It’s difficult for me to sum up my 8 months as a Mission Volunteer here at Montreat. In the moment, the time felt so long, but looking back now it seems like a whirlwind. It’s funny how time does that to us, but it really was both of those things. In the time that felt long there was space: space to discern, space to daydream about what my life could be, space to work with people who encouraged me to be creative and independent. In the whirlwind time there was driving the Blue Ridge Parkway before the sunrise, going to see the Oh Hellos, discovering a new love for playing games at breweries, and spending endless hours fostering a life-long friendship with my co-volunteer and roommate, Katie (now better known in the 28757 zip code as “Flowerpants”). Taking the time after graduation to try something new in a place that was new allowed me the time, energy, and mindset to start doing the work to be the person I want to be, the person I feel I’m intended to be.
Being a Mission Volunteer did a lot of things to mold my post-grad personhood, yes. On the more concrete level, however, it definitely impacted my day to day. In some ways being a Mission Volunteer was the easiest job I’ve ever had. I love my co-workers; I have never felt more at home in an office environment than in Montreat. There’s an environment of trust that really allows for new ideas and grants approachability to the full time staff. It’s been easy to work for a place that values so much of what I value. In other ways, being a Mission Volunteer was one of the most challenging things I’ve done. Living in Montreat was a whole new world for me; being from a pretty large city, I’ve never lived in such a quiet place and in such isolation. Living in an old house was a challenge. At one point there were mice (and, consequently, tears). Having a pretty limited income was difficult. Before this year, I was an avid believer in retail therapy, but on a strict budget that can’t be a reality. Though not without frustration, all of these challenges resulted in growth. Isolation resulted in intentionality in relationships. I met people through people and learned that most of us in our early twenties are just as scared by this sudden lack of available community as I was and that when you show vulnerability in new relationships you can foster amazing, long-lasting friendships. Living in an old house resulted in a little bit of toughness. Although I called on a friend for most of that mouse nonsense (knowing your own weakness is strength, right?), I can say that I now kill or re-locate almost all bugs on my own. Having limited income forced me to be less materialistic, a change in myself that I admire more than any other change I’ve seen. Initially it was particularly hard to make less money than I had expected after school, but it made me more fiscally responsible and more appreciative of the things in life that are free, like friendship and nature.
Being a Mission Volunteer at Montreat is an experience I am so glad I had. I’ve since moved into a full time position here as Social Media Manager and Katie starts her work towards a Masters of Divinity next month at Union. We had different experiences, different perspectives as volunteers, but we both are stronger in our sense of calling and more confident in our abilities to be resilient as we begin these new chapters of our lives. Post-graduation is a weird, difficult season in life. There’s no way around that. The key, or at least what I’ve found to be a large part of the key, is finding a way to live in that weirdness and explore not only who you want to be, but how you’re going to start getting there. I can’t imagine a better place to live in that weirdness than in the mountains, working for a place that, if I do say so myself, is pretty amazing.
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Social Media Manager at Montreat Conference Center