I was told this blog would be a chance for me to reflect on my VISTA experience. To those who have never been in VISTA, that might seem like a very reasonable expectation. For me, the task is almost incomprehensible. I have been reflecting and reflecting and reflecting since I got here. It turns out that the pool of people who participate in and lead service programs overlaps entirely with the pool of people who value ‘reflecting’. I’m one of those people, though, so here it goes.
For me, VISTA has involved telling a story from a lot of different angles, and the story is radically different depending on where I stand to look at it. For example, if I reflect on my professional development over the past year, it is more than I could ever have expected. I came in to VISTA really unsure if I was qualified or how I would handle the responsibilities that would come my way. My attitude and confidence have completely transformed, and I am incredibly thankful to VISTA for that. Since professional development and confidence in a professional setting were two of the big things I was hoping for through VISTA, consider that a rating of A+ on the VISTA reflection scale.
Another story would involve the frustration and struggles of working with an organization that was under resourced and needed things I couldn’t give it. My VISTA position this year should really have been covered by a staff person, a VISTA, and maybe an intern as well. That isn’t at all unique to SEEED, but experiencing the pressure of a small nonprofit firsthand is a very different thing than just hearing the stories of organizations and workers stretched thin. When I reflect on that aspect of the year, it’s not all rainbows and puppy dogs.
The reflection lens that I have been using most is one a friend taught me based around the question, “Does your life have integrity?” By that, he didn’t just mean some generic buzzword; instead he meant it more literally. Does your life as a whole ‘hang together’, does it makes sense as one story without contradicting itself? A life with integrity can have dead ends and changed paths, but it fits within one set of values. The dead ends represent learning moments rather than failures, and there is continuity between choices in different parts of a person’s life because they are all informed by the same ideals. Throughout VISTA, I have always strived to live with integrity and respond to challenges and triumphs in accordance with my values. I have certainly had some learning moments, but I am proud of the time I have spent at SEEED and as a VISTA. Both the choice to join VISTA and the choices I have made inside it are integrated with the person I strive to be and the values that motivate me. My reflection on the last year is that I have lived and served with integrity.
Thanks to all the folks at the Bonner Center, especially Kristen and Anya, and to my cohort of VISTA fellows. I couldn’t have done it without you.