Fighting Poverty with Passion
Were you a fan of Friday Night Lights? If not, I should start by apologizing for this post. Feel free to skip ahead to the parts where I describe my first month as a VISTA for Evacuteer.org. If you’ve never seen it, I highly recommend spending some quality time with your Netflix account and good ole Coach Taylor. You can thank me later. If you are a diehard devotee, then you and I are going to become fast friends. I am also sure we can both agree that Coach’s oratory skills rank up there with the likes of Abraham Lincoln and Nelson Mandela. So, of course, it will come as no shock to you that my mantra for this full month of service has been “Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose.”
At pre-service orientation, before embarking on my AmeriCorps journey, I was warned that this year will be difficult. There will be times when I lose my focus. I will wonder why I signed up for this; why I am here. I will have moments of frustration and doubt. Early on, I accepted that I am going to be challenged in many ways that I am expecting and in others that will take me completely by surprise. I’m going to face obstacles, and I am going to make mistakes. But I have to just be willing to let go. I have to steer clear of my devotion to preciseness to fully enjoy this year and learn things, not only about my new job, but about myself. It’s not going to be easy. I know that for sure. I err on the side of caution; I choose my words and actions carefully. It’s how I’ve been manufactured, but this year is going to be about bending the patent.
So I picked my mantra for this month. I’m staying clear about strengths, weaknesses and obstacles. I do not want to let distractions and anxieties keep me from painting an accurate picture of challenges or prevent me from solving them with obvious solutions. I want to stay open. I also do not want to forget why I am here. I took on this AmeriCorps gig with Evacuteer.org to leave a lasting imprint on the city I love. New Orleans has been my safe place, and I want to return the favor. That’s why I am here. And if there is ever a moment where I start to forget that, I want to make sure to re-focus. If I do all of that this year, Coach Taylor and I are certain that I cannot lose.
Reader, did you know it takes repeating a task 21 times before it becomes a habit? It’s true. It takes that many times of repetition before a job becomes something you do without thinking about doing it. Some go ahead and round that number to 30 days of replicating a task, since it fits so nicely with the calendar. You cannot miss a day or take a break; it has to be done consecutively to become a routine. That is what my first month at Evacuteer.org has been about—developing a routine.
This first thirty days have been overwhelming and exciting. There has been a lot of absorption. Some of it has been through explanation, some through trial-by fire, and some through what I can only assume was osmosis. I’ve learned lots of names, titles, job descriptions and a whole history of a living, breathing organization. It’s been a lot to take in. But I just keep pressing repeat.
I have begun to form habits. There are things I do now (like checking my email a million times a day and Cc-ing someone on every email I send) that I never did before. I drink coffee before work and bring my second cup with me every morning. I have a desk and a favorite chair that I sit in every day. I make a To-do list every morning and check things off as I get them done. Things are familiar now. Of course, there are still occasional curve balls and exciting activities. For instance, my first day on the job, an article in the New York Times came out about Evacuteer.org. That’s not routine. I spent a Wednesday afternoon sitting at YLC’s “Wednesday at the Square” event handing out pamphlets and listening to a live band. That’s not the norm, either.
Overall, I am comfortable as I move into my second month. Time has flown by, and I’m excited about what’s to come.