Before Good Shepherd Volunteers I worked a 40 hour job, drove a car most places, sometimes shopped and binge watched shows for fun, and ordered take-out...a lot. As an introvert and proud loner, deciding to join GSV was a big decision that I knew would not be easy. The four tenets drew me to GSV, specifically social justice. I thought it would be interesting and exciting to be surrounded by people that wanted to learn, challenge themselves and cared about the world, just like I do. Although, this has definitely been my experience so far, it has not been exactly as I imagined.
I expected that I would be killing it in my volunteer social work position, and that I would have a blast running around the city in my free time with my community members, like one of those NYC groups of girlfriend dramedy shows.
After six months of being in the program, things are a little different than what I had pictured. Not in a bad way. In a way that constantly reminds me that things are hardly ever what you expect. In a way that reminds me that one can’t control detailed outcomes because things unfold in a way that teaches lessons you didn’t know you needed to learn. As I make time for spirituality and reflection, I realize that my GSV experience thus far has allowed me to discover new layers of myself.
I have had so much personal and professional growth. As an introvert, I thought I knew myself. I have become much more self-aware and with the encouragement of my supervisor, I am pushing the boundaries of my comfort zone in my placement by taking on new challenges. I am learning more about myself by interacting with all of the genuine hearted people that I have met on my GSV journey. People are kind, supportive, honest and genuinely care. Both in the GSV community and the strangers and friends I meet along my journey in NYC.
New challenges and opportunities shape the person I am becoming, whether it be attending a social justice event with my community, stepping up to become a trainer in my department at Family Foster Care, or even recognizing my internal reactions to deciding against splurging on wants.
I often feel stressed, and I’ve recognized that one of my coping mechanisms is shopping. I’m learning to deal with that while living simply. I sometimes feel overwhelmed by opportunities that I am thankful for. I’m identifying and owning up to defense mechanisms while learning to live in and build community. Recognizing these behaviors and being able to act on decision, instead of impulse, pushes me to examine and appreciate my spiritual journey.
I have moments that I stop and look up at tall buildings, reflect on a conversation that I’ve had, or think back to how homesick I felt in August. In these moments I think “wow, this experience is amazing”. GSV is allowing me to push myself and to appreciate the uncomfortable. This month I am thankful for my personal growth and the GSV community for being a part of this unique time in my life.
Written by Karina Winn
Family Foster Care Homefinding
Washington Heights Community, 16-17