Training in the mountains

We did our second day of training up in the mountains at Tammy’s envy-making home in the woods – great deckspace, views to die for, lush landscaping, friendly dogs and amazing decor/furnishings. Everything I want to have for myself someday (I’m taking notes!). Anyway, more teambuilding stuff, a lecture on how to deal with the stress and burn-out we’ll face dealing with tough issues like poverty, abuse, illiteracy, racism and other stuff in the coming year, and some interesting work on prejudice and stereotypes.

We also did lifemaps – big market drawings of the “map” of our lives representing our journey from childhood to the present. It was fun on the surface, but hard for me underneath it all, as my childhood was basically a sodden ashtray of snuffed out hopes due to abuse, poverty and basic familial instability. I shared some dark bits that are very hard for me to acknowledge, but important for me to face and deal with in the coming year, as I will be coming full circle around to these issues by seeing the pattern repeating in the families and children I’ll be working with. As an example, one of my big issues with kids is the noise, because when I was growing up such loudness and rambunctiousness was literally dangerous. Living in a home with an abuser, you learn quickly that safety lies in keeping a low and quiet profile, doing nothing to draw attention or notice to yourself. So a room full of screaming, running children almost immediately puts me into full-on “Danger, Will Robinson, danger!” panic mode. That’s something I need to acknowledge and face if I’m going to get through this year with my sanity intact, so even though I’m not thrilled at sharing my unhappy youth with near-strangers, I also realize that having a support group who understands and can help me will be a big factor in doing this successfully.

Anyway, bleakness and evil aside, we had a great day hanging out at Tammy’s and getting to know one another better. It’s surprising to me how many of my fellow ‘corps members come from “normal” or even priviledged homes, although it probably shouldn’t. I guess it’s just that, as someone who grew up dirt poor, I feel that spending a year living on $9000 is no big deal for me, but I sometimes wonder why anyone who’s never been poor would want to do so. However, for many of them it seems to be of interest to do so as a means of testing themselves, developing empathy with those they hope to serve (several are idealistic types who intend on embarking upon world-saving careers after the ‘corps) and even just as a way to do something positive while taking a break from school. I’ll be interested to see how it turns out. In my previous experience with Americorps, several of my compatriots had serious money issues throughout the year and it caused a few to drop out entirely as the strain began to be too much. I hope that doesn’t happen to this group. It was heartwrenching at the time.

More of the same tomorrow, with the promise of afternoon blueberry picking. Sounds like fun!

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