Monday, December 31, 2012


2012 will be a year I always remember, and for that, I am grateful. For so long, my life after 2011—the year I would graduate from college—was just a big question mark of uncertainty. I am grateful for the year I have had that has been full of challenges, blessings, surprises, laughter, tears, and transitions.

Trying to sum 2012 up is frankly, an exhausting and impossible possibility, but I'm going to make a stab at it.

I began the year by vowing to make mistakes, among other resolutions. I wasn't successful at some of those resolutions (I definitely didn't read 52 books), but 2012 was certainly about making mistakes—lots of them. From having discipline techniques at After School at Casserly House fail miserably to setting the alarm system off at my new job on my fourth day of work, I made a lot of mistakes. From tripping over my own two feet to stumbling over my words, I was far from perfect. And I am so grateful for each of those embarrassing, painful, and awkward mistakes because they represent the chances I was brave enough to take.

As already mentioned, 2012 was overwhelmingly a year of transition: two cities and one tiny town, two and half jobs, four very different living situations, and ten "roommates." It was a whirlwind, and I can't believe I ended up here in many ways. A year ago, I wouldn't have predicted 90% of what has happened in 2012. Transitions aren't easy, but I am so grateful for God who remains with me throughout it all, understands my fear of change, encourages me to embrace the vulnerability of newness, and keeps surprising me.

2012 was a lesson in learning to trust my heart. It was applying to grad school, getting acceptance letters in the mail, and feeling… nothing. It was turning down acceptances to really good grad programs in favor of the unknown. It was the decision between staying in Boston and coming back to Missouri. It was realizing that, for now, what was pulling me back to the Midwest was stronger than what was keeping me in Boston. It was moving back home without a plan and trusting that it all would fall into place. (And it was being thrilled when everything somehow did.)

2012 was figuring out what I wanted—and then changing my mind (because that is allowed). It was caring enough to let my heart get a little broken. It was feeling so much that it was sometimes overwhelming, but knowing that embracing those feelings indicates a form of self-awareness that makes me stronger. It was saying how I felt, even though at that moment it felt like the most terrifying thing in the world. 2012 was not having regrets, being eternally grateful for the kindness of strangers, learning patience, and being continually blessed by the relationships in my life.

2012 was nights falling asleep to Mat Kearney and the sound of the commuter rail, listening to "Shake it Out" by Florence & The Machine on the morning of my 23rd birthday, a summer defined by Maggie's mix CDs, and a fall with Mumford & Sons and the Lumineers on repeat (and okay, Taylor Swift's new album too). It was watching the entire first season of Girls in 24 hours, not because my life resembles a cast of HBO characters, but because that whole idea of "kind of maybe getting it together" resonates. 

2012 was my daily walk to Casserly House, wandering around the South End and hearing "Boston" by Augustana play at the perfect moment, eating popsicles with Mike, picnics at the Public Garden, and sleeping on the Casa Taj balcony. It was quiet drives on my favorite country roads, so much beautiful time with family, playing assistant wedding planner, endless resumes and cover letters, and the feeling I had when I stepped into my new office for the first time. It was learning a new workplace, figuring out life as an FJV, and watching the sun set over the St. Louis skyline and falling in love with this city all over again.

What is 2013 going to be about? At this rate, it’s hard to say. I have lots of hopes, but I'm still pretty into the idea of making mistakes—but I'm also intent on learning from them and putting a few of the lessons I've already learned into practice. I hope I keep growing. I hope I keep challenging myself. And mostly, I hope I keep being surprised by life and myself.

Thank you for a beautiful year, friends. I wish you all the best in 2013.

“May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful. And don’t forget to make some art, write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And somewhere in the next year, I hope you surprise yourself.” –Neil Gaiman

P.S. And quite obviously, I took way too many pictures of sunsets in 2012.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

hitting "pause."

changing seasons in Missouri.

After JVC ended back in August, I did what any respectable twenty-three year old would do. Unemployed and unsure of what direction I wanted to go in next, I moved back in with my parents to the house I grew up in, in the small town I spent the first 18 years of my life and every summer during college. And that's where I have (mostly) been since. 

I've been quiet for these past two months, both here and on paper. I've been doing a lot of reflecting, but I've struggled with knowing how to convey everything that's going through my mind. Mainly, I have spent this time applying for jobs, working part time, and catching up with friends and family, (which isn't too exciting after all, so I don't kid myself into thinking someone was missing out because of my lack of documentation).

However, these past two months have had their own sort of challenges. Being at home threw me for a loop at first. I embraced challenging myself during JVC, and I think the sudden lack of challenge was baffling. Overnight, my JVC routines vanished into thin air, and I suffered from more than a little bit of culture shock, including being overwhelmed by things like going out to eat a nice dinner and setting foot in a mall. I felt like I didn't know how to talk to people outside of the JVC bubble. Frankly, I felt shellshocked, and I still do in some moments.

Besides a renewed appreciation for my family, I have also gained a new understanding of humility since coming home. Again and again, well-meaning friends, family, and acquaintances questioned me over the past two months about how the job search was going. Every time I had to admit to someone, whether it was a stranger or a close friend, that I didn't have a real job yet and was still living at home, it was a blow to my pride. For most people, I slapped on a smile and tried to shake it off, but it never got easier.

In short, I have rarely felt so unsettled and confused. I compensated for the lack of control I felt about my life by going through almost everything I owned and getting rid of half of it (let the simple living continue). In my worst moments, I felt like my life had been put on hold when I stepped off the plane from Boston. However, as much as I may have felt like my life has been on pause during this period of transition, it hasn't been--not for a minute. I am still learning, and I am still growing. 

There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think about Boston, text my community members, or miss Casserly House, but I do think I am where I am supposed to be, as difficult as it was to leave. It seems like things are beginning to fall into place for me, and I'm excited to see what happens next.

And throughout whatever happen next, I'm going to keep writing, because that's really the only way I know how to make sense of my life. I'm not quite sure what direction blogging is going to take post-JVC, but there is much be said for entering into the moment--even when the moment is confusing and seems purposeless--and that's what I am going to continue to try to do.

My questions post-JVC are a little bit different, as they include things like "Does 'business casual attire' mean I have to quit painting my nails obnoxious colors and wearing colored tights?" (answer: I sure hope not), but the big picture is still the same, as I continue to strive for meaning and intentionality in my choices and relationships. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

little moments.

Just wanted to share a few of the moments with the Casserly House kids that I will cherish the most from last year. Watching them grow was such a privilege. I could go on and on about the ways that these kids challenged me and changed me, but I think the stories speak for themselves.


Walking M. to the T station to meet up with family and having her sing and dance and talk too loud to be polite the entire way there. We were quite a pair.


B., a 7th grade boy, deciding to write everyone in After School notes one day. Mine read: "Megan, get married soon and make sure I'm invited to the wedding." What? I'm still confused where that came from.


The days during the spring/early summer when I would walk one of the boys, M., home from After School. I usually walked anyway, and he was on my way, so it wasn't a big thing to do. M. and I would chat while we walked, and it became one of my favorite parts of the day. One of the last times I ever walked him home, we stopped and I bought a snack for both us to eat. You should have seen his face when I let him choose what we would get, and you should have seen mine when he picked $.50 popsicles that were sugar free. He had no idea that he had essentially chosen the cheapest and healthiest option. The joy and innocence on his face was incredible. "You can have two!"


During the Casserly House Christmas party, "Santa" gave each of the kids a gift bag filled with school supplies, some toys/games, and a few other miscellaneous things. The week after we returned to After School, one of the kids was sitting with Jim and I when he tried to give us back a pack of pencils. At first we were both confused, then he explained, "No, I want you to have them. Because you do so much for us and you never have enough pencils." What pure generosity.


Me: "Hello dear! How's it going?"
J.: "Don't call me dear."
Me: "Oh, okay. Why?"
J.: "Only old people say dear. And you aren't an old person."
Me: "Oh. Hello friend?"
J.: "Better."


The rare, beautiful moments with C. without the rest of the kids around, when he finally let the masks and all of the pretense of trying to be cool slip away, and we were able to just enjoy each other's company. 


Every week:
"Hey Megan, I think I'm taller than you now!" --everyone


During camp, I had the kids do an Egyptian hieroglyphics activity on the computers one afternoon. They were all supposed to type their names, then other words/phrases that they wanted to try. At one point, I look over and K. has typed in "swag" and nothing else. "Hmm, swag, huh?" "Yeah boy!"


Some kids are harder eggs to crack than others. In particular, M. was a girl who I had a bit of a tumultuous relationship with all year. On the last day of After School, she was the final one to leave, so we ended up sitting on the front porch together, waiting for her mother to pick her up. She was quiet at first and would barely speak, even when I attempted to engage her in conversation. Eventually, I just gave up, and we sat in silence for a couple of minutes. Then, she pulled a dime out of her pocket, looked at me, and said, "Wanna play heads and tails?" We played that game for almost 20 minutes straight, and I don't know if we ever had a better moment together all year. On the last day, something broke though. 



Talking with J. before After School in March: 
J.: "Megan, is your job hard?" 
Me: "Sometimes." 
J.: "Like when kids act up?" 
Me: "Yes, definitely. But when everyone cooperates, it's great. Really great. And those are the moments when I have one of the best jobs in the world."


My last day at Casserly, J. stopped by for a quick visit that turned into an hour. We sat around and chatted, and I got the chance to hear about his recent visit to Haiti with family. J. had been having a hard time coping with the fact that I wouldn't be around in the fall, so I told him about the new JV to help ease the transition. "But I'm still going to miss you, Megan." Our goodbye was particularly meaningful because I knew that it was one of my last. "Promise you'll come back. I'm not leaving 'til you promise." "I promise."

Friday, August 17, 2012

"fear is not from God."

When I think back over the year and try to pinpoint the "defining moments" of my JVC experience,  there are a few I consistently come back to (this day is a big one), but a conversation from our Re-Orientation retreat always comes to mind.

That day was one of the first times I was brutally honest about how I felt about my work with someone outside my community--my frustrations, how much these kids broke my heart, and my self-perceived inadequacies. It wasn't easy, but I let myself open up and admit that I felt like I had no idea what I was doing 90% of the time and that work left me feeling broken and insufficient most days. I talked about being afraid and how crippling that often was.

In that moment, as I was struggling not to cry (and only halfway succeeding), a friend reminded me that, "Fear is not from God." Somehow those simple words were exactly what I needed to hear. It was only after admitting how far in over my head I was that I realized I wasn't alone in feeling lost while doing this work completely out of my comfort zone.

The darkest days of JVC, literally and metaphorically, followed that retreat. (This was written in the midst of that time.) January and February in particular are just a blur of dark, windy evenings when I remember almost running home from the T station to work off some frustration. Those words stuck with me throughout it all, and it was a constant mantra in my head during those dark days. Fear is not from God. Fear is not from God. Fear is not from God. 

Slowly, I learned to quit letting fear control me and to take bumbling, awkward steps, although it was a rocky road. I embraced making mistakes, as per my 2012 motto, not just in work, but also in life and in relationships. I was still nowhere close to perfect, and After School still felt like a mess most days, but I learned to take joy in the little moments right in front of me. Things didn't always turn out the way that I had hoped, but I know that I am better off for the chances that I took, rather than the times that I stayed away and kept my distance in a corner.

Now, seven months later,  I have to admit that I am a little bit irrationally afraid again. I am afraid of losing the relationships that made this year so meaningful, of forgetting the ways that this year changed me, of settling back into my old comfort zone, and mostly, of taking these next steps into the unknown again.

And that is when I once again remind myself: Fear is not from God. Those are words I hope I continue to carry with me throughout all that comes next.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

month twelve + a few days.

So... it's not the 11th, but even though JVC officially ended for me on August 10th, I was in Boston until the 13th, so that's why this is delayed.

In short, I spent month twelve saying goodbye. The first week: end of camp and most of the kids. Second week: Dis-O and most of JVC. Third week: Casserly House, the rest of the people there, and S. Nancy. Fourth week: Boston, our house, and my community. Honestly, I have just felt overwhelmed by emotions; I'm not kidding when I say that this past month was one of the most emotionally intense experiences of my life.

However, while I did cry more in public during this past month than I think I ever have before (you will not be seeing those pictures), month twelve was a fitting way to end my time as a JV. Yes, I had to say entirely too many goodbyes, but that is a testament to the beautiful relationships I spent this year building. And the fact that those goodbyes were so hard is a testament to what a wonderful year I had.  I have consistently felt overwhelmed by gratitude, and having the chance to say thank you to the most important people from this year over the past month meant everything.

I had the blessing this year of never once doubting that JVC was the right choice for me, that Boston was the right city, that Casserly House was the right placement, and that this community was the place where I belonged. This year was right for me; it was where I was supposed to be, but somehow it is now time to move on. Month twelve was about beginning to figure that out.

Transitions are never easy for me, even when I know that they are necessary, and month twelve had extreme highs and extreme lows. But when I think back over this last month, I mostly think about faces. Hugs that couldn't last long enough. "Till we meet again's" and encouraging words. The promise of being together in prayer. Shared meals and final drinks together. Laughter and even more inside jokes to add to our list. Promises to call and text and Facetime and visit and generally still be obsessed with each other. 

And once again, I am grateful. Thank you, JVC, for a beautiful ending to a life-changing year.

month twelve.

the end of astronomy. movies, movies, movies.  revere beach sandcastle competition + fireworks.

camp: week 2 - africa. an emotional upset. sleeping on the balcony as a form of self-care. jvc year timelines + high's and low's. mfa fieldtrip. pizza + beautiful sunset. mud. amanda's visit. thank you party + a well-represented casserly house. boston movies.

batman. wawa + live tweeting. dis-o. swimming. reflection. community time. forgiveness. finding peace. realizing that this is only the beginning. fireflies.  emotional exhaustion. the final roadtrip. amish country + lancaster brewery. ain't no party like a scranton party. the end of days. so. many. goodbyes.

the tub fiasco. "what a joker." the final week at Casserly House. scrambling to finish everything. basket shopping. new irish intern. the fighter. letters from the ESOL students + pizza with the kids. the most extraordinary kindness + the last day at Casserly House. final sam adams tour. gone baby gone. mass at st. cecelia's. maggie's birthday cake. jfk library. naptime. the roof of DR.

a last week in Boston. monday night beers at foley's.  jar + bracket of top moments. cleaning + packing. goodbyes to fjvs.

the beehive + top of the hub on our final night out. saying goodbye to kateleigh. one last round at sissy k's. wheat thins. one last mass at st. cecelia's. target with maggie. philadelphia. running around finishing everything. "where is macedonia?" all of us sleeping in kateleigh's room. 6am with maggie. breakfast with abby. lunch with cristina. one last round around the common + a red sox hat. leaving 7 patten st. crying in public. the kindness of strangers. re-reading my journal on the plane.

and finally... home. (for now at least.)

p.s. This doesn't mean that I'm done with this whole blogging thing. I still have a lot of things left to say!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

dis-orientated + somewhat finished.

with my beautiful ladies at Dis-Orientation

So, now that the end is here, I guess this is when I am supposed to write the blog post where I tell you about all I learned this year, the impact I made, and how it made me realize what I want to do with my life--essentially, how I figured everything out. And then I would conclude that JVC is over, and I'm done with it, and "wasn't-it-great-but-now-it's-time-to-move-on."

Well, that's a funny joke.

While I have learned so much this year, one of the most important things I have learned is that life is not as simple, neat, or orderly as we want it to be. I'm still trying to find a way to understand everything that happened this year myself, and I certainly haven't found a way to explain it to other people. One thing I do know: doing this work was never about results. I know I did make a difference, but I couldn't quantify it for you, and I think it would be a disservice to what I did do to try. While my future is somewhat clearer at this point, it is still very, very hazy around the edges. And frankly, JVC is technically over, but the journey that I began last August? It never ends (that whole "ruined for life" thing).

Yesterday was technically my last real day of JVC, but emotionally, spiritually, and mentally I am still in the middle, still bound up in the midst of it all. It's still messy and complicated. When I try to wrap my mind around this year as a whole, I can't do it. Over these past twelve months, there have been too many people, experiences, feelings, moments, and memories for my brain to begin to process. Sitting down and somehow condensing it down to a few neat phrases is impossible at this point. Even though I have officially been "dis-orientated," I am not finished.

And that's the beauty of JVC: it's never finished. I will never stop being a Jesuit Volunteer (even though I guess I have to start calling myself a FJV) because to stop would mean leaving these values behind. I don't think that social justice, spirituality, community, and simple living will ever stop meaning something to me. Leaving Boston, Casserly House, and my community doesn't mean abandoning all that I have held dear this year.  It just means learning to live it in a different way. Now it's just a new chapter.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

the places where my feet have been.

About two months ago, I started a project for myself as a way to both commemorate my final days of JVC and to remind myself to be present in every moment. Basically, I started taking pictures of my feet and posting them to Instagram. Why my feet?

Two reasons:  

Almost two years ago, as part of CLC Coordinator training at SLU, I took part in a reflection that focused on the places where our feet had been, as a way to look at the places/people/events in our lives that have been formative. That image - of the places where my feet have been - is one that has stuck with me ever since.

Over the past few years, my feet have been a lot of places, from SLU to Rome to Boston. Just over this year, my feet have been all over the streets of Boston, the fields of Blue Ridge, the rocky coast of Maine, New York City, and even a sticky basement floor (here's looking at you, JVC parties). I think I just needed another way to remember to cherish my memories from this year, the moments both big and small that had an impact on me.

As I began this project,  I was wrestling with a big dilemma about what to do at the end of JVC - the classic question of "should I stay or should I go?" (Stay = Boston, Go = Missouri) I had a lot of questions about where my feet would take me next, and those questions were frequently overwhelming. Enter reason #2 for the feet pictures. On our Silent Retreat back in May, someone threw out this simple phrase, and it summed up exactly what I wanted for the next few months: "Be where your feet are." So often, I get caught up in what's ahead of me or memories of what happened before. I wanted to dedicate myself to continuing to just be present in the moment.

The end is almost here, so here is wrap up of the pictures I took, as well as the approximate location/occasion. To say that I had a lot of fun doing this would be an understatement, but it also ended up being more meaningful than I had originally imagined.

rainy days waiting for the bus / the street in front of our house

Castle Island with the ESOL students / the front steps of Casserly House 

Stellman Road / Boston Harbor outside of the Aquarium

Spectacle Island / reading on the Boston Common

Charlestown / the Freedom Trail at the Bunker Hill Monument 

hanging out in NYC / lazy Sunday on the balcony

fountains by the North End / waiting for the T

Boston Public Library / Fenway Park

MFA field trip during Camp / the pond at the Public Garden

a day at Cape Cod / the beach in Nahant 

Oregano Field at Dis-O / my last steps on Stellman Rd.