I’ve gained a little bravery, and a lot of love. And that’s what carries us all, isn’t it?
(One Year in JVC, the Harlem ladies)