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“I ain’t ever lived a year better spent in love” (Mumford and Sons)

I can’t believe that I am writing this post and we only have two weeks left at 112.

Where did the time go? I feel like it was just yesterday that I was knocking on the front door- anxious to meet my new roommates. Now we are all going to have to go our separate ways; not for too long though. (Mike is leaving, but Caitlin and Gina are staying in Baltimore)!


What have I learned? The real question should be…..What haven’t I learned? I know that I may have said this a lot in other posts. And it may sound cliché, but I really have changed.This program has given me the opportunity to receive a fresh start in life. That’s something that many are not blessed with the opportunity to have.

So let’s start at the beginning, shall we? I came into P.S.E.R.V.E a complete and total mess. I had no clue what I wanted to do with myself (career-wise, school), I had no money saved, I had just ended a two and a half year relationship, just ended a four year friendship, so basically I was an emotional wreck! I’d like to think that I started the program as an onion. I had wrapped myself in layer upon layer of how I wanted everyone to view me, not realizing that I was about as translucent as an overcooked onion.  Looking back on the “old me”, I can say that I have finally peeled back all those layers. I owe it all to this program- especially to Allison for always picking the most amazing prayers and quotes that warm me and make me feel all tingly inside. I remember during orientation week when we had our first discussion about spiritually during community time. I can’t remember exactly what was discussed, but I do remember feeling like a piece of me was missing because I did not have a strong relationship with God. I remember feeling inspired to deepen that connection because of our discussion.  So I have, and the journey has been amazing! I have learned to exercise grace, show mercy, and love harder. My wisdom and understanding of life has expanded; for that I am grateful.

Living with three complete and total strangers was pretty difficult in the beginning. We were from four different states, had three different majors, and four totally different upbringings. It was hard for me to adjust. I sheltered myself from them for some time. Honestly, in the beginning, there were things that I did not like about my roommates, but now they are the very things that I love about them. It’s funny how life happens that way. I love how we all differ so much. Now I cherish our interactions because I know that I will learn something new every time. My appreciation of our differences has helped me to become more open to people that differ from me. And now I’ve gained three new friends that I can confide in, cry with, laugh with, and use their parent’s home as a hotel when I travel to their hometowns. LOL! I wouldn’t trade Caitlin, Mike, and Gina for the world!

During this program I got to meet some AMAZING (Robin, Monique, Ms. Stephine, Liz, Tia, Tammy, Nicole. Just to name a few) women at My Sister’s Place Women’s Center. Women that have changed my life for the better. Women whose words will be imprinted into my heart. That I can call and bug anytime of the day or night and they will mostly likely answer. LOL! And I cannot forget about all the lovely ladies that attend the Center. I often sit back and reflect on how blessed I am to have been placed at My Sister’s Place.  I came in contact with so many strong, caring, loving, and courageous women. Our interactions have taught me a lesson in patience, kindness, creativity, and boldness. I will cherish all of my memories there. Thanks to all of the experience I gained at the center, I was able to obtain my first “real” job.

The stipend. In this money hungry world, I learned a lesson in contentment. I really had to humble myself this year. There were times where I complained in the beginning, but then I realized that things could be different. When I looked at my financial situation, I was blessed. I was provided a roof over my head (a beautiful four story townhome), a car, an amazing room, all of my bills were paid, and I never missed a meal (I gained WAY too much weight). Once I got over that fact that I didn’t have much spending money, I grew an appreciation for the stipend. I definitely learned how to be resourceful, I learned how to budget, and I began to appreciate the little things. I am way more responsible with managing my finances now, more than ever.

During this year I figured out that I wanted to be a social worker (I finally got my life together). With the encouragement of my roommates, Coordinator, Supervisor and the help of my co-worker; I have been accepted into the University of Maryland, Baltimore School of Social Work. Through all of the training that I received from My Sister’s Place, I was able to land a position with a social service organization. I have been able to network and make so many connections. This past year has been amazing!

So thank you Allison (Project S.E.R.V.E Coordinator) for giving me an opportunity to turn my life around. Thank you Robin for choosing me to work at the most wonderful placement! Thank you Mike, Caitlin, and Gina for putting up with me and my mood swings. LOL! Thank you Catholic Charities for creating this amazing program. Project S.E.R.V.E and the volunteers are so vitally important to each site. What we learn from our supervisors and what they learn from us are lessons that we can take with us forever and build upon. I’m not too sure what my life would be like if I did not complete this program. (Shout out to Beth Awalt for including P.S.E.R.V.E info in the Weinberg volunteer emails). I am so excited to meet the future P.S.E.R.V.E volunteers! I know that they will have the same life changing experiences.

Because of all the love that I have received from everyone around me, I am a better person. I am really going to miss Catholic Charities, My Sister’s Place, P.S.E.R.V.E, Allison, 112 (the house), and living with my roommates. I’m kinda sad that this is my last blog post. However, I realize that change is a great thing and it is always necessary. I'm so excited for what the future holds for my roommates and me. It’s been a great ride!  It was nice chatting with you guys! One fourth of the Fantastic Four is signing off…..

Love,

Riva 

Project SERVE

22 Jul 16 12:00 AM CDT

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Submitted by Karen Balickiat: July 23, 2016

Very moving and well-said, Riva! So great that you've had such a wonderful year!