Monday, June 9, 2014

The Waiting Game Part 3 - An Engagement to Remember

Devon is currently serving in the Southwest Region with AmeriCorps NCCC. She'll graduate this July, and plans to marry her fiance soon after. 

Devon and her fiance before
leaving for NCCC.
When I applied to AmeriCorps NCCC, I told myself not to let it be a big deal; there was probably a good chance I wouldn't get in anyway, and I couldn't put my life on hold for a maybe. That mostly worked until I got the email telling me that I'd been waitlisted. For weeks I checked my email constantly, put my "better job" search on hold, and stubbornly refused to make anything that might resemble long-term plans. My fiance wanted to go ahead and start planning our wedding and I said, over and over, "No way; what if I get into AmeriCorps?"

As time went on (and on... and on...) I slowly phased out of that and sort of convinced myself I wasn't going to be accepted. I started looking for a more stable, well-paying job, and began making wedding plans. I didn't forget about NCCC, but I convinced myself that if I was on a waitlist for months, things probably weren't looking too good for me. Eight weeks out from the wedding, I printed invitations and got ready to run to the post office and send them. "Hold on," I told my guy as he started to walk out the door. "I'm just gonna check my email." Lo and behold, a shiny invitation to join NCCC was waiting right on top of my inbox. I screamed in a really embarrassing way and started bouncing around.

Then I remembered the stack of invitations sitting on my nightstand. "I don't think I'm gonna go," I decided there and then, my heart sinking at the missed opportunity. "We've already spent some money on this thing and we're about to start our lives together, right?" I'm so, so glad that my fiance convinced me otherwise. He pointed out that if I didn't join, I'd probably end up resenting it (and maybe him) later. We could get married any time; when was a life-changing opportunity like this going to arise again? I talked to my mom and other loved ones about it, and the consensus was reached; I began preparing for an adventure.

Over the next couple of months I went crazy reading NCCC blogs, making and remaking packing lists, buying things that would somehow "help me pack light." It was more or less all I talked about. One of my favorite hobbies became talking to other incoming members through the Facebook page. "What are you packing?" I asked, over and over. "What do you want to do in Denver? I read about this really cool park/event/coffee shop/restaurant; do you want to check it out sometime? What made you decide to do this?" This really helped me to make friends before I arrived, and several of these people turned into my best friends once we finally got to campus. The common ground we'd already established made a great foundation, and it was a bonus that we really "clicked" when we met in person.

I put in my two weeks' notice at work, giving myself a little over week to say goodbye to friends and pack. Then, just a few days after I quit, my stomach sank as I read the news about the lapse in federal government funding last October. The exhilarated feeling that had been bouncing around in my chest for days flattened. The excited chatter between my new AmeriCorps friends and me took a different turn: "When do you think we'll get to go? What if they push us to the next class, or a different campus? Can you believe that this would happen RIGHT before we were set to start?" And there was one more, hugely looming question I asked myself: How do I support myself for the next who-knows-how-long?

I was very fortunate: my boss was understanding of the situation and bent over backwards to make sure I didn't sink while I was waiting for news. I was able to work on a day-to-day basis, and it was understood that I probably wouldn't have time to put in much notice before I left. Each time I took a break at work, I checked my phone for any news. I was constantly online digging for any information that might give me a clue as to when I could start the next phase of my life.
When the news finally arrived, I was in a frenzy. I had to see EVERYBODY RIGHT NOW to say goodbye (hopefully for real this time), repack what I had unpacked, find a ride to the airport. It felt almost unreal for me, the way it feels when you're waiting for something really good but just know it's not going to work out. What-ifs played through my head over the next few days; I was almost sure that there would be another government issue that would ruin it for good, or my flight would get cancelled, or... something. I was in denial all the way up until I stepped on the plane... and then, my life changed for the better.

My advice for applicants is just not to give up hope. I was on the waiting list until August; then my start date of October 7 was delayed. But it happened. And now that it's almost over – we’ll graduate on July 29 - I don't want to leave. It's such an amazing program, and I've truly transformed as a person in the best way, being pushed from my comfort zone and seeing and doing things I'd never imagined. I sometimes felt as though the long wait time was a way to "weed out" people who weren't committed to getting there, and it helped prepare me for the ever-changing nature of the program. If it seems as though you've been waiting forever and NCCC isn't in the cards for you, don't take it to heart--you've still got a good chance. Put the job search on hold, postpone the wedding or whatever else. Put your all into this, because it's so, so worth it.


Are you interested in serving with AmeriCorps NCCC? Have questions about the program? Check out www.nationalservice.gov/nccc, or send an email to anccc@cns.gov for more information!
 
Brought to you by AmeriCorps NCCC, a program of the Corporation for National and Community Service.
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