Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Last YAV

Somebody fact check me, but I think I'm the last YAV of the 2015-16 class to go home. All the international YAVs have seen their families. All the national YAVs have wrapped up their years and moved on. Everyone's moved on except me.

It's kinda cool! Like calling yourself the last gunslinger. Except I don't wander anymore and I don't mete out justice by the hammer of my colt .45 revolver. It just means I'm the last of my class to go home. I don't doubt the YAV office has their eyes on me. Like Mark Watney from the Martian. I survived my time. Now all I have to do is get home.

If you think that's crazy get this: three days after I leave the new YAVs arrive. I like to consider it an example of real life dramatic symmetry. I get a weird sense of closure from it. The wheel keeps on turning and a new set of YAVs begin work where I once was.

Having survived my own YAV year I can tell you I'm not worried about being forgotten. My first few months in the office my coworker's confused me with previous YAVs. They kept calling me Spencer and Andres until I asked them not to. I'm not worried about my memory fading into obscurity. Instead I take solace that another YAV will be picking up work I once did. Currently, Paz y Esperanza is working to build a school specifically for deaf-mute children. When I was there they had just bought the land and gained their land title. When Emily gets there they will have a groundbreaking ceremony. Little by little the work continues.

I now get to join another group of individuals: the YAV alumni. I belong to those "seasoned generals" of service years and help future volunteers the way they guided me to where I am now. YAV alumni. It has a pleasant ring to it. A network of people who understand what I went through. People I can directly relate to. Not just young people! Richard, the YAV program coordinator, was a YAV. Jed, my site coordinator's husband, served a YAV year roughly around the time I was born.

Please don't confuse what I just described with a fraternity. Trust me, Greek life has nothing to do with YAV life. What I mean is that a YAV year isn't something you just do and come home. It changes you. It's fair to say any time spent abroad changes you, but a YAV year is different. It's a year of service not just learning. It's a year of intense immersion. It's a year of trial and challenge as much as celebration and joy.

My YAV year led me to deeper understanding of my faith and a more refined sense of self. I can't describe to you all the ways I've changed. I'd have to be home, back in my regular context, to find out. I'm not home. Not yet. Soon though, I can start the next phase of my life. It's time to move on. I will always remember the change I've experienced through my YAV year. Once a YAV always a YAV I think. I can't wait to no longer be the Last YAV and join my friends in the States as a YAV Alumni!

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