Back in Rochester, February is one of the coldest months of the year. In high school I remember getting a snow day on Valentines day and trampling through knee high snow to get to my friends house. In Asheville, you get a foot of snow one weekend and 65 degree weather the next. If you don’t call this climate change than I don’t know what is.
Three weekends ago (January 22-24) a snow storm blew across the Mid-Atlantic region dumping a foot or more of snow in Asheville. Some neighborhoods lost power and the whole city of Asheville freaked out and completely shut down because they couldn’t clear the 12 inches and salt the roads for everyone. Now I know my northern self is being critical because I am used to this weather, but to see a pretty busy city cease all activity (and school for a week) was a bit funny. The good news was that Habitat closed that following Monday and my roommates and I (plus Rita) spent the weekend snowed in, playing outside, playing cards, and watching movies- some quality roommate bonding activities. The bad news was that there were 7 individuals in a space of 1,100 sq.ft. spending about every minute in eye distance from one another. And two cars became stuck in the snow for 4 days… It would have really helped at that point for our house to own at least one shovel and maybe some salt.
Back tracking slightly, I haven’t updated my blog since Thanksgiving! Whoops.. that was a long time ago. I went home to Rochester for Christmas and saw my family and friends for a week. A week was way too short of a time frame to be home. It was hard to spend time with my family, do nothing, see my friends, and do holiday activities all in 8 days! It was also sad to not know when I’ll be home again. My guess is that I will be home for some time shortly after my program is over in July but I have no clue for how long or when specifically… ugh, so many things left unknown at this point.
As much as I wished that I could have been home longer, I was happy to get back to Asheville to get back into the swing of things. My second week back we kicked off the New Year with our first Collegiate Challenge group at Habitat! Collegiate Challenge is program through Habitat for Humanity International that provides week long trips for college kids to go on as an alternative spring break. The majority of CC trips occur in March but our first group, Saginaw Valley State University, came for their last week of winter break. With my supervisor still out on maternity leave, it was really cool to lead this trip by myself and get a chance to connect with the students. I’m also really glad that SVSU was the first CC group because they set such a good tone for the rest of CC. They had the best energy and were able to connect to the work they were doing out on the jobsite and the role they play in making home ownership possible for our Partner Families! This was their third year coming to Asheville and my hope is that they continue to come out for many more 🙂 I was also able to spend time with volunteers my own age at work!
Mid-January, the weekend after Saginaw left, I drove over to Charlotte for my Level-One Certificate Course for Crossfit. A Level-One is a two day program that provides a baseline foundation of coaching and instructing Crossfit in a Crossfit affiliate. Building up to this weekend I had been shadowing at my gym, Beer City, which was such a cool experience. Seeing each class from a coaches standpoint, not just an athlete, opened my eyes so much to the detail and logistics that go into running each class. Not only are you instructing and coaching individuals through particular movements, but also keeping the class on schedule (so that you don’t push into the next class), motivating, and making sure that every athlete is able to perform the workout with whatever barriers there are (scaling options, limited equipment for the varying class size, etc.). I found out a week later, after completing the weekend in Charlotte, that I passed the written test and can now officially coach in an affiliate!!!!! It’s been three weeks that I have been officially coaching (one class a day) and I still can’t believe that all of this is happening. Coaching has been a dream of mine once I found my passion for Olympic Weightlifting and Crossfit three years ago. A few months ago my hope was to find a way to obtain my Level One and start coaching next year, but I would have never imagined that it would all come together at this stage in the game and I am constantly grateful for the experience that Beer City has provided.
Onto more recent events, two weekends ago my house had our first retreat of the year! The six of us, plus Selena, stayed in a cozy house in Montreat Friday through Sunday. We were joined by Stan Dotson, who has worked a lot with young adults around vocational discernment, faith, and service learning. The weekend was comprised of reflection activities led by Stan, cooking, lounging, and spending time in Montreat. This retreat came at the right time for our house. January is typically the point in any year of service where everyone starts to get out of touch with the work they are doing. I have to admit, this year has been hard. It’s been challenging and rewarding in many ways but definitely not easy. It’s hard to exercise your freedom in a year long program that is based on simple living and intentional community living and building. Not only are you encouraged to build relationships with these five other people that you practically live on top of, but you are also given less than 300$ a month for your expenses.
They say that January is the hardest month to get through. Everyone has just gone home for the holidays and once back in a non-simple living environment and culture they start to question why they are doing this strange program that encourages individuals to find the discomfort in life and stay present in it, to search for the building of community in a world that is highly individualized and focused on the self. For me, I didn’t start to realize how abnormal my current circumstances are until a week ago. I was sitting in the living room, thinking about the fact that 5.5 months ago I did not know any of these girls. Then it hit me how weird it is that I chose to do a year of simple living, especially coming from a place of privilege where the option to get a well paid, full-time job with health benefits exists. I think it took me so long to have this realization because in order to make the transition to a new city with a new job and new friends, the more I could tell myself this was normal, the easier it was to digest. But this isn’t normal. While there are similar programs out there, only 100 other individuals are going through the same community living, simple living year as structured by the YAV program. And out of all of my options for post-graduation, I chose this! Almost everyone who I have talked to about my program has had the same reaction: “Oh, huh…. interesting. And how did you hear about this program?” In the beginning of the year, when everything was still new and exciting, I didn’t think much about how others saw YAV and the work I was doing in Asheville. It is only recently that I have stopped and sat with the uniqueness of a program like this and realized where the reactions of those I talk to originate from. It is counterculture to seek out community and simplicity in the way YAV promotes. As hard as it is sometimes, I tell myself that I must this has to be making me stronger in some way. Even if it is just the tools to learn open and effective communication with those I live and work with.
That’s all I want to write for now.. I promise it won’t be this long of a gap before my next blog! The springtime will be quite busy for me so hopefully that will translate into more blog posts.