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A Year in Review

St. Peter Canisius

St. Peter Canisius: Pray for us!

As 2013 comes to an end, I feel it is only appropriate to jot down a year in review; a reflection on where I was at the start of the year and where I am now.

Hmm… let me see. A year ago now, I was on break from school. My last break before my final semester of undergrad. I was filled with those giddy feelings of “Wow, I’ve almost made it… I’m almost there.” In the bat of an eyelash I was no longer the naive freshman or the silly sophomore or the overworked junior. The world as I knew it was coming to an end- no more late nights in the library or even later nights at work; no more familiar faces on every section of campus, no more random adventures to the most random of places, and definitely no more games of Mario Kart Wii played at all times of the day, all day long.

Beginning of January found me in New Orleans, LA, and quite possibly the start of this whole adventure. I was on a service trip through school rebuilding homes with St. Bernard’s Project, an organization that aids families who are still displaced post-Katrina due to contractor fraud and various other reasons. There were a handful of us seniors on the trip, all of us contemplating the “what’s next?” When all you’ve done is school (and possibly work, but mainly school) for some 17-odd years, what comes after that? More school? Career moves? Living in a van down by the river? Some were applying to law or med school, but a few of us were really stuck. We found it silly going back to school if not on an intended career path, but jumping straight into the working world just sounded… dreadful.

Tara in New Orleans

The Canisius crew takes on St. Bernard’s Project: NOLA edition

As a Jesuit school based on the value “Men and women for and with others,” we talked seriously about doing a year of post-grad volunteer work. Quite a few graduates before us had gone on to Jesuit Volunteer Corps, Mercy Corps, or Americorps. The setting sounded perfect- not school, but not technically a job either- a perfect in-between state of figuring things out and going on an adventure, all in one. Too good to be true! Then the hard part… which program to apply to, and where to even start? Luckily since our school is so supportive of it, they had a whole book full of programs sorted by the work available and the program placement. I immediately jumped to the non-America section, browsing through countries and categories of volunteer opportunities elsewhere. Nothing really struck my eye; the places looked thrilling and exotic, but the work not quite what I was looking for.

Then I thought, hey…. what about Hawaii or Alaska? Far enough away to be considered “exotic,” and yet still part of the States. Hawaii sounded so warm and wonderful, but still the programs just weren’t clicking. Then… Alaska. KNOM Radio Mission in Nome, Alaska. Nome? That’s a real place? Balto was not just a Disney movie?! Excuse the ignorance, but I had never really done much research on the place until I got here (I suppose you see where this story takes me… but there’s more!)

By this time I was back in Buffalo, in the final semester groove and fighting off bouts of senoritis. In the library as I’m making my discovery, I announce to my friend- “I’m applying for a post-grad service year in Alaska!”

“You what?? Are you crazy..”

“No really! Wouldn’t that be awesome?!”

“That would cold. Real cold.”

A few friends were in disbelief at my proposition, some humored me, some supported me, and others told me I was not going, because what were they going to do for a whole year without me?

A month before the application was due, I skipped out on Phillip Phillips coming to my school to stay in and work on my application. I knew I had time, but something just told me to work on it. Thank goodness, because in proper procrastinator fashion, I found myself on the eve of the due date (Valentine’s Day, I might add), tweaking and fixing answers and recordings that were due by midnight. I felt I had never wanted anything more that this; applying to college wasn’t even this stressful. I poured my heart and soul into that application- who knew how many people were vying for this position? Now all I could do was sit and wait.

Well by sitting, I mean going to class and work and club/internship activities and doing homework and a senior Honor’s thesis and also working on an application to Americorps to work with St. Bernard’s project as a volunteer supervisor (I did need a back-up plan)… and did I mention adventuring? One always needs a good adventure to keep one sane.

When I got the phonecall from our outreach coordinator Laura to tell me they wanted to do a phone interview, I was SO pumped. They must kind of like me- they want to talk to me. AHH!! I was so nervous… 5pm my time was 1pm their time. I locked myself in the club room and read and re-read my notes I had taken about the mission and myself (in case I forgot my name or something important like that). And I don’t know if you’ve had a group phone interview before, but it is ridiculously nerve-wracking. Like, questions from all these voices you can’t see, and they are all about you, probing your very being to see what makes you tick, and on top of that a slight delay because you are, what- 3,500 miles apart? Not really a cake-walk.

When less than a day later Laura calls back to tell me they want to do a face-to-face interview- in Vegas- I almost die. By die, I mean throw myself a big party, and by party, I mean a victory dance in my car as I’m listening to the voicemail she left since I missed her call. They REALLY must like me!!

St. Peter Canisius

St. Peter Canisius: Pray for us!

Friends and family are in disbelief that I’m going to an interview in Vegas for a position in Alaska. It was pretty convenient, as my grandmother and brother were going to Vegas anyway to visit family we have there for Easter, so I ended up tagging along.

Once again a group interview with (almost) the entire staff of KNOM. Once again it could go so many ways, and yet it really couldn’t- I could either get it or I don’t. I could have always fallen onto my backup, but I honestly really didn’t want to. I wanted this. A whole lot.

Dressed to impress at Treasure Island, we shared brunch and casual conversation, which was actually much less scary than the phone interview. I could see their facial expressions, who was saying what, and form an appropriate response without the distance delay. It was captivating and informative- these people live there, work there, they are KNOM. So very magical! And hungering. The downside to having a group interview at a buffet- you are being asked all the questions, and you are giving all the answers, leaving very little time for food intake of your own. Though I left surprisingly hungry, I was excited and relieved when it was over. I did my best, gave it my all, did not pretend to be someone I wasn’t. I just hoped it was enough.

I vividly recall a few days later getting a call from Laura, asking me if I wanted to be a part of KNOM next year. Did I?! YES!!! I was at a friend’s house and you best believe I really did a victory dance there. Is this for real? Am I really going work at KNOM in Alaska for a year? What was I thinking? Am I crazy? Dreams really do come true!!

Fast-forward: classes finish, assignments complete, thesis punctuated and printed and pressed- undergrad comes to an end. Graduation is everything I hope and dreamed, right after senior week filled with retreats and lunches and dinners and dances and activities galore- I never wanted it to end.

Tara's graduation

We did it!!

Thus all things must, which leads into summer. The summer before my departure. The summer where I must do all and see all before I leave for what seems an eternity. And do and see I did. When not working, I visited family and friends, went on adventures and took a few trips. I checked a few off my bucket list while counting down the days until August 29th. The last few days I was flattered by those coming by, still unable to grasp I would not be seeing them for a very long time. My last meal in Buffalo, you ask? Why, wings of course. Crispy, saucy, delectable wings… not ‘buffalo’ wings, just- wings. They stand delicious on their own (when you’re from Buffalo).

Niagara Falls

A proper Buffalo goodbye would not be complete without watching the sunrise over Niagara Falls

Super fast forward: which brings me here. To Nome, Alaska, 3,501 miles away from home, to be exact, working for, in, and at a place that months ago was just an image in my head. It’s amazing, really, where time can take you. The phonecalls and voicemails I have saved from Laura to reassure myself this experience was real are quite comical now, as I sit here on her couch writing this blog post, watching her two dogs while she is away for the holiday.

Anvil Walk

Can you spy Laura’s two pups?

So it seems my year 2013 has been a feat over, under, and through itself, as I worked toward reaching my goal that is my work at KNOM and my life in Nome. What does 2014 hold and where will it take me? I can’t even imagine. All I know is that last year’s pages are packed with adventure, and I don’t expect any less of 2014.

 

2 Responses to “A Year in Review”

  1. Christa Osterbrock

    Wow, Tara! So proud of you and all that you accomplished! Great post!
    Happy New Year!

  2. Wendy

    So PROUD of you goose….. Happy New Year…. Be Safe…..

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