Between round one and two, I had a fifteen-day break. After more then four months in the program and having endured a more untraditional track then most corps members, this break was the opportunity I needed for mental clarity and to refocus.

Round one challenged me in ways I never imagined possible. In a lot of ways I’m still reeling from the effects of the round and trying to understand the impact it fully had on my emotional, professional, and interpersonal growth. This program causes you to question who you are and what you believe in, and I’ve appreciated those opportunities to really assess myself and the world. I’m continuing to learn a lot and I’m beginning to grow more receptive to the adaptation and change brought on by this program.

It’s been hard for me to let go of the transition and no doubt that’s because it had an incredible impact on my life. I was torn from a community that I felt fully comfortable in yet still intellectually and interpersonally challenged. Looking through my journal, I find stark differences in my entries during FEMA Corps and now in NCCC. The conflicts I faced there were inherently different then the ones I’m facing now and I at the time appreciated the challenges I was constantly being gifted. Out of the emotional turmoil, I recognize a great deal of resentment and an internal struggle to accept the new life I was so suddenly thrown into. I never once felt ready for this new journey with NCCC and that lack of preparedness for this new chapter had a profound impact on my integration into this new community.

During my break, myself and two other transfers went on a cross-country road trip landing us as far east as Portland, ME. Being back on the road brought me a level of comfort I hadn’t felt in months and reminded me of the aspects of AmeriCorps that I appreciate the most; the opportunity to travel and meet new communities. Here I was after almost five months in the program, and I already had the opportunity to visit thirty states with new friends and like-minded individuals. It was refreshing to view the program in that positive light and gave me more motivation to keep turning my perspective around.

On the trip, we took a lot of time to meet up with FEMA Corps teams. It was an interesting experience learning about their projects and seeing the frustration most of them felt with their work. No one could see a tangible difference in their work and the sentiment of absolute disinterest in the program was echoed throughout nearly every team we caught up with. As much as I miss the people, I felt like the world was trying to show me that I’m where I need to be. The work in NCCC is more suited to my interests and the opportunities I’ve had since transferring will help me move much closer to my future goals. The people in FEMA can’t be replaced and never will be, but in a lot of ways this transfer was a blessing in disguise, hidden behind hundreds of false mustaches and different colored wigs. It’s taken me a while to find, but this break has pushed me closer to more fully appreciating where I’m currently at and allowing that part of my life to remain behind me.

As far as opportunities go, I’ve talked briefly in the past about the Fire Management Team (FMT). FMT is a composite team that specializes in fire management and disaster response. The team will be comprised of 18 Corps Members and two Team Leaders and will serve in the El Dorado Forrest for rounds three and four doing controlled burns, trail building, and fire mitigation type work.

In order to be selected for the team, you have to submit an application and complete a pack test (walking three miles in forty-five minutes with a forty-five pound pack). Today I took the pack test and I passed! I finished in 41:35, and it felt great. It was incredible pushing my body to go beyond its comfort level and seeing what I’m truly capable of. I’m hopeful for the opportunity to serve on FMT and work in a field I’m interested in pursuing as a career after the program.

Round two starts on January 14th and my team and I will be heading to Seattle to work with United Way helping low-income families through tax season. The work is very different from what we’ve done before, but I’m looking forward to all of the learning opportunities this round will present us. I’ll keep you all posted once the round starts!


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