Wednesday, April 24, 2013

FEMA Corps Members: Enjoy Your Time in the Program While It's Here. (Yeah, You Heard Me.)

"Our memories of yesterday will last a lifetime... We'll take the best, forget the rest, and someday we'll find... these are the best of times." -Dennis DeYoung, lead singer of Styx

We've been experiencing some serious attrition in our Physical Training sessions of late. Earlier today, two of our people were still on spring break (having taken extra vacation days), two were injured (I have a whiny hamstring) and two were generally unenthusiastic. So our PT overlords decided that instead of a traditional session of sport and exercise, we would take a long walk instead and meditate on our lives. Our straggly line ambled from the Extended Stay Motel past corporate parks and blooming trees, through a clapboard housing development and around a few turns before turning around by an odd little sump in the middle of a green, grassy field. Through all this resplendent spring glory, while my comrades were presumably deep in thought, I was twirling my Communist-themed Frisbee and drumming bits of "Abbadon's Bolero" by Emerson, Lake and Palmer. It's not that I was incapable of being serious, it's just that I had no deep topics on which to meditate, no soul-scouring issues burning for my attention. I was free and clear. 

I guess that whistling, airy walk, combined with the looming awareness of our mortality program's imminent end, is what brought on this rambling post. Here's some free advice for my fellow FEMA Corps members as we crunch into our ninth month as a part of this program: 

Enjoy yourselves. Relax for a second. Let the crummy bits of your jobs wash away and remember where you are, who you're with, and what you've done in the past eight months. 

Isn't this awesome? I mean, come on, who gets to do these things? We live out of a bag! And it's wonderful!

We get to live with teams of splendid people, free of charge, in crazy places around the country. We get to cook dinner together and laugh and share stories and bond together. Yeah, we get to fight with each other too, but that's what happens in families. What other jobs do you know that actively encourage and enable you to go out and do community service? Where else can you wake up each morning and genuinely not know if you're about to be whisked away to Alaska? These kinds of experiences don't come along too often in a lifetime. And living and working with people that share the same stories and situations day in and day out, the way we do, is a good way to forget how special it is. 

And the places we've gone! And the things we have seen! I've met the President, for God's sake, and two Cabinet secretaries, and the deputy head of FEMA and the chief of CNCS, and the mayor of New York City just thrown in for spice. We've all lived on a ship! We all did Sandy relief for months! I helped move twenty-five tons of ham once, and 120 miles of toilet paper another time! Want to hear the list of states I've lived in since August 13th? Mississippi! Alabama! Georgia! Maryland! Connecticut! New York! Maryland again! When job applications ask if I'm willing to relocate, I just laugh. Who does these things?! We do! This is a fantastic experience that we're all so jaded we don't even recognize anymore! Yeah, the work can be lousy, and there are plenty of reasons for the FEMA Bore Corps-style slubberdegullions to moan and whinge. But come on. Look at the life that's right in front of you, and think about how great most of it is!

And pretty soon, it'll all be over. If you're a Vicksburg kid, it's a short, short 43 days until we all get into cars or onto planes and scatter back to the tiny little specks on the map from whence we came. Some of us, including a few of my best friends, have already dissipated in this way. Maybe you're heartbroken just thinking about it, and maybe you can't wait to get a diploma in hand and spit fire from your heels. But I urge you, either way, to take some time and appreciate this life. Let it wash over you. 'Cause unless you're among those brave few that are coming back for another round, this is it. This is all you get. And I have a sneaky hunch that, as the man says, we'll remember these as some of the best times of our lives.


Alexandra Murray said...

Hi Andy, My name is Alexandra. I just found your blog the other day and have spent some time sifting through it. It has been extremely helpful and insightful, I'm heading to Vicksburg in July to become a FEMA Corps Team Leader. With the lack if information out there (mostly due to the newness- is that a word?- of the program, I just want to say THANK YOU for providing a source for me to turn to that answers a few questions I have had!

Robyn Sagal said...

Hi Andy, My name is Robyn. I have been following your blog for quite a while now and have found it extremely helpful. I am currently on a 10 month program in Israel and this post reminded me to appreciate where I am and to live in the moment. We have been here 8 months already, and somewhere along the line, the once exciting schedule turned into mundane, everyday life. So, thank you for being that little reminder to appreciate all the little things. It is so important to do so.

Also, I will be a part of FEMA Corps in August (home base: Iowa). You have provided enough information in your blog that I feel a bit more prepared for the experience ahead! Thank you for all of your wonderful stories and tidbits of information about the program! :)

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