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You are here: Home Resources E-Newsletter Archive Fall 2009, Issue IV An Americorps Year with Journeys: My Rite of Passage into Adulthood

An Americorps Year with Journeys: My Rite of Passage into Adulthood

A reflective piece by our 2008 - 2009 Americorps Volunteer, Tara Nichol.

By Tara Nichol, Journeys' Americorps Volunteer 2008 - 2009

Last summer I wanted to be in one place and work for an organization where I could witness growth and change.  I wanted to understand what goes into running and working at a non-profit.  I checked out Americorps and found lots of amazing non-profits that were in need of volunteers.

Out of all the wonderful possibilities I chose Rite of Passage Journeys because of my interest in the merge of nature and psychology. When I was offered the position I took it immediately.

It took me three months to really grasp what Journeys was about, to understand the organization's 42-year history, and what the Institute of Cultural Affairs is and its relation to Journeys. Now 11 months later, it is hard to believe I knew nothing about Journeys and, today, I could talk about it for hours.

I have found new strengths in myself through this year as an Americorps Volunteer. I know that I am a hard worker; I am passionate and able to throw myself into things whole-heartedly. I pushed through my fears of writing, asking for donations, public speaking, and talking on the phone with people about our programs.

I learned skills that you need in order to be successful in communicating your ideas clearly to the world. I can manage and develop meaningful relationships with volunteers, youth and their families. I am able to network with new organizations to connect students with meaningful experience. I also learned that I am a committed person who follows through with my actions. Then there are all the small things I learned: how to use a copy machine, a fax machine, to organize myself, and eventually I learned how to take time off.

When June rolled around I was ready to be outside!!

I prepared myself for the Adult Vision Quest in late June; I made my intention ties, wrote about what I hoped to gain out of a vision quest, went for a medicine walk through the city and gathered my things together. I was nervous, scared, and ready for the vision quest. I heard about it all year and now I was really going to have this experience.

I walked a labyrinth in Queen Ann with the question of what do I need in my heart. When I entered the center of the Labyrinth I had a powerful visualization of my family; my grandmother, father, mother, and partner. Everything I need is already with me, in my blood and bones. I felt relieved to have this epiphany moment in the middle of a Labyrinth on a busy corner in Queen Ann with a city bus going by.

The Vision Quest was a powerful time for me to let go of my pre-conceived notions of who I am, to reflect on this past year and years of development, and see how far I have come. I had this idea that I was 19 in my head, I had associated myself with that age for the past five years because that is the age I began my journey into environmental education and outdoor work. I began a lot of things when I was 19 and have felt 19 ever since.  I did not recognize the growth and skill that I have developed in this outdoor field. I went into the Quest with the intention of letting go of my lack of self-recognition.

Through the nine-day Vision Quest in Central Washington I went out to my solo site where I fasted, sang, laughed, cried, talked to my family, the earth, my ancestors, and I emerged a butterfly full of color and clarity. I learned that I am strong, courageous, and full of a radiant spirit. I felt the calm of my heartbeat in the middle of the night with coyotes and elk calling to each other across the desert. I claimed my passion for the earth and sharing its beauty with people. I recognized the depth of my experiences and the skills I bring with me wherever I go.

 I saw that I am a strong leader and I have my own style that is effective and unique. I moved from unconscious competency into conscious competency. There is much for me to learn in this field and my time at Journeys has pushed me in many ways to see where I need to grow and what I am strong in.

The night before the youth left in August I felt a heaviness in my being. I hadn’t realized that it was my last day working at Journeys as an AmeriCorps Volunteer. I was done and it made me so sad to let go of what I had become comfortable in; where I felt so at-home and welcomed. I have finished working at Journeys in this one capacity but I don’t feel like I am leaving Journeys. I am always a part of the Journeys’ family and I hope to return to lead trips, plan events and volunteer.

The work at Journeys is important and I hope to be a part of this work for the rest of my life. I have moved into the next phase of my life as an adult with a great sense of pride in what I have accomplished. I have become comfortable at Journeys and I am ready to find comfort and familiarity as I continue on my path. I am ready to move forward as a soulful leader.

Thank you Journeys community for taking me in, for giving your time this year, and for participating in meaningful programs that honor life transitions. 

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