by Ariana Sanchez
Ariana is a Loretto Volunteer living in St. Louis. She is serving as a Community Service Associate at Nerinx Hall High School, a girls' high school founded by the Sisters of Loretto.
It has been just a little over a month since I have been in St. Louis and almost two months since first starting this new adventure as a Loretto Volunteer. Looking back on this time, there are a couple of things that stick out to me and I’d like to share them with you all now. My placement for the year is working as a campus minister at Nerinx Hall High School – an all girls school known for their mission of empowering these young women. From time to time, especially when working with the freshman, I start having the horrible realization that I, am in fact, old.
Sorry Taylor Swift, but sometimes your song 22 just doesn’t cut it. Laugh if you’d like, but whenever I talk to these fourteen year olds who are just beginning their freshman year of high school, it’s like I can’t help the cold sweats from coming. I mean, some of them don’t even remember who the Spice Girls were! Talking to the seniors though, isn’t any better. They’re now thinking about which colleges they are planning on applying to and still have those four glorious years ahead of them. They still have so much to learn and experience! I, on the other hand, have sadly just graduated. I mean, what else is left for me in life to do now? Then my thoughts begin to spiral into melancholy as I question what I’m doing with my life and why I have wasted all this time and I can just forget about any hope for the future because my best years are over and there’s nothing that can change that. This line of thinking continues as I lie in the fetal position eating peanut butter by the spoonful.
But then, the next day, I’ll be hanging out with the faculty and something simple will occur – like them asking me who sings a particular song that the girls were playing during a pep rally for example. And after answering their question without a second’s thought I suddenly think, “Hey, I knew that song! That makes me young,” or something a long those lines. Sometimes when talking to them, they’ll ask me about my plans for the future and when I tell them I’m not exactly sure yet, they always answer, “Don’t worry, you’re young.” And I’m reminded, That’s right, I am young! I do have all the time in the world. I can still do anything. I can be anything. Look at all this time I still have! And basically feel so overjoyed it’s like someone thought I just climbed Mount Everest.
So what’s with this seemingly long and winded anecdote? I have a point, I promise. And it’s that my perspective can change. Depending on my perspective, I either fall into an overdramatic depression or I am elated at the realization that I still have time to figure out my life. It’s the perspective that’s key. Depending on one’s perspective, you can either feel defeated or dare for something greater.
Now, during this past month, when meeting people and introducing myself as a Loretto volunteer, there seemed to be some common questions that I was being asked. These questions included: “What do you hope to get out of this experience?” or the dreaded, “What are you going to do after this?” (Which is almost as bad as the “What are you going to do after college?” question I was getting only a couple of months back). Sometimes however, I would get the openly honest, and slightly harder to answer, “Why are you doing this?” question.
A completely valid question at that, and being asked this so often, I soon had an automatic response: I went to a Jesuit university. Service and postgraduate service was an important part of the culture. After looking at many different organizations, I found the Loretto program. Here I am. Sounds simple enough, but was I really only here because of that? Sure, my school inspired me to apply but is that at all? And so, I really challenged myself to wonder, why am I doing this?
From the outside perspective, I could understand why they’d ask. I am giving up an entire year of my life (which is crazy since I’m so old), I am moving away from all of my friends and family, I am leaving the cultural hub of Los Angeles for the…charming city of St. Louis (if you must know, embarrassingly enough, many of my friends didn’t even know where Missouri was on the map). And, I’m doing all this for little to nothing in terms of compensation. All sounds kinda bad. So like I said, I could understand why people would ask.
But then, remembering how different I could feel about my age depending on the perspective I chose, I decided to try that again. I changed my perspective and looked at my situation through a different lens. I am willingly choosing to give a year of my life. I am briefly saying goodbye to my friends and making new ones. I am going on an adventure and am able to experience another culture that our country has to offer. I am offering my services and in return learning from the people around me. I am giving these students a chance to learn about themselves and their relationship with God through the retreats that I help plan. I am offering students an opportunity to do service and give back to the community through the service trip I am leading. I am challenging myself to grow. I am learning what I am capable of. I am figuring out what inspires me. I am becoming the type of person that I can be proud of. I am taking responsibility for my life and making it my own. I am being me.
So now, when I look at my choice of being a Loretto volunteer through this perspective, the question, “Why am I doing this?” suddenly becomes less daunting. With this perspective, when I am aware of everything that I can gain and I am asked, “Why are you doing this?” all I can think is: Why not?
In Their Own Words
We invite you to get to know Loretto Volunteers and the program here. Volunteers introduce themselves and reflect on their experiences.