Monday, October 22, 2012

Real Life: Merging Worlds

By Catherine Scallen, CVN Recruiter

To be honest, I didn’t think too much beyond completing my year of service. I was going to do this year of post-graduate service with Good Shepherd Volunteers in New York City, it was going to be fabulous, and then I’d return back to my regular life. It was to be just that: a year-long exploration and adventure, learning about myself, the bigger picture, and how the two coincided. I didn’t think I’d be a traveling nomad in the months following the end of my time in New York, and I certainly didn’t think I would find myself enthusiastically dancing the Irish reel with a group of recruiters in a small pub in Dayton, Ohio on a Wednesday evening in October. Which is all to say—I (naively) didn’t anticipate exactly what everyone tells you about a year of service: it changes the course of your life. How I didn’t put that together earlier is beyond me, because it seems so obvious now.

             Chatting with my friend Sissy over dinner in Nashville two nights ago, it struck me that my previous mentality isn’t unique to post-grad service. Sissy spoke of how she couldn’t believe a year and a half had already passed, and how she had come into her grad school experience in Nashville with exactly the same mindset: go to school in Tennessee for two years, get her Masters, and head back home to her real life in Chicago. Now all of a sudden here we both were, laughing about how silly we had been to think that our year (or two) of “adventure” wasn’t going to affect or alter us, wasn’t going to present opportunities that led us further away from “regular life” and closer towards our real lives. Our real lives being made up of the things we choose to do on a daily basis. For her, that’s staying in Nashville longer than expected because her interests have shifted, and she feels called to further and more detailed study. For me, that’s bopping around the U.S, spreading the good word about service. 

“Real life” is coming to the realization that plans will inevitably shift and shimmy around, and rolling with that is what living a real life means. Everyone has a different name for this: grace, sitting with open hands, the classic saying: ‘If you want to make God laugh, make plans.’ But it all boils down to the same thing: living your real life means pursuing your current path fully and enthusiastically, with the full and complete understanding that at any given moment it could shift shapes. The next thing you know, you’re sitting in a diner in Cincinatti, discussing Eskimo Olympics, traveling rubber ducks, and ancient mountain-top Greek monasteries with a group of people you hadn’t met before yesterday. Then you just smile, take a deep breath, and realize: this is real life!