Sunday, May 31, 2009

Chicken, Beer, and the Beach

Cedar Island is still a magical place to me. It is an island where tourists have never ventured to since a) they don't know it exists and b) you need a boat to get there. It is truly a locals beach. Everyone usually knows everyone. On one side of the beach is the creek but just a short walk to the other side and you can play in the waves of the Atlantic Ocean. There are over a million shells to collect and interesting birds to watch. It is magical.

Today I woke up a little too early. I woke up around 3:30am and discovered that I was wide awake. It took me an hour and a half to get back to sleep. So when it was time to wake up for real around 9:30am, I was demanding more sleep. This made me kind of get a late start for church, thus I kind of sped through the rain to get to church on time. Now, there is a slight problem with my car. She doesn't like to stop, for any period of time. On my way back from Ocean City, I stopped at a traffic light. My engine CUT OFF at the traffic light. I kind of started freaking out but then turned the car off, put it in park, turned it back on and put it in drive. That seemed to solve the problem. I can still drive it from place to place but I have to avoid traffic lights for fear of my engine cutting off on Lankford Hwy. Fortunately the Eastern Shore has a wide selection of back roads which get you to your destination without using the highway unless you have to cross it to get to the other side. Fortunately, I'm very familiar with almost all the back roads and could avoid the traffic lights. I made it to church 3 min late, right after the opening prayer. Not to bad for leaving at 10:15 for a 10:30 service.

After church I ventured to McDonalds to...no...not eat lunch but rather to use their bathroom to change into my bathing suit. After that sketchy adventure I drove to Folly Creek where the Reese's would launch their boat and I'd get a ride to Cedar Island. Well, I was very very early. So early that I had time to put sunscreen over my whole body, organize my car, read a chapter from one of my textbooks and eat a small breakfast. I did this tailgate style.

When the Reese's arrived I hopped on the boat just like family because, well, I am just like family. I mentioned this in my previous post but I really cherish being a part of so many Eastern Shore families even though I am what is considered a "come here."

The ride to Cedar Island never disappoints. The beautiful marshes and docks along the way make you wish you could just sit in your boat and paint the landscape to cherish forever. As we approached the island I saw there was the usual small amount of people on shore. That is because you have to know where the island is. Then you pretty much have to know people on the island. The island isn't inhabited by people but when your boat brushes up onto the sand and you look for a place to lower your anchor, you better count on everyone staring at you to make sure they know you. Well, the Reese's are kind of famous in the area so its kind of like rolling up to the island with the Queen of England.

We set up camp with beach chairs and the very important cooler. As we relaxed with the Byrds (Beth's parents), we enjoyed the beautiful view God gave us. Then comes my favorite part. I always identify with being from New Jersey. I have Jersey girl pride. Yet one thing I love about the Eastern Shore is that a trip to Cedar Island with the Reese's is not complete without greasy, delicious fried chicken, potato wedges and an ice cold beer. Nothing, and I mean nothing, is better than eating friend chicken and drinking beer on the beach on a lazy summer day. Clay and I went to collect shells and I, being the water lover I am, couldn't resist being on land for too long. I jumped into the ocean and played in the waves. The water was a lot more bearable than the water at Ocean City during beach week. I was grateful for that.

We spent a good four or five hours at the beach before heading home. As the evening breeze traveled through the shoreline, we packed up our gear, boarded the boat and Mr. Reese drove us back to civilization. The ride was perfect. Those boat rides to and from Cedar Island really make me appreciate the beauty of the Eastern Shore.

It is a get away completely cut off from civilization. Everyone gossips and sips on beer in their beer huggies. Children play or go tubing behind boats. Old men fish or talk about fishing. It is a laid back family atmosphere. Speaking of family, I was talking to a group of Cedar Island regulars when a man asked me who my parents were. I was highly amused at this question because I knew he wouldn't know my parents. I told him their names and he just shook his head and kind of lost interest in talking to me. While yes, that was a typical "come here" moment, I never once felt like a tourist or outsider. I was a member of the Byrd family. I was a member of the Reese family. I was a member of the Moore family. No explanations necessary.

Now I'm about two shades darker, not sun burnt at all (MIRACLE OF MIRACLES!) and really exhausted. Tomorrow I plan on washing off my shells, job hunting, and hoping Shucker's calls me about the waitress position. Shucker's is a family kind of place and I hope they realize that I've grown up on the Eastern Shore since 7th grade. I'm not some sketchy city girl and I know the value of hard work. They need to know that. I've been working legally since I was 14 and illegally since I was about 12. I haven't been unemployed since before I was legally allowed to work. I just finished working four jobs at College at the same time...so this unemployment thing is new to me. Also, it isn't nice at all. Money is so tight and I need to secure $52 for my Greyhound ticket for my RMC interview PLUS get a crap ton of parts for my car so my dad can try to fix it. I can't avoid traffic lights forever.

Today I found myself reflecting on an event that happened two summers ago. It was May, and the editor of the Eastern Shore News literally drove to my house, after stalking me (in a not creepy way) to ask me to freelance for them. $50 a story. My talents were sought out. The editor took time out of his day to drive to my middle of nowhere town and ask for me to work for him. To ask. Me. To work. For him. This pains me today. Why? Well, because they are not hiring any summer freelancers due to the economy. Why? Well, because they wanted to hire me straight out of college but I had other plans at the time. I actually asked them to be a reference for me as I applied to a giant newspaper in Florida. It was a fellowship training program but it was a big city newspaper not a home country bi-weekly piece of press. I think I may have betrayed them that day. I proved I had no interest staying on the Eastern Shore. They had big plans for me but they never fell through. Last summer they wanted me to work on a tourism beat for the paper. I decided to be an RA instead but they retracted their offer before I could decline the position. I think they feel like I'm a sell out. Now, no one is seeking my talents. I'm trying to work as a waitress. This depresses me. I have to keep reminding myself that there is a much bigger picture at hand (RMC). Yet, being here on the Shore makes me value the Shore. No, I do not want to spend the rest of my life in this area. Yet, it doesn't seem like such a horrible place right now. I know that journalism is not my immediate calling but I am finding that I am really starting to miss it. That could be why I find the need to blog everyday. Now, this writing is nowhere near my best, but it is nice to get some thoughts out once and awhile.

Ok, well I don't want to end on an unhappy note. That whole scenario has been kind of weighing on my mind throughout the day. The Eastern Shore has a horrible knack for bringing out some of my best and worst memories.

Let's see...something happy....oh...my neighbor is planning on taking my parents flounder fishing later in the week. I kind of invited myself to go along but they said they could take me. I'm super psyched. We're going out towards cedar island and I love fishing. No one really knows that about me but I find fishing to be one of the most fun sports of all time. :-) Maybe I'll catch a big juicy flounder...doubtful...but maybe.

So I guess I'll see what tomorrow brings. I don't want to rely on the possibility that Shucker's may actually call me. That whole gig seems too good to be true. Tomorrow I'll have to go store to store asking for applications with the hopes some one will hire me. Please. Just for three months. I have bills to pay. Well, at least I got to spend today doing nothing but taking in the sun, sticking my feet in the sand, eating friend chicken and drinking ice cold beer with good company.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Eastern Shore of Virginia and why it is awesome

The Eastern Shore of Virginia is one of those places where people grow up together. Our middle school and high school teachers taught our parents, friends crawled on private beaches and fished on backyard docks together. Everyone knows everyone. The names Kellam, Boggs, Custis, Taylor, and Chandler are familiar Eastern Shore names. They have been passed down for generations. If you travel on the Eastern Shore or, commonly known as "ESVA" you'll find Purdue and Tyson chicken factories, all the ham, cigarettes, peanuts and fireworks you could ever want, 50 seafood restaurants, 500 farms and a few ponies here and there.

While this is not the most ideal place for a recent college graduate to be, it does become the most beautiful place in the world when old friends come into town. I went to middle school at Mary N. Smith middle school. It is located next to Purdue chicken factory. The smell was awesome in the summer. haha. not. Anyway, I moved from Cape May, New Jersey to Onancock, Virginia the summer before 7th grade.

It wasn't until Nandua High School until it truly found my niche. I was never a major outcast at MNS although some of my classmates nicknamed me Jan Brady because of my long hair. High school was different. I became incredibly involved. I served as the freshman class secretary. I tried to get involved in theatre early. In sophomore year I was elected president of my class. I was cast as an extra in the theatre festival play. I earned a spot on the forensics team (public speaking). By junior year, I was really doing things. I was VP of the PTSA, president of my class again, in the Beta Club, thinking of starting a school newspaper, pretty well known, in charge of the sign out front of the school, and a favorite among my teacher and principal. Senior year I literally ruled the school, along with some fellow classmates of mine. I was elected class president for the third year in a row, (I think I freestyled this speech on the intercom), I was president of the FBLA, VP of the PTSA again, played God in the school play, was chosen as Homecoming Queen and yes, Prom Queen and I got into William and Mary that year. I was 14th in my class, and got to deliver a speech at graduation since I was president.

All that was great. But what really mattered was the friendships I made in high school. I was friends with a lot of different people. My close circle of friends were Heather, Beth and Clay. We did everything together. We would go to movies, the carnival in the summer, the mall, and just hang out at each other's houses. As we went to different college and represented ODU, VCU, UVA, and W&M, we made new friends and started new adventures. We still try to get together when we can.

The funny thing is, I really feel a part of each of their families. Heather and I would party together and crash at her house. Clay and I spent almost every waking minute together. Since his last name was Reese and mine, Rodabaugh...were were usually assigned seats right in front of each other. We were always getting in trouble for talking to each other. Beth and I became friends and I dealt with her drama while she patiently listened to my own. I can walk into Beth's house without knocking on the door. I know I'm always welcome to Heather's or Clay's house whenever I please. I've had many a meal at their houses.

Tonight was awesome. I'm graduated, nostalgic, worried about the future, but I got to spend time with some of the old crew. I met them at Shucker's Roadhouse, the "premier nightclub of the Eastern Shore." Actually, its like the only nightclub after the Chicken Shack and the Dew Drop were closed because of too many shootings. Anyway, I arrived at the roadhouse/nightclub and couldn't find them anywhere. It was Beth's step dad's birthday party/dinner. Beth came to the front of the club and took me to the back area where a table sat in the middle of an empty room. They had the whole stage and dance floor area to themselves. I was greeted in a most homecoming fashion. I gave hugs to Clay's parents and Beth's parents and then to Clay, Beth and Clay's brother respectively. I took my place at the end of the table and enjoyed good, welcoming, Eastern Shore company.

I ordered a beer since Bud Light draft was on sale for the evening. I had $4 in my pocket for the occasion. Clay's mother told me that it would go on her tab. Then the whole other end of the table started whispering and told the waitress something. Sure enough she returned with a huge tankard of Bud Light. I was so amused. I buried my head in my hands in laughter. I knew I could take this tankard on...but I was still highly amused by it. I thanked the table, took a few pictures for laughs and enjoyed the evening.

The parents left me and Clay and Beth to ourselves to enjoy the bar atmosphere. Outside the bar is a sand dance floor, a pool, and a volleyball net complete with a tiki bar and all the Jimmy Buffet, Lynard Synard and Kid Rock you could ever want to hear. We hung out at Shucker's for a bit. Then our waitress from dinner popped by to say hello. "What are you kids up to?" She asked. We told her we were enjoying adulthood and drinking since we all just graduated college. Then I told her I was trying to be a bagger at Food Lion. She told me that a waitress had quit earlier that evening and that they were in desperate need of a new waitress. I told her I was in desperate need of a job. Before you know it I had left my name and number for her boss with the hopes that I'll be contacted. I wouldn't mind being a waitress at Shucker's. It would be good money and it is a really nice place to work. So maybe there is a new job in my horizon!

A little while later we decided to leave the wonderful Shucker's to pursue new adventures. We drove into my old town and visited the "Bur." It is another bar but due to some sort of town restriction it is called the "Bur." They have a sign where it is a cursive B U and R but the U is almost and A. So it pretty much says Bar. A band was playing some rock music from our day so we enjoyed the entertainment. Then we all went back home.

Tomorrow we're planning on going out on the boats and heading to Cedar Island. It is this magical place where one side is the creek and the other side is the ocean. I love it. Basically it is the place where we sit in beach chairs, drink beer and eat fried chicken. It IS the Eastern Shore.

Even though I'm a "come here," joining the crew in 7th grade/9th grade, I'm still a member of their families. They all grew up together and their parents know each others' parents. They all hang out like blood brothers. I'm an addition, but a welcomed one. I love their families just as I love my own. Sadly this weekend will come to an end and I'll be left to busy myself with whatever I can find to do. I recently started re-reading my old sociology textbooks because well...I didn't really read them in college. They are fascinating. Hopefully I'll get that Shucker's job. We'll see.

I love the Eastern Shore of Virginia. It is hick ville at its best, but it is home. I won't stay here but I will always venture back to the sound of Jimmy Buffet and the cool peninsula breeze passing by.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Transitions, Transitions

I want to go to College for the rest of my life.

Kind of.

I've been home for two days and I'm already itching for a break. I've spent 17 years in a fast paced academic world. I've always participated in too many activities, clubs and things so I wouldn't have a spare moment. Now its like my whole world is in slow motion. Everything is moving so slowly and I can see every detail of everything. While this is nice....I'm not getting anywhere. I'm moving in slow motion too.

This don't exactly make sense. I'm having a hard time transitioning to the home front again. I haven't really lived at home in four years. Sure I came home on breaks but that doesn't count. One of the fundamental differences of breaks and now is that my friends were home around the same time. This weekend my close friends from high school will be in town, so that will be fun. However when they leave it is back to same old same old. I really hope I get a job soon. Haven't heard from the data entry people or Food Lion. I have to admit, I'm way to qualified for Food Lion, they will never hire me. I could be an activities assistant at a nursing home, but that is a job where people get attached. I wouldn't want to quit after two months because that would seem like a cop out.

I'm not used to the rules and being forced to wake up early.

That is kind of all I got. My day consisted of waking up early, doing some unpacking and cleaning, getting in a few fights with my mom, popping an anti-anxiety pill on an empty stomach, regretting that once it made me sick, napping for two hours, making my room presentable, eating a delicious dinner, watching a movie and uploading a 105 picture facebook album. I also e-mailed some important people.

Tomorrow I hope to chill with the old gang. I'm sure more interesting things will come from those encounters.

Till next time.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Today in Short (including details about my phone conference)

This morning I awoke to the sound of a very loud vacuum cleaner outside my bedroom door. At first I thought I was still at Beach Week and Colleen was cleaning or something. Then I realized I was still in my own room. I thought "I wonder if this is my parents' way of trying to get me out of bed." I rolled over, placed the pillow on top of my head and tried to concentrate on some more sleep. After all, it was only 10am...that was really early for me. (I'm still on beach time).

10 min later my door bursts open. My mother stands in an angry rage "GET UP MARY ANNA!" She screams. Next thing I know the wretched vacuum cleaner is placed in my room, turned on and the door shut. Now I'm trying to rest with a really loud vacuum blaring 10 feet away in my closed room. I get up, consider beating the shit out of the household device, then decide against it. I turn it off, throw it out my bedroom door and am greeted with smiles and "Oh, look! She's awake!" by my parents. Curse them. Well, not really.

That my friends, is how my day started. I was up late last night applying for jobs with food lion, some data entry job company and considering craigslist jobs (that seem legit). I think I'm going to make an excellent bagger if they hire me. Mmmmm lessons on humility.

So I got up, got a shower, stumbled through the boxes of yet to be unpacked MA things and eagerly awaited 1:30pm. At 1:30pm, Eileen, the director from Redeemer Ministry Corps was going to call me to discuss "my interests and the interview process." I was both nervous and excited. 1:30 took forever to arrive. First I unpacked most of the boxes and now my room looks like a war zone. It kind of feels like one too. Then I freaked out because I thought I lost my favorite Leafe Mug...the gold Triathlon one....but found it in my shot glass box. Whew! That was close.

At 1:30pm I had eaten a pot of Ramen, 5 pretzel sticks (the little kind), one banana and had a Green Leafe Mug of ice water for luck. The phone rang as I perched attentively on my bed, legal pad in hand. Eileen and I talked for about an hour. This discussion ranged from why I wanted to be a volunteer for RMC, why I chose the placement sites I wrote down in my application, what I wanted to get out of the experience, an explanation of community, a talk about how I can still use journalism in my placement site, questions on what I'll do with my life if RMC rejects me, then she offered me an interview.

Here is what I know from all of that:
1) She really likes me. She thinks my answers have great depth to them and I'm not shallow about wanting to volunteer for a year. In other words, its not a recession cop out. If you read my last post, you would know that I'm very serious about this year of service and a lot of depth and meaning are the driving force behind it. She can tell I'm serious. Also, you could probably tell from the sound of my voice that I'm super excited about this.

2) She asked me my plans for if RMC doesn't work out...then promptly said she hopes those plans don't work out (rejection plans that is). That is a good sign.

3) I told her that I have no pending applications with any other service corps. She seemed really pleased about this even though I'm sure I came off desperate and creepy.

4) I HAVE AN INTERVIEW SCHEDULED FOR JUNE 29TH-JULY 1ST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Which is really a series of interviews.

I have no idea where I stand. I think she has more interviews this month and in early June. I don't know my chances, I don't know what I'm up against. Frankly, I'm just going to trust and hope things work out.

So, hope I get a job on the shore. (COME ON FOOD LION!) AND hope the interviews go well. I have to meet with the director, a panel, a psychologist and the supervisors at the placement sites. Its going to be intense.

Also I found the perfect greyhound deal. We'll see if it work with their schedule. If my option works for them, we're talking round trip to Philly and back for $52. Yes $52. I came up with three possible options because I do not want to inconvenience RMC by any means. We'll see which one they pick.

Now I'm going to go back into my war zone of a room and try to make sense of the trash/papers/boxes and shoes which scatter the floor. I'm super excited as to what the future holds! Continue to follow me, admit it, it is kind of entertaining!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Calling

First let me preface this post by saying there is a lot of religion in it. It is deep, spiritual, and will not make sense to everyone. My interpretations of the events which transpired may be different to your interpretations due to your own faith system/preference. You can doubt me, admire me or question me but do not criticize me. I'm proud of my faith but I don't push it on other people and I don't go out and try to turn everyone into Christians OK. Disclaimer done.

When I was a little girl I wanted to be a ballerina. I was attracted to the pink Tu Tu but I never took lessons. Then I wanted to be a firefighter, because I loved the red fire trucks. However, I'm terrified of fire. So I set on the path to become a veterinarian. I knew it would take a lot of schooling but I was always considered one of the "smart kids" in my school so I figured I had what it took. This career choice stayed with me for a good four years. But I'm allergic to half the animal kingdom so this was a no go. Then I wanted to be an actress but my parents told me to put my feet back on the ground and consider something more realistic. Honestly I wish my career choice would stay as consistent as my favorite color. As soon as I could talk I declared my favorite color was Orange and it still is today. Why couldn't my career choice be like that?

When I took career tests and things, (I even went to a career camp at one point) they told me I could be a farmer, archaeologist, social worker, actress, radio DJ, engineer, and a writer. Ok. That is a lot of options. I really enjoyed writing. At a young age I wrote my first chapter book. It was about a unicorn on another planet and each page was a new chapter. I never finished it. This is one of my biggest flaws. I never finish anything. ANYTHING. I have started my autobiography about a million times and failed to finish anything worth reading. I have half empty notebooks filled with poetry, short stories with no endings and life plans.

Anyway, so career stuff. When I entered William and Mary I was dead set on being an English and Theatre double major. My advisor was really against this, suggesting I major in one subject and minor in another so I could take lots of honors classes and try to be inducted into the PBK honor society. No thanks, I had enough honor in high school. I just wanted to have fun, get decent grades and graduate with two B.A.s I was having a love affair with journalism at the time. William and Mary's very own "Flat Hat" became my arch enemy. I decided I wanted to write for them as an uncorrupted freshman. I covered my first story and they didn't even print it. Nor did they tell me what I did wrong. They just ignored my existence. When this happened for a second time, I quit. Bump them, I thought. I realized that British Literature was not going to prepare me for a career in journalism so I switched to Sociology. Much more applicable, the study of society from theories to actual research papers, I found this field to be my home.

So I held fast to the journalism dream. Until senior year when things well, changed. I started investigating law enforcement careers and soon found myself dreaming up a police officer rises to the FBI career plan. But the recession temporarily nipped that in the butt.

In the fall of my senior year I attended a retreat called the REACH retreat. Some people like to call this retreat 'hazing for Catholics.' Um, thats a myth, kids. When the REACH retreat was introduced to the W&M Catholic Community by Fr. Mike Joley, I was requested to be a team leader on this super awesome life changing experience. I obliged but I was fighting a lot of demons at the time. Things were falling apart like a taped up china plate between me and an influential guy in my life. School was kicking my ass all over the place and for some odd reason I thought that dedicating my life and soul and spare time (of which I had none of) to this retreat would be a good idea. No. Actually I had my first nervous breakdown. I quit the team, faced resistance and sort of stepped back away from the church for a bit. I went, but my heart didn't. I wasn't mad at anyone in particular I just was trying to recover from the things falling apart at the time.

Anyway fast forward back to the fall of Senior year. I finally agreed to go on this infamous (in my eyes) retreat. I was excited but nervous about it. During the first oh say hour or two I just thought (why the hell didn't I be a team leader). See, I'm the kind of person who can't watch a parade without wishing I was in it. Its bizarre and called "only child syndrome." Symptoms include the need to be in the spotlight at all times, constant attention, constant affection oh yes, and constant reassurance you're doing the right thing. So, I went on the retreat and kicked myself for not giving up everything to be a team leader.

But this retreat made me think. First of all it made me evaluate my own behavior over the past 21 years. A lot of my partying was kind of....out of hand. I had managed not to get killed or severely hurt or severely ill in my party career, but there are some things that I've done which I regret. Funny thing is, this retreat barely talked about such behavior. The next thing I realized was that half my sorority was on this retreat (ok like 5 of my sisters) and they needed me. I needed them too. Then I started contemplating about the career front. There is an old Bible passage about a king and three servants. The king gives each one a talent. One servant goes out and multiplies his talents a lot. The other servant goes out and multiplies his talents a little. The third servant is scared shitless and buries his talent. I didn't want to bury my talents. So I began to investigate them. I'm funny, I make people smile, I care about people, I put myself out there to help people. Then I thought about all the difficult situations that I've had to overcome in my life with other people. Friends attempting suicide, friends getting raped, friends dealing with the loss of a loved one, friends with unexpected pregnancies....the list goes on. I'm comforted/consoled/counseled and hopefully helped even if it was just for a minute many people. This isn't me bragging but reflecting on my talents. Numerous people have told me that I should be a counselor, I would make a great counselor...etc. I've denied that because I didn't want my whole life to be listening to the problems of others. However, I really thrive on that.

So then I realized that being a cop only to be an FBI agent only to have a badass job was kind of selfish. Sure I'd be helping people, but not in the way God intended. A lot of other things happened on this retreat including my third encounter with the feeling of the physical presence of God, unexplained crying fits which were not unpleasant but surely exhausting, friendships and bonds I never thought I'd make and more life changing epiphanies. My favorite was when I was driving back to Williamsburg to catch Mass with a few of my retreat friends. This mass was the final part of the retreat. I was on a "Jesus high" so to speak and wanted to listen to some Christian music. As I flipped through the stations I found a love song. "Sweet I found Jesus music!" I proudly announced to the whole car. One of the girls in the back said "Um, MA, this is just a country love song..." It was the first time in my life that I heard a secular love song and the first love that came to mind was God's love not the love of a guy or the love of my future husband or the love of just anyone. I surprised myself.

I continued through senior year with a tiny flame of hope and love from this retreat burning inside my heart. It blew out several times but like magic it continued to light up again. By Easter, things got really interesting. I had already applied for about 15 journalism jobs. I was dead set on being the single woman at the bar in a big city with my martini. I'd rock my power suit have a few great girlfriends. I would have several serious lovers (none of which at the same time). I'd stress about deadlines but my life would be oh-so-fab! Yeah...forget about burying talents.

Well I couldn't forget about burying talents. Holy Thursday, the first day of the Easter Triduum for Catholics, marked a special day for me. At this point of my senior career, I was an assistant stage manager for a main stage play to finish my theatre degree. This involved me to be in the theatre from 5:30pm until about 11pm every night. Sometimes I could come in at 6:30pm. In any case I was hating life at the time. My senior year was rapidly coming to a close and I was spending it not with my friends but invisible behind the curtains of the stage...sipping rum and coke out of a coffee mug for solace.

Anyway, so I was granted permission to be late to rehearsal for Holy Week which was nice. Holy Thursday mass ends with Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament until 12am. After the service, I did not want to leave the church but I had to go to rehearsal. Luckily, rehearsal let out early and I raced back to the church to spend some time with Jesus. I needed him. Well, I had a conversation with God that day. I wasn't to happy with him and sort of lashed out at him in my head. But God is kind of patient with people like me. So after I had this crazy rant in my head I sat and waited. Silence...a cough from someone behind me...then, God started talking.

In my rant I asked "why can't I be with a guy that I want?" All the guys I had liked throughout college had been really decent guys...I just couldn't understand why God wanted me to be unhappy and single. I had been single forever (4 years) and I had been tortured by the blatant public displays of affection and happiness by all my roommates and friends and their significant others. All four years my roommates had boyfriends. I always felt so lonely around most of them. The second part of my rant was "what the hell am I supposed to do with my life?" I always wanted to be the girl with the plan. I swore, in sophomore year of college, that when I graduated I would have a job and a plan. When people asked that dreaded questions "so what are your plans after graduation?" I could smile and answer honestly. "I'm doing XYZ." Well I let God have it. I just bitched out the Almighty. This was all in my head, thoughts....please don't think I stood cursing at the heavens in a church out loud. No...in my head.

I guess God was smiling. I heard "Mary Anna, lets look at the gentlemen you've been interested in the past, shall we? I want you to examine each situation and think about them for a minute then get back to me." So I did. After about a half hours worth of reflection I realized that some very impacting incidents and situations in the lives of those young men have occurred. Throughout my four years at William and Mary it was more than "hes just not that into you." Huge things have prevented me from being with said guys. Divine intervention maybe? I'm not sure. Then I took that thought pattern and ventured into my next question. I can't take a man with me where ever I am going to end up after college. While this sounds really weird, it actually makes perfect sense. I'm supposed to go somewhere kind of far. When I go there, I'll meet someone there. I can't take a W&M man with me because the distance won't work. So I figured out 3/4 of the equation. Then I sat, prayed, meditated and thought some more. God wanted me to use my talents. My talent for counseling. I needed to look into volunteer opportunities with Catholic organizations. I was supposed to do some kind of social work after graduating. Yet develop me faith in a community setting. I finally had some direction.

So the next night at rehearsal when I was supposed to be taking line notes I googled Catholic Volunteer Services. I found a ton. I narrowed down the results by perks which would help me out the best. a) the Americorps award a $4,700 award granted to volunteers after one year of service to pay off student loans or future tuition (aka grad school stuff). b) room and board (because you volunteer...that means no steady salary.....and I didn't have enough money to get started somewhere anyway. c) Loan deferment - one year of deferring the loans d) Catholic community - I'm not that picky, I could live with anyone, but I'd prefer to live in my own faith community for the strongest faith building experience and e) on the East Coast.

Immediately I found Catholic Volunteer Service Corps, an organization located in New York. But not New York City...like the New York bordering Lake Eerie/Canada. The program would require me to work with troubled youth or elderly. I'd get all the benefits listed above. I'd have to really challenge myself by cell phone fasting for a month or two and using my stipend for community living expenses (no free meals...). I liked the challenge but it also scared me. I wouldn't see my family for a whole year. My mother told me I'd have to sell the car to pay off some of my bills. But the director from the program called me personally two days after I submitted my inquiry form. She told me all about the program and offered to get me in touch with current volunteers. This was it. This was my calling.

Or so I thought. I was really starting to feel like one of the Disciples...."sell all your belongings, pick up your sandals and follow Me." Sell all my belongings....yeah....it was starting to look that way and I wasn't happy about it.

I consulted one of my friends about my situation. He was one of the guys I met before the retreat but really got to know a bit after the fact. He suggested what was already on my mind. Go find other programs like this one but closer to home and more feasible. Another reason why I had to stay close to home was because I just invested in a $300 muzzleloader rifle so I could go hunting white tail deer with my dad in the fall. Even if I could just come down for a weekend or two, it would mean the world to him. After all, he gave me half his camo supplies. :-)

So I started researching programs again...trying really hard not to stalk journalismjobs.com which was a routine now ingrained in my brain. I still loved journalism, I knew it was a selfish profession at the moment. First off, I would be so busy I probably wouldn't have a lot of time to spare for God. I might even have to miss Mass because of deadlines. Secondly, in order to work my way up the corporate food chain I'd have to kiss ass and exploit people, skewing stories for public appeal...aka telling lies. I could be that woman at the bar with her martini and powersuit but I'd be awfully lonely.

I found a few promising programs, including one with Fransician Friars in DC. This was perfect. It was pretty local, I could bring my car, the work was what I was interested in and it seemed like a very do or die situation. So I submitted an initial inquiry form. A few days later I hadn't heard back. So I submitted another one. Nothing. So I e-mailed the director. Nothing. Two weeks after all of this I called the main office. I was forwarded to the same guy I e-mailed and now I felt like a stalker. Hmmm. I got his voicemail and left a message which got higher in pitch by the end of the message. Crap.

After this phone call I felt so defeated. I had been listening to Third Day's "Revelation" over and over again. The lyrics go Give me a revelation, show me what to do, I've been trying to find my way, I haven't got a clue, Tell me should I stay here, or do I need to move, give me a revelation, I've got nothing without You. And this is exactly how I felt. I was parked outside the post office at the University Center. I apparently had a package so I thought now is a good time to get it. I figured it was something from my parents because they are the only people that send me stuff. My mom denied sending me anything, but I still thought it could be her. The package turned out to be a golden envelope postmarked Huntingdon Valley, PA. It was from Redeemer Ministry Corps...another service corp that I had applied to, almost on a whim. I found out that Philly wasn't too far from where I lived and that I could apply to programs there. I didn't think I'd hear back from them even though they e-mailed me about sending me the application materials.

I opened the package and it contained a two page personalized letter explaining everything I needed to know about RMC. A package of volunteer opportunities with ones highlighted with a highlighter that they thought I would be interested in. They also included their creed, health care system packet, volunteer testimonies, newsletter and all in a green folder decorated with a Redeemer Ministry Corps paper on front. I was blown away. Talk about a revelation.

I told my parents about it and was surprised when they responded with support and reason. They weren't too keen on me spending a year working for nothing when I had loans and bills to pay. I told my friends and I felt certain that this was God's plan for me. I'd take a year off, work volunteering, then decide if I wanted to pursue journalism still or social work. Then figure out if grad school or the real world was the next step. After all, I'd finally have experience. Everyone has been very happy for me. I have to keep saying "my application is pending" instead of "so I'm going to work in Philly this year." As more challenges arise, more solutions appear as well. I had no idea how I was going to get up to Philly to work, interview or get back to the Shore to visit. It was my father who suggested looking into Greyhound prices. Apparently a Greyhound bus stops in the town next to mine and goes straight up to Philly. So that problem is solved.

There is still a great deal of uncertainty. A lot of which I was forced to reconcile with during my beloved Beach Week in Ocean City, Maryland with my close friends. I am going to come out of this experience broke. I have no clue what is going to happen afterwards. I even got a little mad at God for taking away my dreams of being rich and famous and replacing them with a more humble look on life. I always wanted to be famous. That isn't going to happen. I've had financial difficulties a lot recently and I'd like to not have to worry about money. That isn't going to happen. But God has plans for me. A wise campus minister once shared a short story about a little girl. There was this girl with her Dad and she needed to go to the barn but it was dark out. Her dad gave her a lantern and told her to go to the end of the light. So she did and stopped. Her dad told her to hold the lantern out and go to the end of the light again. She kept doing this and she eventually reached the barn door. That is what I need to do. Go to the end of the light and wait for further instructions. God has provided so far so what makes me think he'll stop providing? I'm learning to trust. I'm learning to rely on faith. I hope this experience will provide me with the tools necessary to trust even more.

There is always the possibility that I am not a good fit for their organization. Or, if I do not get a job or two this summer to put a dent in the credit card debt, I won't be able to volunteer. In that case I'm kicking myself for ignoring the Friars who called several days after I left my high pitched message. I'm supposed to be in Philly, I feel it. I just hope that everything works out so I can get there.

The Blank Slate

I graduated from the College of William and Mary on May 17th, 2009. It rained that day. It rained during freshman move-in in 05 too. If you were to ask me what I remember most about that day, it would be hard to answer that question. It was a blur of rain, droopy mortarboards, speeches, last chance pictures with friends, diplomas, ceremonies, proud parents and accomplishment.

I've been in school for the past 17 years of my life. From Kindergarten up until graduating from college it has been nothing but papers, exams, life lessons, deadlines, classes, and textbooks. What did these 17 years of education prepare me for? Life. Apparently. Kindergarten prepared me for grade school, grade school prepared me for middle school, middle school prepared me for high school, high school prepared me for college, college prepared me for the real world. You have no idea how much I was I was saying college prepared me for graduate school... 19.7% of college graduates in the class of 2009 have jobs right out of college today. 19.7% in America. I'm in that huge percentage of unemployed and scared graduates. While you are in college, your professors prepare you to change the world. Your graduation cards congratulate you telling you that the world is your oyster. Go out and do big things! You can be anything you want to be in life you just have to dream big and work hard.

Right. Today, I feel like I have this big blank slate. Its a whiteboard...full of possibilities. I can do anything I want with this whiteboard. However, there are some limitations. I can only write with a partially dried out purple Sharpe between the hours of 3pm and 6pm during spring. Oh yeah, and I can only write in Sanskrit. That is the limitations the recession is placing upon today's young and eager graduates. The only work available is government work where you have to be really smart and in some fields, super fit to get the job. Also, you can not be shady, ever, not in your silly high school past or recent college experiences.

So my blank slate has limitations. I suppose my life does as well. I can't afford graduate school. I didn't apply early enough. I could have become a police officer, however I wouldn't have past the fitness requirements because I was born with loose ligaments in the shoulders and they dislocate at a whim. Newspapers are bailing out left and right and no one wants to hire a young inexperienced bright eyed journalist baby. They want adults on their playground. I can't do anything with business because that is not in my realm of education...also...I'm horrible at math. Hello Sanskrit.

I'm putting all my eggs into one basket. The hope and dream that I'll be able to do volunteer service for a year in Philadelphia. This is not the cop out it may seem to be. I won't get super religious in this post but I will admit it in type: I'm called to service for a year. Whatever that means to you. Its fine...I'm the only person who really needs to know what it means. Basically I'm trying to find any possible job I can on the Eastern Shore of Chicken Factories Virginia. This job will allow me to put a small dent in my massive credit card debt from being a Pell Grant student with $500 a semester in textbooks. I might even have to sell my car to help pay bills. My car has been giving me a lot of trouble lately anyway. This volunteer position would allow me to have free room and board, free health insurance (with a small co-pay), $4,700 some odd dollars after a year of service to pay off student loans, loan deferment for a year, spiritual growth and social work/practical sociological experience in Philadelphia, PA and surrounding areas. Oh yeah and a $100 stipend which due to toiletries/etc can't be used to pay massive credit card debt.

It is an incredible opportunity which will give me time to figure out if I want to pursue sociology in a professional school environment, out in the world, or shimmy back to my original passion-journalism. Law enforcement can rest on the back burner as well. It would be a year of experimentation. Ideally I'd like to do some international volunteering as well but I might just be eligible for one year domestic service and then I need to find a real job. The downside is when I emerge from this life changing experience I will be completely and utterly broke and potentially car-less. Which means I'll be living with my parents and hoping McDonald's is hiring while I search for fellowships or newspapers jobs.

The future is incredibly complicated. I'm scared about it. Scared more than excited.