After Los Angeles: Transitioning back to SC

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By early September 2007, I had finished my year of volunteering in Los Angeles. I still wasn’t sure what to pursue as my next step. I applied to various jobs but nothing panned out.

Part of my growth while in California was being exposed to the world of journalism. I realized I enjoyed that kind of writing, but it was challenging to approach strangers and ask for their feedback. I was a small fish in a big pond; I felt like I was thrashing around trying to make things work. But there was some excitement nonetheless, a bit of a thrill with figuring out how to piece many little parts together into a finished story, even if the interviewing aspect was nerve-wracking and uncomfortable. (If you missed them, you can read the pieces I wrote for my San Francisco assignment and the personal article on my brother becoming a priest.)

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When ‘introvert’ isn’t a complete description


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During the summer of 2007, as I was wrapping up my year in Los Angeles, our little volunteer community took some personality inventories.

I don’t know why we took these assessments at the end of our volunteer experience. Perhaps it was meant to serve as confirmation of behavior and preferences rather than uncover new insight. I walked away with some enlightening information and yet there were still plenty of questions.

I learned I was considered very introverted. Scoring 9 or possibly 10 out of 10.

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A priest in the family

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My brother being ordained to the priesthood in July 2007.

A few weeks before Easter 2007, I was using the photocopier at the newspaper and the editor came by to check his mailbox. We talked for a few minutes, and he again thanked me for a nice job with my piece for the Walk for Life.

He asked if I had plans to visit my family for Easter. Sadly, I told him no. This would be the second year in a row that I wasn’t able to spend this special time with my family. As a senior in college, I had participated on a retreat during Holy Week in Rhode Island.

I forget how the topic of conversation turned to my family in this way, but the editor acknowledged that my brother would be ordained a priest that summer. And he asked if I was interested in writing a piece about that for an upcoming special section on religious vocations, to write about what it’s like, this idea of having a priest in the family.

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“What’s on your plate?” – A weekend camping retreat

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Not my group, but someone else’s camping experience at the same park.

I’ve shared about how I found a group of young adults in the Southern California area, a group I spent a fair amount of time with. There was one memorable weekend of traveling to Ronald W. Caspers Wilderness Park for a two-night camping retreat. About fifteen people participated on the weekend, but I only knew one person before going.

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San Francisco part 3: Help me

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Note: This is part three of a three-part description of my first journalism assignment. You can read part one here, where I show how God answered my prayer to guide me in the right direction. You can read part two here, describing how God lead me to the people I needed to speak with.

Help me know what to do

There was a Mass bright and early Saturday morning. I was running on fumes at that point, just a few hours of sleep, but I was excited about what the day would bring. I still felt convinced I needed to speak to more people, so as people were leaving I tried to pick out approachable people and ask why they were involved in advocating for life.

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San Francisco part 2: Lead me

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Note: This is part two of a three-part description of my first journalism assignment, covering the Walk for Life in San Francisco. You can read part one here, where I show how God answered my prayer to guide me in the right direction.

Lead me to the people I need to speak with

Instead of staying at a hotel, I was able to lodge with other members of Sister Paula’s religious community. Sister Anne showed me to my room for the night where I unloaded my stuff. Friday night’s agenda meant attending an interfaith prayer service followed by a trip to a different church offering all-night adoration. My goal was to talk to a few participants. Since the rally and Walk for Life weren’t until Saturday morning, I left behind my interview notes and questions for those speakers. No sense in bringing everything with me.

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My break into journalism took me to San Francisco

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This is the detailed version of one of the most incredible, pivotal moments of my life. An experience where I can truly see God working through me rather than it being on my own accord. I’ve shared pieces of it to people in talks and different ways, but this includes everything. It’s a long write-up, so I’ve broken it up into three parts. I’ll share part two tomorrow and part three on Friday.

By January 2007, I had been volunteering with The Tidings for about 3 full months. I learned about the third annual Walk for Life, a similar event to the March for Life in Washington, D.C., but this would be in San Francisco. I asked the publisher of the paper if the San Francisco event is something they planned to cover. I told him I was interested in being part of the experience. Maybe to help out in some way.

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Beaches, hiking and skiing: The active part of California

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A shop near our apartments

When I got to California, I knew I was deep in the land of Hollywood celebrities. An environment focused on outer beauty, fashion, success and other superficial things. But I was surprised to learn that, like every other state, one highlight or landmark does not define the entire place. All of California or even Southern California is not Hollywood. It’s filled with hardworking people, too. People who are living in multi-million dollar mansions and, not far away, people barely getting by on the streets.

I was surprised to find a strong, thriving group of young adults living out their Catholic faith. Growing up in South Carolina, Catholics are a minority, making up barely 5 percent of the population. But here, at least a third of the population identifies as Catholic. Mass was celebrated in more than 30 languages.

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Discovering self by journaling

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At the beginning of the notebook where I found the details of the sensory walk, I saw that I purposefully sought out to renew my journaling efforts as a way of learning more about myself. It was an effort for record, accountability and self-discovery. I had gotten away from this practice and my creative writing especially during my senior year of college because of my student teaching responsibilities.

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Finding peace in prayer

Photo by Matt Cashore/University of Notre Dame

There was a 24-hour period while I was in Los Angeles when I got some distressing news from three different people that just weighed on my heart. I didn’t know how to react, what to do, what to say in response. My words seemed so inadequate.

I learned someone I worked with at the paper had lost her sister. A friend I met in college shared that her cousin had committed suicide. And I received an email from another friend who shared about how he was going through a very difficult time.

It was a lot to take in and process. I didn’t know how to handle it. I didn’t know what to do.

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