This week marked the third month of my term of service. It’s really difficult to imagine that only three months ago I was preparing to embark on this adventure and that, although it feels like it’s been a lifetime, I’m only just now beginning the actual service of the program.
After transferring, I’ve been through an array of emotions that a lot of the times really frustrate me. It’s been hard for me to break a pattern of apathy and negativity that came along with being torn from my last team. That being said, I finally feel like things are steadily improving.
Being alone with my team has helped a lot. It’s hard to turn away from the program when you’re being forced into the actual meat of it, being alone with eleven other individuals for ten full months. I’ve come to accept that this is the reality of my situation and that, if I really want to get something out of it, I need to stop seeing the negative in my situation.
A while ago I realized the importance of not using a victim mentality when it came to situations outside of your control. After experiencing having to transfer, a huge part of me defaulted to that mentality. I couldn’t stop thinking about the unfairness of it all, that because I was honest and upheld integrity (an AmeriCorps core value), I was dismissed from FEMA Corps. However, in self reflecting on the entire experience, holding that viewpoint and allowing it to command my energy over the new few months is not going to allow me to get the most out of this program.
Just in the most recent days, I’ve been able to transition to a mindset where I’m trying harder to reground and refocus my energy into what I truly want from this program. I witnessed a lot of change right before coming here, and a lot of that change was facilitated so that I could discover more about myself as an individual. Learning how to deal with these situations and my emotions that come along with them will be one of the tests that enable me to discover the things I wanted to discover about myself.
It’s a slow process, but I’m noticing subtly the changes that will make getting to a better point possible.
Before going into my project, I wanted to touch on the dynamics that I’ve noticed that I believe have restricted and enabled my growth over the past few weeks.
Usually this program presents you with one team. One team that you spend ten full months with. This has obviously not been my experience so far, and in a lot of ways it has left my heart residing in three separate teams. I have Hickory Six, my first team that I was introduced to in Iowa. I also have Bamboo Two, my second team that supported me through transferring. Now, I have Gold One. My new team that I’m meant to experience continued growth with.
It’s been an interesting experience growing to love so many groups of people, then quickly being separated from them. A friend made me realize recently how reliant I have been on support systems throughout my life. I have at all times had at least one individual in my life that I could fully rely on. Whether that was a boyfriend, family members, and more recently teams, I haven’t ever truly been alone.
In a lot of ways, coming to Iowa without a support system was my first test to see how I could handle being independent. However, because my team and environment was so incredible, it didn’t take me long to have that support system again. Upon leaving Iowa, I had the support of Bamboo Two and our shared identity as FEMA transfers. I don’t deny that identity, it is a part of who I am and it has presented me with a community that has made an incredible difference in my life. However, with the start of round one, I left that support system and am now entering into an environment where I need to let that support and trust actually grow. And, unsurprisingly, it’s growing at a much slower pace then what my previous experiences would have suggested. In a way, I’m okay with the pace though because I’m still recovering from leaving those that mean so much to me. However, in holding on so closely to Bamboo Two and Hickory Six, I know I’ve made the transition to accepting Gold One a lot more difficult.
It’s a blessing and a curse. I get to walk away from FEMA Corps with two incredible teams who have built a community that I identify closely with and one that I know will last far longer then the ten months of this program. However, it’s made connecting and building new relationships difficult because I see everything in comparison to the examples previously set for me. That being said, I appreciate this new team even more as an opportunity to grow. Having a constant support system has allowed me to always be comfortable. Being here, with my new team, is forcing me to learn to develop relationships without shared identities or similarities and allowing me to learn how to accept and move forward from undesirable situations.
I consider myself really fortunate to have this sort of experience. It’s by no means easy to have three teams and the emotions that go along with that. But, each one has shown me a great deal and has allowed me to grow in very different ways. I’m really grateful for those relationships and for what I have learned through each of them, and I’m excited to continue witnessing that growth.
Now for the project! We officially have finished a week of our project, which entails restoring Hamilton Wetland in Novato, CA. The wetland was once an army base and is now in the process of being restored to a flourishing wetland. Our project goal is to plant 11,900 plants over the course of four weeks, then spent the last two weeks doing other projects around the nursery.
My project sponsors are really great. They like to start each day stretching, and they love to give constructive and effective feedback. They have a really open relationship with my team, which has allowed all of us to feel comfortable enough to express what works well and what doesn’t. They’re new project sponsors, meaning they’ve never had an NCCC work with them before. In a lot of ways this is a growing experience for all of us because they’re learning to facilitate having a team and we’re learning how to be a team. So far though, I believe it’s going really well.
Oh, and did I mention they have a dog at the nursery? That has definitely made the work day a lot better.
At the end of our first week, we planted 2,200 plants total, which was a great start. I have a feeling we’ll finish the entire project a lot quicker then expected, but that means we have more time to learn things like soil testing afterwards. I don’t think wetland restoration is a field I’m going to be interested in pursuing after the program, but I’m really enjoying the opportunity to learn so much about the environment and about the importance of wetlands in general.