This is a joke that commonly gets tossed around by Young Adult Volunteer Alumni, but for me, it’s the truth. I had my life and career completely planned out in college – I was going to become a photojournalist and travel the world. So how is it that five years later I find myself in seminary?
As college came to a close, I decided that I needed to gain experience outside of the classroom before jumping straight back into graduate school. The Young Adult Volunteer program seemed like a good way to spend a year doing just that. And, like so many who enter the program, I expected to be able to ‘take a year off,’ making some good friends and memories along the way. What I didn’t expect is for God to move so dramatically in my life that I would never desire for it to return to what I had once considered “normal.”
In 2009, I uprooted myself from my comfortable life and was plopped down in the middle of Little Havana in Miami, FL, to live with strangers. I began working at a non-profit organization called Branches, where I tutored and mentored middle and high school Haitian and Central American students. The experience of serving those youth and living in community with other volunteers began slowly and powerfully to change my values. My ideas of what I thought mattered in life began to be uprooted. Coming out of college, I had this mindset that I needed to ‘become an adult’ by getting a job that paid six figures and owning a vehicle and house. I thought that I needed to consume, to pay high bills, to accrue debt, to be the best, to step on others in order to be considered a valued member of society.
I thought that I needed to consume, to pay high bills, to accrue debt, to be the best, to step on others in order to be considered a valued member of society.
As a YAV, what I experienced instead was learning to live simply. I learned how to care for others, and how we can achieve more if we work together. I learned how serving others can change lives – theirs and mine! I learned that the world isn’t fair but that it’s worth fighting the injustice. Most importantly, I learned that I can’t do everything but that I refuse to do nothing.
When I say the YAV program ruined my life, I mean it (in a tongue and cheek manner, of course). It completely replaced and uprooted my value system and set me on a new life journey. I do not know where God will lead me in the next few years, or even tomorrow for that matter, but I know that with the skills and knowledge that I gained from the YAV program, I will have the strength to navigate it and fight for a better future.
AUTHOR BIO: Megan McCarty is currently in her first year of seminary at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. She is pursuing a Masters in Divinity and looking to enter World Missions after seminary.
Read more stories by YAV Alumni/ae about new life routes!
Read more articles from the young adult issue!