I have learned what I need to thrive in a work environment; how I work best with others and with a supervisor, and why the non-profit I work for is so successful in its growth and in executing its mission. I learned how to run a crowdfunding campaign, how to cultivate donors, how to run a fundraiser, how to design and mail a newsletter to 900 folks. I know now when it’s best to post on Facebook (.5 times a day, in the late afternoon or during lunch hours), when to post a photo to Instagram (same as Facebook, but with a lot of hashtags), and when to tweet (always. ALWAYS.). And, in my work at a non-profit and in my personal experience as an AmeriCorps VISTA, I am learning to appreciate the virtue of this present moment.
While organization and intention are critical parts of a successful non-profit (and a successful accomplishment of goals, and life and relationships, yadda yadda), we are all familiar with the large “whack-a-mole” game into which our tasks, jobs, and lives devolve. We must focus on what is popping up, and things are always popping up, and soon our time (in AmeriCorps, or some other endeavor) is up. Sustainability and the ability to contextualize our work is a key part of our roles in these organizations; however, reality proves to be much different, day-to-day, than the notions of overarching change we hope to impart.
In school, I fought this reality hard with dreaming up what my summer months and future years of school would look like. I spent time with an incredible, talented, brilliant group of friends in college who not only invested in Louisville, but also traveled (and continue to travel) widely. As a graduate of the University of Louisville, and a born-and-raised Louisvillian, I thought about some new and different place. When I chose to be an AmeriCorps VISTA in my hometown/college town, I was still scheming. “I will take this year, and figure out where I am going to next, what I will do next.” I see the same mindset in our emergent throw-away culture: we are always waiting for the next best thing.
I clouded my first frustrated months with VISTA with these thoughts, and vague attempts at scholarship applications, job searches, and watching my screen quietly, following the adventures of my “friends,” mouth agape at their exhilarating lives. All the while, I found great housing with two friends (who are also VISTAs), cultivated stunning relationships with old friends and new ones, even traveled to another continent, learned all about myself, etc. It was not until recently when my mother asked what was next for me after service that I realized all the damn fun I have been having. I work on a gorgeous farm that turns a new shade of green every day, and I work for an organization built on the principle of discovery-based, self-driven education. I spend time with my family, my friends, my familiar and favorite places. I get to love a person deeply and wholly, and be here in Louisville with that person. I get to be a support and be supported- striking balances in all my relationships- even with myself.
It seems that balance is the key to all of these parts of life. While I feel both ready to move on from VISTA and wildly unprepared to do so, planning my future undertakings has not impeded on this moment. Being locked into this VISTA year has allowed me to truly honor and uphold the present, to go with the flow and explore myself as a versatile and resilient person. I am reminded of a quote by Kentucky poet and farmer Wendell Berry, “Better than any argument is to rise at dawn and pick dew-wet red berries in a cup.” This challenges my assumptions of success in this world. I must drop expectations of myself-and my former self, and cherish mornings when red berries are in season.
Written by Laura Krauser, a VISTA at The Food Literacy Project