It’s been a year. Nearly 365 days to be exact. A year since I began the summer of TWS. A summer where I learned about myself. A summer where I met, connected, and ultimately bonded with people I still have been in touch with nearly every single day. This one-year reflection on the summer I spent living like a true Minnesotan is one that comes after an exhausting school year, marked with even more experiences gained, and new ventures just cresting the horizon.
About a year ago today I was entering Sandstone for the very first time. Taking the exit into the sleepy, quaint, yet very charming, town I would call home for the next two months. When I arrived at the house, a wave of anxiety hit me. Not necessarily for the new adventure, but for the fact I had no clue who I was supposed to be meeting, all I knew is her name was Jessica and she was a “lead intern”, whatever that meant.
The person I met who greeted me is the same person who I have been in touch with nearly every day. Along with the rest of the group of “established interns”, the interns who had been at TWS for several months, Jessika, Mandi, Maggie and Kelsea, and of course, my fellow newbies, Tera and Jackie. A melting pot of people representing all corners of the country, all living together. Little did we know how close our group would soon become.
Living with fellow 20-somethings meant we had shared interests at least to some extent. I was coming off of a fresh break-up. Other house members were starting new relationships, blossoming long-terms ones, traversing dating in a small town, or like me, was enjoying a summer devoted to one’s self. Whatever the case, there was much time for me to go to my panel of experts on women, and often time be called on to be asked about the male perspective. Typical 20-somethings.
What made our group less than typical is the work we were doing. Working every day with cats of all sizes. Big, 500 pounders like Caesar and Logan, or little dudes like my favorite office cat, Benny. Every day was pretty much the same. Wake up with the sun. Fight for space in the kitchen and time in the bathroom. Head to work. (Clayton would then use the 15 extra minutes he had after the rest of the gang reported to prep food for the day for taking a shower or getting ready for work out of the way of the main rush. Ah, to be a media intern.) Make the scenic drive to the battered, pothole riddled, gravel road that cut though towering Minnesotan pines before arriving at the sanctuary. Work. After work fun (if there was enough energy left).
I find myself missing deeply the work I did there. I miss the after-work shenanigans in the cool but inviting Kettle River. House meals. Scary movie nights. Drives to Duluth. Lake Superior. Sandstone farmers market. My Minnesota peoples. The nature all around that seemed to breathe in the air with you and wash away your anxieties.
A year since then, filled with the most atypical school year to date, with challenges at every turn.
While I could drone on and on about what it was like to be a college student in the middle of a world pandemic, I have not a lot to say, which I know, hard to believe. But really, my school year looked a lot like the inside of my dorm room. Going to class in a mask. Going to class in a tent, in a mask. Missing large gatherings, parties, adventure. I went from living a life that was filled with spontaneity to a life that felt rigid and confined. Luckily, some really good friends in college made it worthwhile.
This rigid life is slowly falling away and the life of welcomed challenge in the form of a new job venture for an organization that is life giving in terms of the work I get to do in the form of multi-media communications is coming back into focus.
With a week of working at West Central Missouri Community Action Agency (WCMCAA), I am reminded that I belong in a field where every day I feel myself using my God given talents and learned skills to be an agent for change. Working to see a better tomorrow, and I get to do it in my old stomping grounds. Working alongside the moms of people I once played baseball with or went to high school with. A surreal experience in itself. Not having intern attached to my job title of Communications Coordinator is even more surreal I should add.
WCMCAA is a community action agency that does what they can for the community in the ways the community needs help. The way they explain it is that the work they do is not a handout, it is a hand up. I would explain it as an organization working to end rural poverty in sustainable ways. I get to try to answer the question every time I sit down in my office (yes, my very own four walls in the main office), and the question is, “How can I make a difference, where I am, with what I have?”
So, it has been a year. I went from using my skills and talents to do my part to help end the captive wildlife crisis in a part of the country hundreds of miles from where I am from, to making the short morning commute to Appleton City to use the lessons I learned at TWS alongside my skills and talents to try and help West Central create change in the community and surrounding communities that raised me.
I write this on the porch of my childhood home, watching the sunset fade away, wondering what is going on in Minnesota and excited to think of what my day at West Central will be like tomorrow.
It has been a year, and I am hungry for more.
In the words of Heraclitus, “There is nothing permanent except change.”
Welcome back to the blog, friends.