Blue Ridge Summit. A breathtakingly beautiful place right on the PA/MD border. The site of where exactly ten years ago, this week, I began the volume of what I like to call my adult life.
This was where Orientation for JVC:East '98 took place. It was where I met my incredible housemates--Katie, Mary, Megan, Julie & Scott--that I spent a year with in Jersey City. It was where a lot of things I thought I knew were completely turned upside down. It was where I really started to learn about spirituality (as opposed to just going through the motions at Church), simple living (beyond just getting dollar drafts), community (learning to live with and support each other, but not having to be best friends), and social justice (a term that, embarassingly, had only recently entered my lexicon.) It was where I experienced some great moments of revelation, as well as overpowering feelings of self-doubt.
And of course, it was where I met the man I would someday marry.
NR and I were invited back to Blue Ridge last week, to speak to the JVs who were finishing up their year of service. It was quite a trip to see Teege running around the oregano fields where we first met, and to wax nostalgic with NR's old housemate (who's now on staff)--whining about endless rice & bean dinners, crazy students/clients/co-workers/housemates, but realizing what a truly amazing and transformative period it was for all of us.
We decided to make a mini-vacation out of it (hey, when you have a kid, you're not going to pass up free lodgings and food!), so we drove down Wednesday, had dinner with the current JVs (who seemed alarmingly young...which means I'm alarmingly old!), put Teege to bed, and chilled on the porch of a cottage with some Coronas and lots of memories. We watched the sun set and the moon come up over the horizon above, talking for hours. It's a rare gift to just sit and talk--especially in the silence of nature--when you're new parents, so we cherished the moment.
So as I reflect on the 10th anniversary of JVC '98-'99, I am full of thanks. Grateful for my hilarious and talented students at St. Mary's High School that year, who made my first year of teaching such a joyous one. Grateful for my housemates--who challenged and humbled me in the best ways possible, but also lifted me up on my darkest days. Grateful for a city which I would eventually call home for nine years. Grateful for learning to think beyond myself, step outside the spotlight, and discover how to be a supporting player rather than a drama queen.