The Day I Kicked Discouragement’s Ass

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Today was AMAZING. And to think I had to start the day with a pep talk from Todd because I was feeling discouraged. My awesome day kicked discouragement’s ass.

I was not dreading the actual items on my To-Do list today, I was just dreading the amount of energy I knew it would take for me to complete all of the items. I was actually looking forward to each individual item, I just wish I hadn’t scheduled them all for the same day, an oversight on my part (this is why I do not agree to plans or meetings without my schedule in front of me) but one that was not correctable so I had to buckle down and prepare myself for an exhausting day.

Good news though, it only got better. As I checked each item off my list the day got better and better.

The first thing on my schedule for the day was my volunteer shift at Hospice. I start my shift around 8:15, I like to arrive early to settle in and get caught up on any changes from the week before. A half hour into my shift the director of bereavement walked over looking for me, she needed help on some things that are backlogged for them so I agreed to help. It took my entire shift but I completed the task for her and apparently took a sizable burden off her shoulders, I hadn’t realized how behind they had gotten. Half way through my shift my main contact at the bereavement center walked over and we talked for a bit. Apparently the bereavement department has a colleague out for an undetermined amount of time and the intern who has been working there is finished as of this Friday. They need help. I offered to start coming on Wednesdays to assist in anyway I can, they immediately took me up on the offer. Next Wednesday I will go through training and when I am done I will be responsible for making the 1 year follow up bereavement phone calls. I am excited for the new opportunity to learn and grow.

My shift ended at 1 and I went straight into a meeting with one of the Hospice social workers. I mentioned recently how I made a connection with this social worker while working one of my volunteer shifts and in doing so we agreed to meet and talk today so as to get to know one another better. As I did not know her role in the organization I just saw this as another opportunity to network and looked forward to speaking with her. When I got into our meeting today I realized this was maybe a bit more than networking.

The social worker mentioned when we first started talking a few weeks ago that she had been wanting to meet me and learn more about me, I didn’t think anything of those comments because I had been wanting to meet her and get to know her as well as a contact for the future possibly. Apparently she a supervisor at Hospice and she supervises teams of social workers who work in the field (as well as those who work in the IPU I think). Anyway, she is a bit higher up on the ladder than I realized and she explained that she had been hearing good things about me and had taken notice of me. Wow. People are talking about me. That was something for me to take in. I guess it makes sense but I had never thought about it.

She complimented me multiple times on my attitude and professionalism. She said I seemed very wise for my age and how impressed she was by me. And we even talked about me possibly having a future with Hospice when I finish school completely. I walked out of that meeting feeling stunned and elated. I had no idea I had made such an impression at Hospice, I am so thankful for that. I also had no idea that she even knew who I was or was keeping tabs on my work with the company. It was a very validating 45 minutes and I am overjoyed that it came about in the first place. It goes back to what I was saying about organic networking, good things happen when you allow things to happen naturally.

So after my meeting with the social worker I had to scramble out of there and over to campus where I had a meeting with a classmate and a professor to discuss next steps in the community work my classmate and I are doing together. My classmate and I met last week at the cafe located on the hospital property near my house to discuss what we think our next steps should be, today was just to bring our professor up to speed and get much needed expert advice about our plan of attack.

We were relieved to discover that all the suggestions the professor had for us about next steps were exactly what we had discussed together last week. We are clearly on the right path (thank goodness). While in our professor’s office the head of the entire social work program at UCF walked by and our professor brought her in to introduce us. Our professor explained why we were meeting and the work we planned to do along with explaining what work we had already done. The director then asked to e provided with a copy of our original paper for her review and so she can give us notes for our continued work. We (my classmate and I) were thrilled and also a bit terrified. Thrilled because WOW, Yes please! Terrified because someone really important wants to critique our work, do we really think this paper is up to par? The plan is to revise the document one last time to make sure we are not going to embarrass ourselves sharing it with her and then meet with her to drop it off and discuss everything. How exciting!!

As the meeting continued after the directors departure our professor started talking to us about the possibility of publishing our findings down the road. I think we both looked at her like deer in the headlights. Publish? Scary. Again I started thinking will anything we come back with be good enough to publish? Our professor stopped us in our self-deprecating tracks though. She not only thinks we should consider publishing our work and findings but that we both need to be thinking seriously about doctoral degrees. That was a holy shit moment for me.

A lot of the things that were discussed today in my multiple meetings were not even on my radar. Working for Hospice in the future, publishing my work, becoming a doctoral student. I am just sitting here in undergrad trying to make the grade and make a difference. And I am doing both of those things rather well I guess. The idea that there is more though and I am capable of it frightens and excites the hell out of me. If you had told me two years ago when I was entering back into college that I would be here now doing these things, standing on the precipice of something that could be bigger than my dreams even initially allowed.. I wouldn’t know what to say accept Wow, I never knew what I was capable of.

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How Very Serendipitous

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Today I was at Hospice for my volunteer shift and I noticed one of the employees from the bereavement center seemed a bit over loaded so I asked how I could help. She gave me stuffed envelopes that needed to be sealed so they could be mailed out. Easy enough I thought, and I worked on them while I ran the front desk. When I finished I called her and asked if she would like me to walk them over to her when my shift was done so she wouldn’t have to walk back to our building to retrieve them, she accepted my offer gratefully.

At the end of my shift I walked across the parking lot and dropped off the box of sealed envelopes and said my good byes to the employees. As I exited I nearly ran into someone walking in. I heard, hey your the social worker right? I looked up to see the LMHC that works at the bereavement center. I corrected, Well not exactly, student. Social work student. She laughed as we shook hands and reintroduced ourselves to each other.

She and I have met on a few occasions now. The first was last year. My mentor and supervisor introduced me and we hit it off immediately. We spoke about social work and working with bereaved children. I gave her a snap shot of my volunteer resume in terms of work I have done with children and we agreed I would be a good fit for the bereavement center. I have not had the opportunity to work in bereavement yet because the IPU has been short staffed and I have not had enough time to volunteer and extra day allowing me to do both. I did make my supervisor aware of my interest and intentions and felt supported.

After a few minutes of catching up the LMHC asked me point blank, You’re not busy May 2nd are you? I paused. I did not have my big calendar with me that I keep every detail of my daily life on, it was hanging on the fridge at home. I tried to picture that day on the calendar, it was the day after one of my final exams and two days before another final exam. I don’t think I am actually, what do you have for me? Her face lit up, Camp Healing Hearts, you’d be perfect and I am desperate for volunteers. Without hesitation my answer was a very enthusiastic YES! I missed my chance to be involved with the camp last fall because it was the same day as the wedding, I was elated to get a second chance so soon.

It is an all day camp for grieving children and adolescence. There will be activities and games and plenty of opportunity for meaningful engagement.

My Mom’s mom died when I was 9. It was my first experience with death and it was difficult. I still remember the Hospice social worker that counseled me and played with me after her death. To possibly pay that back means so much to me. I am also excited because it has been a little over a year since I have done any work with children.

I had just started thinking recently about what this summer is going to look like for me and how I want to use my time. Last summer I got involved with a literacy day, planted trees, started with hospice and cooked a meal for the residents of the local Ronald McDonald house. The nice thing about the summer semester is that it is lighter allowing for more free time to get involved. This camp is going to be a nice way to kick off another summer of volunteering and the meeting with the LMHC was nothing if not serendipitous.

Something else I am looking forward to is a benefit put on by the Adult Literacy League. One my dearest friends is a writer who works downtown. I love her because she does not shy away from the deep stuff. Every time we are together I feel like we bare a little more of our souls. She is one of my favorite conversationalists. We talk about life and literature and projects and writing and anything outside of the superficial realm of everyday chatter. Last week she texted me and asked if I wanted her tickets to this benefit because she was going to be out of town. I immediately screamed YES into my phone, although I am not sure the emotion translated through text message. However my very next thought was, who will I take? She would have been my perfect date. Todd was obviously my answer and I am sure he will appreciate how wonderful and meaningful this benefit is, but probably not quite as much as her.

So with an incredibly grateful heart I accepted her offer and tomorrow evening Todd and I will enjoy an evening out at the Science Center at this benefit.

It comes at the perfect time because late this afternoon I finished my contribution to our community assessment project. I am worn out on many levels from the work put into that project and am ready to step back from it for a few days. This benefit will be a nice reprieve.

So tomorrow I meet the LMHC at Hospice to receive a quick training on what to expect on May 2nd at the camp then in the evening it will be super formal date night as we attend the benefit. It is a nice way to start the summer and begin to close out a very busy semester.

First Week of Classes Done

I would like to report that my first week of classes went off without a hitch but that would be a lie. There a minor bump in the road which resulted in a schedule change. I think this worked out in my favor though. I landed myself in the Loss class, which is new, and am really excited about it. It is not just about death and grieving, although that is certainly a big part of the class, it covers all kinds of loss people experience throughout their lives.

I definitely am picking up a theme this semester, “leave your baggage at the door”. I am also taking Assessing I and Social Justice and this has come up in all three classes so far. In one we were required to fill out an anonymous survey regarding our feelings towards certain groups etc. ie: “When I see homeless people I think _______.”

In the loss class we will be writing a paper about all the loss we have personally experienced in life and are expected work through it in this paper. All of these steps are to help us become unbiased and prevent counter transference with our clients.

I have mentioned previously that I have encountered some classmates who, while very nice people, do not seem that  self-aware. I think these exercises will help with that. I think it is healthy to reflect on your feelings about certain topics and life events and make sure you have completely worked through them. I look forward to these activities.

So other than the hiccup in my schedule the first week of class did go well. Hospice is going well also. Last week they were short-handed so I worked three shifts. I particularly enjoyed my Friday shift because I was working alongside one of the people from my training class. He is one of the only other “young” adults that I have encountered while volunteering. Most volunteers are at least 30 years our senior, many even surpass that. I love it though. I get along with the older adults so well and relate with their work ethic as well as other areas.

Last week while I was at Hospice I had the good fortune to meet one of the mental health counselors that works in the bereavement center. Upon first meeting we were discussing the different services the bereavement center provides, one of which is a day camp for children and young adults who have had a loss. I explained about my prior involvement with New Hope for Kids which then led to the counselor trying to recruit me to help with the day camp.  I am excited about this new opportunity but unfortunately it sounds like it maybe scheduled for my wedding day which clearly will not work. She is going to keep me posted and if it does not conflict than I will absolutely be getting involved.

In the interim she had other needs that she feels I could meet and gave me the contact information for the volunteer coordinator in that department. It sounds like I may be making phone calls to check in on the family of loved ones who have passed. They also hold semiannual memorial services which I am interested in.

Today I had a long talk with one of the social workers on campus. She gave me tips and shared some insight into the field as well as the MSW program. A point that she brought up was that she felt I was smart for choosing the minor I did and becoming involved with Hospice because it makes me more marketable and gives me an edge. I have thought about this before, it is not why I have made the choices I have made but I realize it may benefit me when applying for grad school or jobs in the future. The thing she said that really scared me though is that there are very few jobs for social workers in central Florida.

I don’t know how someone just knows that kind of information off the top of their head. It could be that she was recently hired at Hospice so is familiar with what is available (or not) right now. It could be that she keeps an eye on this sort of thing. It could be that she has social worker friends that are actively looking and not having much luck. The truth is it could be a lot of things but her saying this scared me.

3 years might seem like a long time but I know better. I have been back in school for 2 years and it has gone by in a flash. Before I know it I am going to graduating with my MSW and attempting to get back into the work force. I will also need to start paying back the few student loans I will have taken out through out the course of my schooling. The time to start thinking about the future is now. The instructors talk so much about networking and I see why it is so important. When I am done with school I don’t just want to find a job, I want to find the RIGHT job.

My discussion with her today drove home a few points for me like how important grades, internships, volunteering, networking and just overall involvement in relevant work to the field is, while in school. While I am not working school is my full-time job and like any other position I have held I want to do my best. This means making good decisions, not becoming too comfortable, pushing myself, trying new things etc.

I really enjoy any opportunity I have to speak to someone in the field or in a related field, like the mental health counselor. It helps remind me what I am working towards and gets me excited about next steps.

 

Official Welcome to Social Work

Today was orientation to the Social Work program. Surprisingly I found it quite informative. There is an externship opportunity over winter break I am interested in (if I can make it happen before we leave for Chicago), I am interested in the social work student association along with a few other odds and ends things I heard about as well. I think I have already mentioned this but I am really interested in and looking forward to the trip to the capitol next semester on advocacy day. I have a feeling that will be a highlight of undergrad for me.

They covered a lot about the internship senior year which I appreciated as I have had questions that so far have gone unanswered. Also one of the professors that specializes in the field of study I am getting my minor in presented today. I am setting up a meeting with her soon to pick her brain about the field and her experiences.

 

So, unrelated, Monday I worked my usual morning shift at Hospice however, there was nothing usual about it. I am a patient care volunteer which means I work directly with the patients and their families however, I made sure to get myself cross trained on the front desk so I can cover when needed. Of late there has been a need which has found me at the desk quite a bit. Fine with me, I like doing both.

Monday I came in for the patient care shift and found that the front desk volunteer was unable to come in which led to me working the desk instead. Again, fine with me. I was informed that the executives would be touring the facility in the afternoon, this would be the first time this has happened. I was excited. I know many of the executives thanks to my time working in the executive offices. I ended up staying past my shift to cover the next shift as the person who was unable to make it in for the front desk shift that morning was actually scheduled for a double that day. It worked nicely because, as I expected, one of the executives making the rounds was my executive. 🙂 I got to catch up with my old boss. It was nice to get some face time, let her know what I am up to and just check in with her.

Another detail that made Monday different was my finding out about a particular patient that had passed the week prior after my Monday shift. News of a patient passing in itself is not unusual given where we are, it was this patient that made the difference.

When I first started with Hospice other volunteers talked about how sometimes it can be emotionally taxing, particularly when it is a younger patient that passes. I have experienced that first hand now. I cannot share any particulars other than to say this patient was younger than me. I have been thinking about how I feel about the news of this patient passing and I have not figured out how to put it into words yet. I am sad and feel for the patient’s family but when I think about how I personally feel it is hard to explain. This patient was doing OK, to the point of being discharged the at one point thanks to an upswing in health. I came back the next week and the patient was back. The patient still seemed alright though, wanting to sit up in bed, being able to hold conversations. I had multiple interactions with the patient and the patient’s family my last shift before the patient passed.

This is all still new to me and this was the first patient that actually caused me to pause when I heard the news of the patient passing. Whether it’s right or wrong it is true ( for me at least) that it does seem a bit sadder when a younger patient passes. At the age I am now I feel like my life is just beginning and it doesn’t seem fair that anyone should be gone so soon.

I think what surprises me the most about myself since becoming involved with this organization is the level of balance I have been able to keep. Before I started I felt that even though I am a sensitive person I was strong enough to be able to handle this experience. So far I have been right. It is sad at times and I completely understand why many people are taken aback when I tell them where I volunteer but it is a good fit for me I think. I have enjoyed being a comfort to others even if it is in some small way like making them a cup of tea or just listening for a while. And, up to this point, I have not gone home from a shift in tears.

This has been the most meaningful volunteer experience to date for me. Aside from the fulfillment I get from the work itself, it has been validation for me to know that I can have a tender heart and sensitive disposition while still being strong and capable. I knew this about myself but at times others have doubted me which I am sad to say occasionally caused a little self doubt to creep in. Most importantly about this validation though is that this is me validating myself not seeking it from the outside world. I knew not only that I could do this but that I would be good and helpful where help was needed, and I was right. I don’t need anyone to tell me I am doing well, I know I am making a difference.

 

 

The Comforter

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As I close out the semester the last few weeks have found me furiously writing paper after paper to be submitted for end of semester grading. I am nearly finished with my final paper, a reflection paper on the volunteer hours I worked this semester. In total I completed 42 hours between Ronald McDonald House, Heart of Florida United Way and Hospice of the Comforter. It made for a busy summer but a memorable one as well.

40+ hours over the course of a two month period really isn’t much if you think about it, no more than 5 hours a week usually. This very fact is encouraging in my opinion. It just shows how doable volunteer work can be. I don’t mean to sound like a Sarah McLachlan infomercial, “for only 1 dollar a day you can make a difference in an animal’s life”, but for anyone who has an interest in the betterment of their community but feels hesitation to make the commitment I just want to show that it is a relatively small commitment of one’s time.

I really enjoyed all the different opportunities I have had to be involved this summer. It was fun to see all the classic titles as well as books from my childhood while involved with United Way’s book sorting event.  Cooking at the Ronald McDonald house was a fun and encouraging experience. What woman doesn’t appreciate a little validation that her cooking is not only edible but actually good? Hospice has been my favorite though of any organization I have had the fortune enough to be involved with.

My biggest take away thus far is just how comforting a listening an ear can be for someone in crisis. Surprisingly through all of the training and working my first few shifts solo I have not been that nervous. Usually, with any new experience, there is a degree of nervousness. I think that is be expected for anyone. My nervousness normally stems from me feeling ill prepared, as the experience is new and you are not familiar with all of the ins and outs yet, and my eagerness in wanting to catch on quickly and do my best. Because I received 3 weeks of orientation and training before ever entering the IPU there really was no feeling of being ill prepared thus eliminating any anxiety that would have otherwise been present. As far as concerns about catching on and doing my best, for once in my life I knew I was good enough just as I was. I knew/know this is something  I can handle and will do well at. If my job is to offer comfort there is no doubt in my mind I will succeed and so far I have. In a short span of time I have made some very meaningful connections with both patients and family members. This is encouraging as in most cases I will have limited time to make these connections. With Hospice being what it is the turn over rate is rather high and there is no guarantee that I will see the same faces from shift to shift. The time to help and make a connection is in the present, with Hospice you don’t often get second chances. That is not to say it never happens though.

Another nice aspect of being involved with Hospice is forming relationships with the social workers. Over the weekend when I was there I met a social work intern from UCF as well. She is in the Master’s program. It was great to have a chance to talk to her about school and the programs. She did Psychology as her undergrad and found that she was unable to do the kind of work she wanted to without a Master’s so she decided to study social work. I loved being able to pick her brain a bit and hear her stories and experiences in the program and in life.

I really wish I knew more people who were in the program or graduated from it. I really enjoy just hearing stories from the few people I have met along the way that were in UCF’s social work program. The social worker at Cherokee School, where I previously volunteered, was a great resource for information on the program but it had been so many years since she graduated that we both knew much had changed since then. I ran into a fellow school mate from high school a few years ago right when I was leaving the Hospital to go back to school full-time and discovered that she was just finishing up her Master’s in social work from UCF. I would have loved to have met her for coffee one day and gotten her take on everything, especially since she was interning at the Hospital in an area that I am interested in as a future career path. The whole encounter was very serendipitous. One problem though, she was currently dating my ex. In most cases this would be no problem at all but in the case of this ex it was. Which is unfortunate because I have always known her to be a nice girl, the few interactions I had with her over the years were always pleasant. In other circumstances I would have loved to have been able to follow-up with her and hear her stories and experiences.  I am sure that as time passes I will meet plenty of people from the program and have plenty of chances to share stories.

Next week is the park restoration project. I am very excited to see what is in store for us when we get there. I am quite sure this will be the most hands, down and dirty volunteer work I have ever tackled. There is something to be said for working with your hands in the earth though. Plus I am excited that in this case we will be able to physically see the difference we have made. In most cases you go in and offer help and just hope you made a difference without ever knowing for sure. This will be a fun change of pace.

 

Cooking for Strangers

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The first thing my girlfriend said to me when I picked her up Sunday morning was, “So do you like to cook?” I paused not sure how to respond. Well I don’t hate it, cooking for strangers is kind of scary though. I have no idea if I cook well or if Todd just has low standards. We both laughed as I drove us to the grocery. We were spending the afternoon cooking for the residence at the Ronald McDonald house at Florida Hospital. She proceeded to explain that she had chosen enchiladas as the meal we would prepare. My face lit up as I explained to her that there were three things I know I make well and enchiladas just happens to be one of them! Suddenly any trepidation I had about cooking for strangers began to melt away.

When we arrived at the grocery we met two of her friends from bible study (cooking a meal for the residents of the Ronald McDonald house was the service project they chose for the bible study group). After introductions we set off to purchase our supplies. While in the ethnic food aisle it came to light that no one in this group actually knew how to make enchiladas. Suddenly I was taking the lead on the main dish that would be prepared. I know this recipe like the back of my hand so that was no concern but we were cooking for a much larger group than I was accustomed to and I did feel a bit ill prepared on how to double or triple the recipe.

Here is the thing about that, I do not follow an exact recipe (shocker). I know the ingredients involved and I do everything to taste. There are no precise measurements to double per se. The group helped me determine what would be an appropriate amount of supplies and we finalized our shopping trip.

Cooking went well. I had such a good time, as did everyone else.  I love that one of my best girlfriends and I got to share the experience, that really means something to me. It is so much more special.

I ended up making two pans of enchiladas myself. As confident as I am in this recipe being good it was still a little nerve wrecking to have the pressure of the main dish laying solely on my abilities as a cook. The Ronald McDonald house employee overseeing our efforts took a break to come and eat what we made when we finished cooking and her positive response was wonderful validation. In fact, she would not let me leave without first copying down the recipe for her. We had a five minute discussion about the ins and outs of the recipe. That was pretty nice.

After clean up we were given a tour of the facility and gained some insight and knowledge about the company. It is meaningful important work they do and I am glad that on a small level I was able to contribute.

The Non-believer bible study equivalent

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I will be writing a separate post about my experiences while volunteering with Ronald McDonald house this weekend. This post is in regards to an observation I made while interacting with the group I volunteered with.

Last week I reached out to a girlfriend about volunteer opportunities. Specifically, if she had suggestions on any I would maybe enjoy. I was unsure whether she volunteers or not but knowing her as well as I do I had a feeling she probably did. I was right. She mentioned that her bible study group had plans to cook a meal for the Ronald McDonald house over the weekend and invited me to join them. I did not hesitate to reply with an enthusiastic yes! This is an organization I have been interested in for a while but was unsure how to offer help. I was excited to have the opportunity now.

It was a great experience. I came home feeling fulfilled and full of purpose as I do after volunteering.

This evening Todd and I decided to go to dinner. Today was technically the anniversary of our engagement so we decided to use that as an excuse not to cook. (I was uninterested in being in another hot kitchen after spending two hours in one earlier in the day). Over dinner we were discussing the books we are both currently reading then we got on to the topic of documentaries. He was filling me in on a religious documentary he recently watched and that led into our next discussion.

I need to set up this next discussion for you by giving some background.

Something that I really enjoyed today that was different from other times I have volunteered was the fact that I was part of a group. Today I was working alongside like minded individuals interested in the greater good. The conversation was stimulating, the positive energy shared among the group was infectious, it felt really nice not only to give of myself but feel apart of something within this group. After our work was done we went to lunch together and the conversations continued. I really enjoyed the company of my friend and her friends. The only detail that really made me feel separate from the group was the religion factor. As this was my friend’s bible study group at times discussion of religion would come up, which I am completely comfortable with but I just do not happen to relate with. Some of her friends shared specific stories regarding their faith which I could totally identify with, I was easily able to empathize with the feeling of taking a leap of faith and having to trust that things will work out. None of these feeling are attached to religion for me though. For me these scenarios involved faith in myself or others, conviction in my decisions and believing in my abilities.

At the end of our time together more than one of her friends eagerly encouraged me to join their bible study group, commenting on how I am exactly the kind of person they would love to have involved. I thanked them and told them how much I appreciated them including me in their group today and how much I enjoyed myself as well as their company. I never did mention that I am a nonbeliever. It goes back to being in the closet. I do not deny my feelings on religion when asked directly what they are but I also do not broadcast my beliefs (or what some would consider lack there of). There are a few reasons for this, one is appropriateness. I was raised and still do believe that it is inappropriate to discuss controversial topics openly with anyone who you are not intimately acquainted with, and even then appropriateness might be questionable.

I did not mind at all that religion and God were open topics over lunch today as I was the outsider crashing their church event, however I did not choose to comment on anything religious in nature. I kept my responses neutral and genuine to what my relatable experiences have been. ‘

So back to dinner with Todd. This is not the first time I have had these thoughts and feelings but as a nonbeliever/humanist I do feel that I/we (we being any nonbeliever not specifically just Todd and myself) miss out on the element of community and involvement one gets when affiliated with a Church/Temple/Synagogue/Mosque etc.

I do feel connected and a sense of camaraderie among those I have met that share my views but it certainly is not the same as the experiences I had when involved with church as a preteen. There was absolutely a sense of community and interconectivity. There was a place for me to be with people of like values and be apart of meaningful activities. Every summer I was involved with whatever musical the youth group was putting on. It gave me a sense of purpose when not in school and gave me something constructive to do. We would beach trips and service work to do. I liked feeling apart of something worthwhile and do feel like I am missing that.

The thing is I know in my heart that I am not the only nonbeliever that feels this way. As a humanist (a label I am still deciding if I want) my interest in the betterment of humanity I feel lends itself to wanting to feel a connection to others and the world. I would love to have meetings for an hour or two with like minded people to discuss science, culture, literature and social issues as well as global issues. I do not think theism needs to have anything to do with it.

I guess I do feel a bit left out. And if that is what it means to be able to keep my convictions I am willing to accept that, just not quite yet. I do feel like there is more to be had and am hoping that in my travels this “more” I seek will come about organically as I feel all good things do. Living in College Park has helped with these feelings. There is a strong sense of community thanks to block parties and local events that encourage everyone to get out and get involved. Ultimately I have a lot of life left to live and a lot of people yet to meet.