Hi friends! Last week, which began with my 30th birthday, I went on a little stay-cation to the luxurious (seriously!) Crowne Plaza LAX airport hotel to participate in training for my second year of AmeriCorps. For the next year, I'll be serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA with Bright Prospect, an organization that helps low-income high school students get into and through college.
I've been pretty open about my move to Los Angeles, but I haven't told many people why I'm here and what I'm doing. That's partially because I'm always doing a lot of different things, and partially because I felt slightly silly to be a 30-year-old signing on for another year of AmeriCorps.
If you're not familiar, AmeriCorps is a service program where volunteers work in underserved communities for a year or two (sometimes more) to make life better for the people living there. We act like full-time employees, but receive a very modest stipend that is designed to give us the experience of living in the communities in which we serve. VISTA is a program that specifically aims to fight poverty in those communities, and I'll be doing that by making sure high-potential high school students have access to higher education, regardless of their income level.
During my first year with AmeriCorps, I worked in a low-income elementary school and provided 1-on-1 reading instruction to 10-12 students per day. I wanted to test if I'd eventually like to become a certified teacher, and quickly found out that I did not! (Although 5-8 year olds can be pretty adorable.) When the year ended, I decided not to return from my leave of absence with IBM, and instead took some time to teach yoga, travel, and drive for Uber while I figured things out. I also also took a few courses in Graphic Design to pursue some personal and semi-professional interests on the side.
6 months later, I was finishing up my work/trade in Nicaragua and considering next steps, dreaming of Southern California like I had for a long time. I’d done a couple interviews in the area, but nothing really stuck. I kept getting the dreaded, “Contact us when you get out here!” But I wasn’t brave enough to move to one of the priciest places in the world without the promise of a job.
One day, I finally decided to browse the AmeriCorps jobsite-- just to see! I had mixed feelings about my first year. I learned so much about what humans are capable of; I was part of an awesome and irreplaceable team; I felt on fire about pursuing my passions and working with equally passionate people. At the same time, it was hard to record 1600 service hours for a stipend that barely covered rent. I also worried about how it would look. AmeriCorps is popular with the fresh out of college, idealist crowd, so almost everyone in my first program was 22 or 23. I'm 30 now, and I hear your 30’s are supposed to be about expanding your career, planning for a family, developing expertise, etc.
BUT the job seems perfectly aligned to what I’m looking for: it will be a lot of writing, putting my new graphic design skills to use, building experience in non-profit marketing, and gaining entry to the Golden State. This is a dream that I'm now living-- using the rewards from my previous more comfortable job to fund adventures and service projects that are important to me. What better way to invest? (The stock market, 401Ks, and personal property that would deliver long-term returns, you say? Nonsense! That's not for the life of a wandering spirit!)
I’m sure it will be a challenge going back to the 9-5 schedule, but I’m positive it will be a rewarding learning experience. And you can bet that the yoga teaching has already started and will continue on every evening and weekend possible. Thank you for following along and being here to read this! I'm so grateful for your continued support.