“You’re basically gonna be a monk!! Why did you sign up for this again?”
<— This is what a friend told me when I was talking about my upcoming YAV year. OK, I don’t know about that. However, I’ll hand it to him– it is going to be a little more monkish than I imagined. Geez, let’s be honest: this year is going to be a slap in my privileged face. I’m embarrassed to say now, but I honestly thought when I signed up for a year in Colorado that I’d get to go skiing… not only that, but–
I thought I would have a car and get to drive to the Rocky mtns and go skiing.
Actually, I will be expected to use public transportation all year and I can’t dip into any of my savings– I’ll be allotted a small personal stipend (about 100/month) and as one day of skiing is more than that, skiing is absolutely out of the question.
I thought I would get to go out to eat with friends here and there and check out some of the cool breweries in Denver.
Actually, most YAVs qualify for food stamps. As we get a small shared food budget a month, it will be a lot of rice and beans… probably no room in there for going out.
I thought I would get to hang out with the friends I know in and around Denver, and even have my best friend visit and come stay with me.
Actually, I won’t be able to have visitors of any kind until at least after Thanksgiving, and probably won’t be allowed to have people stay in the house with me. The reason behind this rule is that it helps (read: forces) you to get more acclimated to your new environment and your roommates– your intentional community. The first few months, I will INTENTIONALLY be building my own new community (pun). This will get me even further out of my comfort zone, which in turn I’m sure will be a harbinger of more growth. Ya know what though? That’s a big reason this year will be so good for me.
I understand the reasons behind these ‘rules’, but I’m still resistant (I mean… who likes being uncomfortable? Certainly not this perfectionist/control freak). A big part of it is I’m struggling with the privileges I’m going to be without. I’m scared of the unknowns. Without all of the comforts afforded to me right now, I’m afraid of feeling really… naked. There will be nothing to fall back on, except my intentional community and God. Yeah, yeah… that’s kinda the point. After reading one of Rebekah’s (who is in the Denver program now and is answering all my crazy questions, thank you Rebekah) blog posts about living simply… I just had to shake my head and laugh (at myself, not her. ‘Oh, Darby. You’re really in for it LOL’). Talking about the tenets of simple living, she was saying she’s not gonna really miss her car or money and she never liked shopping anyways. HA! Not me! I sure do love my stuff. Money burns a hole in my pocket, and I love shopping. I also enjoy the control I have over what I eat, and the pleasure that delicious foods can bring… what will it be like when I don’t have many options?
I worry about not having control.
I worry about being without my current comforts and supports.
I worry about finding a good church home.
I worry about my family and friends not understanding the tenets of my year (such as limited visitations)
I worry about losing friends… I’m not good at long distance relationships. (You can face-time, call, email, whatever me as much as you want!!! Please do…)
I worry about being lonely, even with my intentional community. I’m the kind of person that thrives on deep relationships. That doesn’t happen overnight with new people.
I worry about living with 3 or more people that I know nothing about. One roommate is enough to get used to… now 3?
(EDIT: Don’t worry, people, I’m not just sitting over here worried. Of course I’m a lot of excited as well. And I know that a lot of these worries are me overthinking things… I’m sure I’ll have friends and stuff.)
So what do I do I hope to get out of this year, then?
After all, I did sign up for this! I want a challenge. I do want to be immersed in my new community and get the most I can out of this year. As my friend Rebekah said, this year isn’t supposed to be an easy year. It’s about being uncomfortable and learning from that.
I want to learn to be happy with less. I want to learn more about how to be in relationship with people and with the world around me. I want to gain more awareness about the people in my surroundings. I want to grow personally– learn to be more empathetic, vulnerable, compassionate. If that means giving up the comforts of money, possessions, and more for a year… I’m all for it.
***Let me put a little (BIG) disclaimer in here***
By no means do I think that I will really ‘understand’ what it’s like to be in poverty or be marginalized after this year is over. It’s just not the same when I have all this support (monetarily and familial) waiting for me back home, there with a flick of the wrist if I really needed it. Nor do I view this year as doing charity. In fact, being a YAV is about shifting your thinking from charity to solidarity. Doing a year of service like this in itself is a privilege. Not many people get the chance to do something like this; it wouldn’t even be an option. I count myself lucky. I just want to learn lessons and grow this year so that I can be the best friend and citizen of the world I can be.