Who Would Have Ever Thought by Laurie Berg
In the summer after my college graduation, I was working at a bed and breakfast and trying to figure out what I was supposed to do with my life, now that I held a degree. I really had no idea what was next. I found myself looking at tons of jobs, but nothing looked exciting. I somehow came across some AmeriCorps programs, and eventually I was only looking at those programs. When you make an AmeriCorps profile, cohorts all across America reach out to you with a message similar to: “come serve with us!” That’s what the messages sound like, at least. I regularly got these emails from cohorts in California, Arizona, Colorado, and last but not least, Montana.
Montana Campus Compact kept emailing me lists of available positions and I was legitimately ignoring them. I thought, as did everyone else in Indiana, “what the heck is in Montana?!” FINALLY, I looked at the list of positions, found ONE that slightly seemed to match my interests, and applied to it. I figured that would make them finally stop emailing me.
8 months later, I am now 7 months into my service living in the “last best place:” Montana. If I recall correctly, there were about three weeks in between the time I accepted my offer and the day I left Indiana. I packed up my apartment, visited with the people I love the most for a week or two, then I got in my car and drove approximately 25 hours (yikes!) straight to Bozeman, Montana.
I have grown to love this place. I’ve made some wonderful friends who also just moved to Montana (and now they are a part of the group of people trying to convince me to stay here). I’ve found a wonderful church that I even get to volunteer at a few times a month, and I got to go snowboarding (once.) I went huckleberry picking several times during my first few weeks here, and I did not even know huckleberries were real until I moved here! I got to visit an alpaca farm, which was pretty cool, and I’ve even went on an amazing 9-mile hike, in which 2 hours were in the pitch black (yikes again, but I’m still alive.) Another huge plus, I get to see a beautiful mountain range right from my bedroom window, unless the clouds are covering them.
Being an AmeriCorps member isn’t easy. I am navigating life on a fairly small living stipend, I am 1,548 miles away from my very best friends and family, and I’m working through my first year in the “real world,” as they call it. This has been the hardest time of my life, running into problems I feel helpless about, feeling like it’s the end of the world, then X amount of hours/ days later I realize I am going to be fine. With that being said, these 7 months have also been the BEST months of my life. I am surrounded by an absolutely fantastic team. This team is full of women I will remember as some of my greatest mentors. They believe in me when I don’t, and they encourage me every day. The experience I am obtaining is more than I could have ever imagined for my first year out of school, and I am grateful for that. I help run Dolly Parton’s Imagination library, the largest early literacy program in America, mailing almost 1,000 books to children in Gallatin County each month. Who else gets to say they did that?? (Shout out Dolly Parton. Does anyone have her contact, I’d really like to meet her?!)
Now if you’ve made it this far, you might be wondering, “what’s next,” as I have been getting this question a lot again. My year of service will be over in mid-August, and as of now, I have no plans for what comes next. I do have all of these crazy ideas in my mind of where I could possibly go, what I could possibly do, but who would have ever thought I’d end up in Montana for a year?? I sure didn’t, so I am open-minded to where God will take me next, what He will move me to do, and how He will use me in others’ lives.
Montana will forever hold a special place in my heart, but it’s just one of the many places I’ll get to experience a monumental part of my life in. I can only dream of having adventures this amazing in my future, and as long as I continue believing in myself and surrounding myself with those who believe in me, I will.