Serving a YAV year has been one of the singularly most intense things I've ever done in my life. I was challenged physically, mentally, spiritually, and any other way you can think of. I love that aspect. I wouldn't trade it for the world. It's taught me a LOT about who I am and what I believe. It's put me in a place to be able to finally express my thoughts and opinions at the grown up dinner table without feeling childish.
Being a YAV you live on the edge more often than not. You sit there on a line between the privileged populace and those who lack the very privileges you enjoy. You undergo a lot of paradigm-changing. You join new cultures, new families. You see the world from a completely different perspective. You learn just how deep those privileges really run and that can be a wonderful moment. YAV's pretty great!
What you also have to understand is that being a YAV means giving up your time. Being an international YAV means you sacrifice things from your home. Maybe I'm not being quite clear. So let me put it to you this way.
In my 1 year of service I missed: 4 funerals (1 was unexpected), 3 weddings, 3 Graduations, 2 children being born, and 1 well, year. Don't get me wrong, I knew what I was signing up for when I said yes. Shaina can tell you how her older sister had to reschedule her wedding because Shaina accepted the position. It's not like anyone neglected to tell us. We made a conscious decision knowing we would be missing out on these events.
I remember when my best friends wedding happened in the States I was bummed out. I couldn't say why until I saw the photos on Facebook and realized I missed the wedding. I had squared away all these problems with my friend long before I left, it just sucked that all my friends were at this wonderful moment and I was abroad, in Peru. But that's the deal. That's part of what you get when you sign up. If you're lucky you get to see friends or family the second half of your year. I haven't seen my family since they visited me in March and my friends since I left for Peru. I miss them a lot and I miss the events that happened. It's easy to feel like the world has passed you by.
But there's a second part the YAV year teaches you. By being gone and having to vacate your friends daily living the value of their/your presence is made painfully apparent. You get the chance to see which people keep up with you. Despite the world turning your friends won't leave you behind. That's where the value is in being gone.
A YAV year is not an easy thing. It is not something you casually do. It can show you a lot and one thing it's shown me is just how much everyone matters to me. And I mean everyone. When a friend drops out of touch it's difficult. There's no way to know what they're up to or how their feeling. It's scary. I take solace in the fact that God put me here as part of his plan. I may not know entirely what I'm doing but he does. Better than most. The best I can do is find the value in each moment He brings me to. Especially when the world turns.
To my best friend Alexander Fine and his lovely bride Victoria - you guys are a wonderful pair. Complimenting each other in all the best ways. I've seen a lot and learned a lot and I can't wait to share it with you two. I wish you both eternal bliss and good fortune. I owe you guys a drink. I'll see you in ~5 days!
- Daniel Pappas -