Reflecting on my time in Portland

Ending my time in Portland at Tivnu: Building Justice feels bittersweet. I’m so content with the people I’ve met and the things I’ve experienced, but it feels scary and sad to have to move on. These past 9 months have been long, hard, meaningful, and action-packed. I just moved home and I already wish I could go back. If you’re reading this and deciding if you want to do a structured program for your gap year, please take this as your sign to do it.

Out of everything I’ve done, my three favorite experiences (on a broad scale) are: communally living, working on construction sites, and going on adventures throughout the Pacific Northwest. To me, communally living was such a meaningful experience because of how much I learned about myself. I learned that it’s okay to be close friends with someone, but not want to live with them (and vise versa). Some of my fondest memories from this year was coming home from a long day of interning and making/sharing a meal with my housemates. I don’t think I could have learned what personal boundaries are on this level without communally living this past academic year.

Construction was another one of my favorite experiences from Tivnu. At the beginning of the year, I had never used an impact driver (let alone a chop saw). I now know so much more of my physical when it comes to using my hands and it’s so empowering. Being able to have reliable transportation, an outdoor worksite, awesome coworkers, and to make a measurable difference in people’s lives was so meaningful to me. Last but not least, I loved getting the opportunity to explore the Pacific Northwest. Throughout the year I was able to sleep under the stars in: Mt. Rainier National Park (WA), Otis (OR), Seattle (WA), Mt. Hood (OR), John Day National Monument (OR), and along the Deschutes River Trail (OR). I learned so many “outdoorsy” skills such as: camping, building a fire, evacuating tropical storms, hiking, rock climbing, fossil finding, cross country skiing, snow-shoeing, outdoor cooking, no-dig cultivation, rafting, canoeing, and more.

Through all the fun that I’ve had, there were some difficult parts. I am currently experiencing some troubles with my personal health. Having to navigate insurance and doctors appointments while living across the country (and away from my parents) was probably the most difficult part of my gap experience.

My perspective has changed in the last 9 months in many different ways. Most notably, my perspective on college and having a career. I now know that college and having a stable career can be important for survival, but are not the end-all be-all for personal happiness. There are plenty of ways for humans to find happiness, I’m on my journey to finding them.

Continuing with perspectives and expectations, I had very low expectations for myself in regard to my place in college; this has changed over the past academic year. Before Tivnu, I wouldn’t have been able to establish a healthy work/school – life balance, and this probably would have led to me being somewhat unhappy with things my first semester. I’m so glad I’m in the place I’m currently in with knowing myself. With educational opportunities, internship, construction, and my social life on Tivnu, I was able to practice having that healthy balance. I’m really proud of where I’m at and I’m more confident in my abilities to be a well-functioning young adult.

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