Well, I have successfully survived the first 6 weeks in Good ole’ Los Angeles! For those who are unaware, I accepted a summer position in Los Angeles, California with an organization called DOOR. DOOR stands for Discovering Opportunities for Outreach and Reflection. I first heard of this organization in 2013 when my youth group attended a mission trip in Chicago with DOOR’s week-long Discover program. That week changed my life and opened my eyes to my passion for modern day social justice issues like; racial inequality, education, homelessness, poverty, and social stereotyping.
Ever since my week in Chicago, there had been a stirring in my stomach and a tug on my heart regarding these issues. After deciding on a sociology minor this past fall, the passion continued to grow and grow until it became overwhelming. I felt like I was being called to apply for internships in Chicago and Baltimore. When Chicago kept coming up, I knew I had to apply for the summer discernment program that DOOR offered. The interviews went well until I was told that Chicago couldn’t accept any new discerners. Luckily, I had ranked the other cities as a back up option. I ranked the cities as follows: 1. Chicago 2. Los Angeles 3. Denver 4. Miami. I set up a video interview with Elizabeth Leu, the city director for DOOR LA which went phenomenally well. Although I was disappointed that my expectations weren’t working out, I had a good feeling about LA. I knew that I would’t be placed in a city unless it was all apart of God’s greater plan.
When I was invited by Elizabeth, I immediately accepted the position in Los Angeles. The next thing I knew I was boarding a plane to Burbank, California. This Caledonia girl was making California her new home for the next three months.
The reason I recall ranking LA as my second choice is likely because I have family in the LA area. I was excited to be only a short 25 minute car or subway ride to their house from mine. My uncle picked me up from the airport at 9:30 p.m. PST which meant it was 12:30 a.m. EST. After a few weeks of adjustment, I am unsure how my body is on EST in the morning but PST at night. Must be the night owl thing.. but waking up at 6:30 a.m. every morning and forcing myself to fall back asleep is NOT fun.
Right from the start, I knew I had made the best decision by coming to LA. I fell in love with my new house immediately upon arrival. I have my own bedroom and an awesome housemate in our cute purple duplex apartment. The interactions with my coworkers were heartfelt right away and social justice topics didn’t take long to appear in our conversations.
I was also surrounded by family events and milestones my first few weeks in Los Angeles. I was able to watch my eldest Neil cousin graduate high school and turn 18. My grandmother turned 80 and my youngest cousin graduated middle school. I feel so blessed to have been a part of each one of those moments. An opportunity I would otherwise not experience living on the opposite coast.
I was both overwhelmed with excitement and nerves when our first discover group arrived. Flashbacks to Chicago appeared throughout the week which gave me comfort in my (short) times of doubt. So far, we have had 5 weeks of groups. I have guided youth groups from, Kansas, Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Washington, Minnesota, and California. Each group brought their own excitement and challenges. Not only were we educating them, but they were educating us. This has been such a blessing to me because I am learning far more about myself and my faith journey than I had anticipated.
Thanks to a leader from Florida, my boss’ fiancé, and hip-hop artist Lecrae, I now know what my goal is upon graduation. These three remarkable people (on separate occasions) have allowed me to realize my true desire- creating a community group for youth who feel like they don’t belong anywhere and need help to grow. My desire is to take root in an area lacking extra curricular activities and proper education. Every young person deserves a chance to see their true potential. They each deserve to find a sense of belonging which will strengthen them for the rest of their life. Faith will play an option in this development, however it will not be the central focus; nor will be christianity. This may upset and also concern some of my followers, however I am a believer who does not feel it is necessary to force my religion upon another. I have my own beliefs which I would be happy to share with those who are curious; but my goal for these young people is for them to find a faith that will welcome them and fit best with where they stand in life. As long as they are holding on to something, I know I have done my job correctly.
As apart of this new idea, I have also decided that it is more than likely that upon graduation I will follow suite with a try at my masters in sociology or social work. This discovery occurred after countless debates and discussions with students and my fellow discerners. I currently only have a semester of sociology under my belt and will graduate with a year and a half of study in that field. With pursuing a graduate degree in sociology or social work, I will have a better argument regarding the issues I am advocating for. That additional education will allow me to reach more young people, opening their eyes to the world around them.
It is amazing to me that I have learned so much in such a short period of time. I cannot wait to share the rest of my journey with you. There are many stories yet to be told in regards to this adventure I have embarked on.
Stay tuned to find out more about how this Cale country girl became a Cali city girl.