How do you pack for an entire year in a new city with only two checked bags. I asked/joked about this questions for months leading up to the start of my YAV year in Hollywood, CA. When I moved into my freshman dorm, I had a packed minivan with the seats taken out and more stuff in my own Honda Accord. When I started packing for LA, the day before as all good procrastinators do, I laid everything out on my bed. Piles of t-shirts, skirts, books, shoes, pictures. I had several of the plastic air tight bags that you used a vacuum to suck all the air out. It made for a lot of extra room, but also a 75lb bag. I reorganized and re-prioritized. So maybe I didn’t need 10 books, mom could ship them to me as I read more. I didn’t need 20 T-shirts and 10 long sleeve shirts (it doesn’t get cold enough in Cali for those).
In the last two day the YAV office has challenged me to think about something I brought that I didn’t need, and something I need that I didn’t bring. I looked around my room for things that haven’t been used since their arrival in LA. I still have too many books and too many shoes. As for things I wish I had, I am always sad to be in the kitchen looking for that one utensil or pan to realize that its back in Virginia. Don’t bring kitchen stuff, it wastes space, and you get much more creative with what you have. Who knew a double boiler could be replaced with a very precarious placement of sauce pans.
Something I definitely lacked when I got here was an open mind. I had it all planned out of what living in intentional community looked like, what working in a church setting looked like, what living in Hollywood looked like, and what the working with people experiencing Homelessness looks like. Everyday I am reminded that I have no clue what any of that will look like the next day. Some days I’m surprised by how supported I feel by my friends who live homelessly and how non-Hollywod Hollywood really is. There are days when I overwhelmed by the commitment of the intentional community to be with each other, I have really lucked out with my awesome housemates, but I also am adjusting to living with people who process differently, who have different priorities, different life stories and goals, and interact differently than I do. I’m an extrovert, I know this is not news to anyone, but I can be with people all day and then do it again the next day. Not all my housemates want to be with people, or even me, all the time. I’m learning to find restoration in my alone time, and I hope my housemates are learning to find peace in a crowd of people.
YAV’s tag line is a year of service for a lifetime of change. While I love this line as I do hope this year molds my future, I find that much of the changing is happening during my year. When I first arrived to Hollywood, the DOOR directors challenged us to flip that statement, this is our year of change for a lifetime of service. I packed a lot, and there are days I wish I had packed more (I brought stuff back at Christmas and now It will never all fit to go back to Virginia.) But what I wasn’t prepared for was the constant change and adjustment this year has brought. You can’t pack for that, you don’t know what will stretch you or challenge you.