The last six weeks have probably been the hardest weeks of my entire life. One of my teammates said once that this program isn’t for the faint of heart and she could not have been more correct.
FEMA Corps frequently throws hurdle after hurdle at you with the expectation that you can work past it all. I often felt throughout our six weeks of training that they didn’t even really view corps members as people more then machines to push out their grunt work.
My frustrations with the program definitely had their moments, especially Sunday when I found out that I was being dismissed from FEMA Corps due to a security clearance issue with my background check.
I’ve gone through a range of emotions these past few days as I tried to process this new hurdle. This program is not a joke. You live and work exclusively with nine other people for ten months. I have had at most two hours of alone time in a week since joining this program, and that only came after being dismissed. I’ve had to confront frustrations with teammates and work through them knowing very well that not getting along is not an option. I’ve had to run off of limited sleep, poor nutrition, uncomfortable surroundings, and long hours day in and day out. To be told after six weeks of this that I have to leave was heart breaking. My motivation at the end of training was high. I knew I could do nine more months. To be told that that isn’t an option really tested the patience and perseverance I had gained in these past weeks.
Now that I’ve had time to process, my anger and sorrow has subsided. I couldn’t help but feel like the past six weeks were a complete waste after first finding out. It didn’t take me long to realize that I’m walking out of this program with more then I came in with. I have real, solid relationships with so many more people now that I would have never met otherwise. If it wasn’t for those individuals, of which there are many, I would not have made it through the past six weeks or have realized so many things about my abilities and myself. For them, despite the result, FEMA Corps was definitely worth it.
So down to business. FEMA Corps will not tell me what the issue with my clearance is, nor do I really care. People can be dismissed for so many reasons and after experiencing first hand the methods of this organization, I’m happy to at least know that a career in the federal government is not for me.
As for what’s next, AmeriCorps has two tracks. I was serving on the AmeriCorps NCCC-FEMA Corps track, which is a partnership between AmeriCorps NCCC and FEMA. The other track, AmeriCorps NCCC (National Civilian Conservation Corps), I applied for initially and was waitlisted. I was offered a position with the new incoming NCCC class at either the Sacramento or Denver campus, to start next Wednesday, October 8th. NCCC is a much more fitting program for me. You do more physical labor and work can range from building trails in National Parks to working in camps with at risk youth. Members can also try out to be a part of the fire squad. I was planning on doing a second year after this one with AmeriCorps NCCC anyways, so I took the offer.
As with everything in this program, I still don’t know anything other than what I have already said. I’ve been told I might be sent home early, or I can be sent to the new campus and spend a week in Vinton. It’s all dependent on when FEMA sends my dismissal letter, and as we all know the federal government is always very quick with paperwork. As far as what campus I’ll be serving with, I also don’t know. Everything is always up in the air with this program but in a way I really love it. It teaches you not to care when things change and don’t go your way, and it teaches you to be patient and adventurous with the unknown.
As far as my Vinton family goes, I really will miss them the most. I’ve met a lot of incredible people through this program and it’s going to be really difficult to depart from them. I’m grateful at least that they all helped me feel as though the past six weeks were not a complete waste. I’m walking away with more close connections then I could have ever asked for and I’m excited to take what they’ve taught me to my next AmeriCorps experience. This doesn’t take the sting out of leaving, but there’s no other way to cope with the unexpected in this program but to be positive.
Thanks to everyone else that reached out to me these past few days to check if I’m okay. I know I’m loved and supported by you all and that is enough to lighten any difficult day.