“Looking behind, I am filled with gratitude”
As this is my last post of my JVC year (post-JVC New York blog? Probably not), I will keep it short and sweet, for there is far more to express than could even begin to be written. But, I always say that and then write about three pages. I write as I speak: far too much.
As my room mates will attest to, I love quotes more than most normal people do, and tend to post them around my room in a sort of manic way. (Because, who doesn’t like to read an Anne Braden quote when they are getting ready in the morning?) Anyway, a quote that I have posted in our bathroom and have stared at every morning all year is one that I stole from the infinitely wise Google buzz feed of Ms. Dawn Furfaro-Strode (it’s full of gems): “Looking behind, I am filled with gratitude. Looking forward, I am filled with vision, looking upward, I am filled with strength. Looking within, I discover peace.” Well, I am still working on the whole “discovering peace within” part of this equation, but looking backward on my year, I am so very deeply filled with gratitude.
I am grateful to New York, but more specifically, to Harlem. For a year of living in an old convent right off the mass transit glory that is the 3 express train. Living in Harlem, working a bit in Harlem, and doing many a night time summer walks around the neighborhood made me realize that one year is not nearly enough time to truly appreciate the community I was lucky enough to live in during JVC, but it makes me so grateful that I was there. Thank you, Harlem, above everything else, for reminding me to say hi to people in the street, talk to your neighbors, go to your corner stores, and smile at people. Especially for new people moving the NY, there is a lot of talk about how unfriendly Manhattan is, and a lot of pressure to blend into the sea of fast-walking, mean-mugging people in Midtown. Granted, when I get off the subway at Penn Station to go to work, I do just that. But living in Harlem is a daily reminder of the importance of community, especially in this big city. Harlem has showed me the value of generations of families living in the same community, the successes and challenges of collective struggle, the overflowing and hugely diverse culture, arts, and music scene that I have been lucky to see even a small part of. I am moving to Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn and am so sad to be leaving Harlem, but will take with me my Harlem state of mind: say hi to people, make friends, build community with those around you in everyday interactions. Thanks, Harlem.
As my final day of work approaches, I realize how lucky I have been to work at Tenants & Neighbors this past year. August 22 last year, my first day of work, I knew little to nothing about housing in New York City and community organizing. I could not be more thankful to everyone I have worked with who taught me so much about community organizing both through example and by the patient answering of many questions—this includes both coworkers and tenant leaders who I have worked with, who knew more than I could hope to know about housing, community organizing, and leadership. I am thankful to work somewhere that takes the time and the energy to ask and talk about the big questions of our work, look at how we are working and where it can be changed and improved, always with the input of a board and membership made up of people from all different types of housing in the city. Without the job that I had this year, I would never, ever have been able to get the job I have next or be in any way prepared for it. I’m sure that I wont be able to truly appreciate how T&N works until I work at many more jobs, some of which I am sure will turn out to be dysfunctional non profits that make me want to call my boss and co workers here and say thank you all over again. Because housing in New York is such a huge issue that covers so much ground and touches so many other things, I can’t imagine having come to NY and learned about or done anything else for my first year. I will miss my morning walk across the Fashion Institute of Technology campus, realizing that everyone around me goes to fashion school and is judging my outfit at 9:30 in the morning. For this and everything, T&N, thank you!
And to the people in New York helped me not only survive this year, but thrive in New York. It is uncanny how many of my very dear friends live in this city now, a fact which I constantly take for granted. To have friends here who not only know me so well from the past (including stretching back to 5th grade on Mcnamee, woah) but who are also interested in and supportive of what I am doing now has made a huge difference this year and have played a huge role in me deciding to stay here. And to the people I met while here, through work, through room mates, through friends, who make me feel like my New York community is ever-expanding. Making new connections, like the amazing people I have met through Regenereracion or meeting my room mate’s friends who quickly became regulars in our house, makes me feel like I have a community of people I know here—a necessary survival tactic in a gigantic city for a Portland native. And, above all, thank you to my two future room mates, Emily and Tom. Thanks for planting the seed of staying in NY in my head from day one, dreaming and scheming about our commune. Nothing could get me back to NY after being in Portland except the beautiful, awesome, hilarious household I have waiting for me, with a fire escape, hardwood floors, delicious food and beer, real conversations, and a tin can phone running from my room to Emily’s room so we never have to be without communication for one second. Thanks for being an outlet and an inspiration for me this year. Also, I am still holding out on naming it the People’s Republic of the Wilderness.
And last but very, very much not least: to my community members. Looking backward, I am filled with gratitude for every one of you, for everything our community has been this year. I could not have asked for a better community if I tried—in fact, I would have had no idea that the combination of the seven of us were exactly what I needed this year to be challenged, to grow, and to have more fun than I thought possible on $100 a month. I will never celebrate a birthday, watch a youtube video, drink tea, go on a night walk, eat lentils, watch the Food Network, or do a million other things without thinking of each one of you. For everything, Janie, Noemi, Rebecca, Rachel, Lo, and Maura: thank you.
And so, for now, I will pack up the rest of my things from my little convent room, celebrate one last room mate birthday, have one last day of work, and then get on an express train from Harlem for the very last time on my way to the airport, loaded with a deep sadness for leaving, and appreciate that—because, after a year of living with seven different people, working at a new job in a new city, I could be leaving with much different feelings. But more importantly, I will leave tomorrow with a deep gratitude for this year, knowing that I have lived it and invested in it as fully as possible, and that is what will remain.
Goodbye, Harlem. Hello, Portland!