Hi friends! It’s Lauren Raycraft, first-year MNA VISTA serving at the Allegan County United Way.
I can’t believe it’s already April, and that as I write this post, there are only 126 days left of my VISTA service. When I entered my VISTA service last August, I made a conscious effort to begin with few expectations. I understood that my experience as an AmeriCorps VISTA would be unlike anything I’d done before, so I kept an open mind as I readied myself to embrace whatever tasks and challenges were thrown my way.
I thought that this mindset – the unwavering positivity and “go-getter” attitude I so thoroughly embraced – would prepare me for VISTA service. While this attitude has been instrumental to my success, the truth of the matter is I was not fully prepared for this year as a VISTA. I had no idea what to expect when I signed up, little clarity regarding my VAD when I started, and no familiarity with the community I purported to serve. For all intents and purposes, I had a lot to learn, both about my community and myself. In retrospect, however, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Rather than shy away from that initial discomfort, I embraced it. Throughout the first months of my service, I asked myself almost daily,
“Which do you want: the pain of staying where you are, or the pain of growth?” – Judith Hanson Lasater
I expected this year to be hard going into it, but the truth of the matter is that this year was hard for entirely different reasons than I assumed it would be. The most difficult aspect of this year has been the ambiguity: I’m always asking myself, is the work I’m doing aligning with the broader goals and expectations of this community? Is this what my VAD intended? Furthermore, is this work truly serving those in poverty? And am I progressing adequately in achieving the broader goals set out by my VAD?
This year has taught me entirely new ways of quantifying progress – or rather, this year has taught me how to be comfortable with progress that isn’t necessarily linear or easily quantifiable. I’ve learned to find ways to fill the gaps in my day-to-day schedule with meaningful and productive activities. I’ve stretched myself to reach out to community members again and again, to take risks in applying for grants, and to embrace both successes and failures as part of the process of growth. Most importantly, I’ve learned that progress is progress, no matter how small.
I wasn’t ready for this year when I started my service. While I’m excited for what comes next, I’m not quite ready for this year to end, either. But that, I think, has been the most important lesson I’ve learned this year: If I wait until I feel ready, until I think I have everything just right before taking a leap, I’ll never move forward. If I wait until I’m sure I can’t fail, I’ll never succeed. The point is not to never fall, but to stand back up when you do. To keep moving forward, to keep embracing the ambiguity and the discomfort of growth. If there is anything that I will take from my year of service, it is this:
“You’re never going to be 100% ready and it’s never going to be just the right time, but that’s the point. It means that every moment is also the right moment. If you want it, you just have to do it.”- Unknown
If I want to make a difference, I just have to try, and keep trying. Sometimes progress happens slowly, and sometimes all at once, but the point is: as long as you keep moving forward, progress happens. Let’s keep moving forward.
Each blog post was written by one of our VISTAs!