I saw this wall on the first day I started at my host site, and I pass by it on the bus every morning. Ever since then, I have been meaning to walk by it so I can get a picture. Way back in August when I saw this masterpiece, the first thing that drew me in was all the bright colors and the intricate patterns. I read the message on the wall “Houston is inspired” and thought “Oh that’s nice” but I never really gave it a second thought. Every morning passing by I would wait for my 5-second glimpse of the wall to see what new detail in the art I could spot.
Now as we move into June, we have only six weeks left in Episcopal Service Corps and my favorite graffiti wall has taken on new meaning. As I reflect on this year and what it has meant to me to be in the service corps, “Houston is inspired” has become more than a fleeting thought and a shoulder shrug. It now has become a sort of summary for what my time here has meant to me, inspired. The program turned out to be completely different than what my expectations were. Not to say that it was a bad thing, it gave me things I didn’t really come here looking for. My host site was vastly different than the others in the program, with my initial supervisor being forced into early retirement due to health issues. I was soon left on my own without any real direction, only helping out here and there. Once they hired a new person to fill that position I thought, “oh goody, finally someone to give me some work around here”. I soon found out that wasn’t case. It just shows that sometimes things don’t go as expected.
Signing up for the ESC, I thought I was going to get out of my small hometown and experience the big city while doing great things to help create change and get some really cool job experience that I could use later in life. I certainly didn’t expect to come here and have things go the way they went but I have since learned that it is OK. It turns out, as many of you may already know, the plan I had was not the plan that God had for me. For once in my life, I think I’m starting to put the pieces of that plan together. Just by being here in the ESC, I was inspired, like the wall says. Even though things didn’t quite go the way I was expecting or hoping for them to go, I was not going to let that stop me and let my program year go to waste. Amidst all the chaos at my host site, I found a voice, my voice.
You may be thinking that is an odd thing to say, but if you know me, you know how big of an accomplishment this is. During our fall retreat this year, we did the Enneagram personality test and I found that I’m a “Peacemaker”. It may not be strange for you to hear that the Peacemaker does everything in their power to not “rock the boat” so to speak. This most often comes in the form of staying silent when somebody does or says something you don’t agree with or that you have a problem with. You would rather keep quiet than take a chance of creating conflict. Reading about the Peacemaker, I had an Oprah “ah-ha” moment. Finally someone understood what my whole life has been like! My whole life I have done exactly that, kept my mouth shut so as not to create conflict and therefore, suffer in silence.
Knowing all of this, I challenged myself. Since things weren’t going as expected at my host site, I was going to use this opportunity to work on myself and find out who I am. I was inspired to take some chances and do things outside of my comfort zone. My host site situation was a blessing in disguise, with all of my free time giving me the opportunity to read the books from our book study and do some of my own bible studies. Reading up on these things inspired me to enroll into a class to become a certified teaching assistant. The valuable classroom experience I was already getting a few hours a day at my host site inspired me to enroll in the class to make more use of my time.
I took it upon myself to do a lot of exploring the city this year and tried to experience things I don’t get to experience living in a small town in Montana. My fellow corps members were not always able to go with me, but I was determined to not let that stop me. In the past I would never want to go anywhere by myself because I always felt awkward being a party of one in crowds of people who were either coupled up or in smaller groups. And quite frankly I was afraid to go places by myself for fear of being judged by other people on why I was out by myself and not with someone. I had read somewhere a while back an article on being single and it talked about how as a single person in a world filled with couples you need to take yourself out on “dates” and feel comfortable in your own skin, being able to sit in a room full of people by yourself and being ok with just having yourself and not having someone across from you to talk to. So remembering the article I took the year to do just that. I have gone to multiple different performance; all kinds of plays, the ballet, a monster truck show, sports events and more. Sometimes, I just wanted to get out of the house so I go to the mall or something to get some alone time. Other times I wanted to go sightseeing, so I just hopped on the train or bus and explored the city. I would have never done this before I came to Texas and ESC. I am perfectly fine going on solo hikes back home but stick me in a big city with lots of people and my first reaction is to stay in the house and never come out. My time here has given me the confidence to do things on my own. I’m so glad I took on the challenge, I have gotten to see so many things that I will never get to experience at home and my life is all the more richer for it. ESC gave me the freedom and confidence to speak up and voice my opinion, not all the time but I have certainly come a long way from when we started in August.
Without the inspiration from the program and the staff I would probably still be lost about what I want to do with my life. But I’m happy to say I have found another thing that I am passionate about. When I finish the program, I will be finishing my teaching assistant class and will start the process to enroll into the early childhood education bachelor degree program at the University of Montana. I came to Houston dreading the Texas heat (and yes, I’ve been wearing sandals year round, and if my job would let me I would have been wearing shorts as well), but I am so thankful to the city of Houston for giving me the inspiration for personal growth, this place isn’t so bad after all!
Paige, Community Family Centers in Houston