BY DANI XIONG | July 19, 2017
It’s hard to believe it’s been almost a year since I first arrived in Anchorage to start my journey with JVC Northwest. It’s even harder to believe that in just a few short weeks, I will be leaving the place I’ve called home for the past year. I anticipated that July will be a busy month, and I knew it would go by fast. Still, what I didn’t expect is how fast the month is passing by.
On our most recent Spirituality Night—a time we have designated to reflect on our spirituality as a community—we discussed our hopes going into the year, the lessons we’ve learned throughout the year, and how we will carry our experiences with us into our next chapter.
One of my housemates mentioned that some of the lessons we’ve learned will unfold as we look in retrospect, and I agree. So many things are still happening in the house and around the greater Anchorage community that it’s difficult for me to imagine what it will be like when I am no longer living here. It’s hard to imagine not looking out the window at 10 pm and seeing the beautiful alpenglow and the picture-perfect sunset; not sliding on frozen sidewalks to catch the bus; not having six other people to come home to; not making decisions as a community. I can’t even begin to put my experience into words. However, I look forward to processing this year and discovering those “a-ha” moments along the way.
We’ve made many memories for the books, but I will always treasure one in particular. On July 1, 2017, my community mates and I attended a wedding here in Anchorage. It wasn’t just any wedding; it was a ceremony that forever united two former Jesuit volunteers (FJVs) who met during their JV year in Anchorage five years ago. Serving not just as FJVs but also our support community, Mike and Whitney are the perfect fairy tale ending of JVC Northwest. After completing a service year in Anchorage together, Whitney went on to serve an additional year in Bethel while Mike stayed in Anchorage. Though they were apart from each other for a year, their love brought them back to Anchorage, the place where it all began. What’s more, I was delighted to see so many FJVs from Mike and Whitney’s service years present at the wedding, which only speaks to the love and bond their communities had created.
Even though my community mates and I are going our separate ways, Mike and Whitney’s wedding lent me hope that though we’ll be physically apart from one another, we can always be brought back together.
Not only have I been reflecting on what I’m leaving behind physically, I’m also thinking about what I am letting go of personally. I came into this year with the intention of exploring new territories, both geographically and within myself. I have camped in the Alaskan mountains and I have trodden the glacial waters. I have felt concrete changes in myself: the way I strike up a conversation, the way I observe others, the way I perceive and solve problems. Additionally, I had every intention of working at an advertising agency after my JV year. I had it all planned out: I would live in Anchorage for a year, then I would trickle down into Seattle and work in advertising. It sounded like a flawless plan in my head, and nothing could possibly go wrong.
Yet, I wonder if things will ever go as planned in life as I sit here laughing to myself, with multiple open tabs showing Craigslist searches of apartments in Madison, Wisconsin, where I will be relocating to work for a healthcare software company. I never thought I’d move to the Midwest, but then again, I never thought I’d live in Anchorage for a year as a Jesuit Volunteer.
Still, perhaps I’m too naïve, but I have a hard time letting go of the path I had envisioned for myself. Am I moving forward with a new plan to diversify my personhood, or have I simply given up on my advertising dream? Have I grown into a new person, or have I just lost touch with previous myself?
Though I’m parting with my intended career path, I embrace the unpredictability in life as I walk away from this year, and I accept my decision to move forward with a new plan as a new part of me. Though I can’t be certain that I’m making the right move, it’s the very uncertainty and mystery in life that captivates me and keeps me feeling alive.
Now, with just a few weeks left of my time as a Jesuit Volunteer in Anchorage, I prepare myself for yet another departure. It’s only logical to try to fit as many activities as possible into the next few weeks, but I’m afraid I won’t be able to check off all the items on our community bucket list. Time only goes faster when you desperately want it to slow down, and we are, indeed, running out of time. I’ll miss the majestic mountains and boundless waters of Alaska, but I know I’ll carry with me the beauty and love I have found within the communities I’ve served and the community that has served me. Though we’ll have to go our separate ways, I will always be part of the JVC Northwest community, and I will always be part of our Anchorage “Moose House” family.
#JVReflects explores the intersection of faith and justice from the perspective of JESUIT VOLUNTEERS serving as long-term volunteers both domestically and internationally with Jesuit Volunteer Corps and Jesuit Volunteer Corps Northwest. Reflections specifically focus on the cornerstone values of the Jesuit volunteer experience: spirituality, simple living, community, and social justice.
Dani Xiong is a Jesuit Volunteer serving in Anchorage, AK as Client Relational Support at Karluk Manor at RurAL CAP. She is was born in China, grew up in Fort Collins, CO and attended Boston College graduating with a degree in Marketing & Information Systems.