I look like a fool here, sitting in the middle of this tucked-away coffee shop, counting upon my fingers numbers that are probably better reserved for calculators. But the final count is two-hundred and twenty eight. That is the number of days that it has been since I and my community have moved out here to San Diego. And with this program’s one year commitment coming to a close, I need to focus on the number of days we have had instead of the number of days we have left, because I swear I have palpitations each time I hear the impossibly small number of days remaining in this program.
And what really guts me about the whole prospect of transitioning from this program into a world that is not entirely predicated on the pillars of community and service, is that without even realizing it I have grown not only comfortable but quite possibly dependent on the community that has become my family-away-from-home for the last two-hundred and twenty eight days. And that’s petrifying—for two reasons. First, because it’s always a startling realization when you first become aware that you have you let someone step so far into your life that who and what they are have become not only influential but in fact intertwined with your own self-identity. And the second reason is that there is a visceral fear that comes with the understanding that at some point the proximity of relationships changes, and then so too does the immediate nature of those relationships.
But what’s important to keep in mind, I think, is that while you are able to decide who gets step into your life, the value that a relationship can hold is completely correlated to how far you choose to let someone in, and how far you are willing to enter someone else’s life in turn. And if I have learned anything from my community in the past two-hundred and twenty eight days, it is that there is a undeniable sense of fulfillment and self-actualization that comes from deep, intentional relationships—the kind of fullness that ends up outweighing any fear of how those relationships may change tomorrow or someday.
My community makes me feel full and actualized, and each of them do it in their own way. But from each I have learned more about identity and growth than I could have ever expected.
Brian, the default patriarch of the house (don’t tell him I said that), has played a deeper and more influential role in my growth over this past year than I think he is even aware of. Brian has taught me as much about how to squeeze every last drop of sunlight from a day as he has about the importance of personal responsibility and the unfailing utility of common sense. Sometimes he lets my failures be lessons in and of themselves, but at the end of the day he has shown me what it truly takes to help another person grow. He is an individual deeply rooted in his character, and whether he realizes it or not, he sets an incredible example that has given me much to emulate. From learning how to properly merge on a freeway to learning how to build a backyard campfire, I have come to grow both as a driver and as a friend because of Brian.
Nicole, the great mediator of the house, has counseled us out of more potential conflicts than we have gotten ourselves in. She is a confidante, an advisor, and a supporter, and she has taught me so much of what it means to help others both recognize and actualize their own potential. Nicole has helped me grow in the same way that she helps everyone around her grow—by helping people see situations from every angle and empowering them to figure out which decision is best for them. Through her example, she has helped me grow in my leadership, my attentiveness toward others, and my ability to compromise. In her ability to create and maintain harmony in the community, Nicole has given both a space to grow and an example to follow throughout that growth. From learning how to actually book a flight to learning how to find middle ground, I have come to grow both as a traveler and as a listener because of Nicole.
Martha, a gifted nurse with an extraordinary mind, has a love for life and a heart for people that was crafted to heal. As a nurse she sets the precedent for compassion, diligence, and advocacy. She is a model of perseverance and a testament to the rewards of hard and devoted work. Her inspiration comes from the way she can spin a smile onto a patient’s face or how she has proven herself time and time again to be exactly who someone needs (and this is as much speaking on behalf of our patients as it is speaking from personal experience). It’s a special thing to be able to share both your personal growth and your professional growth with someone, and from learning how to properly draw up injectable medications to learning how to hold thirty-second dance parties, I have come to grow both as a nurse and as a dancer because of Martha.
Patty, the one who will set this world on fire, has made every bit of difference in how I have grown both spiritually and internally this year, and there is so much that I owe to her. I don’t know if she always notices this within herself, but she is a vessel of strength and centeredness, and this comes not only from the deep-seeded faith that surrounds her core, but also from the vulnerability it takes for her to show us what lies within that core. She allows others to grow by breaking down the pieces of herself and showing how possible it is to put yourself back together again. Patty has shown me how to spot miracles in the mundane, how to move past the mistakes, and how to put troubles in a bubble and blow them away. Patty would be the first to tell you that she isn’t perfect, but she has been one of the greatest examples and sources of faith for me over the past year, and from learning the words to different prayers to learning how to give things a chance, I have come to grow both in my relationship with God and in my relationship with myself because of Patty.
My community has helped me to not only grow, but to discover and to learn and to become as well. Each in their own way, each in their own time, they have walked into my life, and no matter what happens in the coming months, I know that for at least two-hundred and twenty eight days we all walked together, in and out of each other’s lives, leaving our own marks to remind each other that at one point in our lives we were a community—a family—that made each other feel full and actualized and loved.
San Diego, CA 2015-2016