*Blog originally written on trip but not posted until now*
I’ve been thinking about what I would write here for a long time. I guess what I have to start with is an introduction to my experience with service. I have now completed three service trips, the one here in Biloxi, one in New Orleans in 2010-11, and again in 2011-12. The trips to New Orleans I did in high school and they completely defined who I am today. I would not be anything of what I am without the people and experiences I took from my service group in high school. I have incredible pride for what I accomplished there, and without it I never would have participated in ASB here at Framingham.
In my first year of New Orleans, I had really high expectations and went into the trip expecting too much. I was very negative and had more low moments than high moments. I found myself floundering along, often pouting and cranky. When I came home and reflected on the trip, I realized that even though I had a blast, made dozens of new friends, met amazing people, and volunteered at amazing locations that I had failed both myself and the New Orleans Service Learning Trip program. I had discovered in myself something I desperately wanted to change, my negativity. In year two, I set out with the goal in mind of living every moment of the trip to its absolute fullest. I would not cry, complain, or be hesitant. I would seize every moment, and do it with a genuine smile. I went down to New Orleans with this attitude in mind, and I enjoyed the best 10 days of my life. From that point on, I have carried New Orleans not only in my heart, soul, and memories, but in my very personality because I taught myself the importance of being positive and making the best of whatever you have.
This year, coming into the Alternative Spring Break program I wasn’t sure what my goal was. I had learned so much about myself previously and had no particular goal in mind. I joined with the hope that I would merely continue to gain new amazing experiences and make new friends. This has ended up being true, but more has happened than I could have imagined before.
It was two days before the trip when my boyfriend broke up with me. This threatened all I had learned from New Orleans year two; I didn’t want to repeat my negative attitude. I was terrified that my trip had been ruined, but then I got here, and I forgot it all. I lost myself in the service of others. There is no better way to live than the way we live here. It’s day by day, it’s go with the flow, it is completely random and totally unexpected. Here, you do some of the most seemingly absurd activities in the world. I climbed a mile high pile of oyster shells and helped to bag hundreds of them in chicken wire bags. Where else and how else would I ever have such an experience? It is the most beautiful kind of life; you lose track of time and don’t care about what day of the week it is or which homework assignment you have next. You just do your job, and in the process help others and give yourself the best kind of medicine, that is, time to both think and reflect about yourself and the satisfaction of helping others.
I am terrified of going home. That means leaving this lifestyle, one that has allowed me true happiness and freedom. That also means leaving the 29 greatest people I have met and grown to love this year. Each of them is special, wonderful, and amazing. I was honored to come to know each of them, and I don’t want to stop seeing all of them at once every minute of every day.
This trip has given me these worries but at the same time has given me the abilities to overcome their reality. This trip gave me dozens shoulders to cry on should I ever need them. It gave me 29 faces that will always be friends to me throughout my lifetime. But most of all, it has reaffirmed what I learned in year 2 of New Orleans. I do have the ability to choose to be happy. I have the strength to overcome personal tragedy and just let go to be happy. Never at one moment was I faking my joy here, and I don’t need to. I can be positive, and I can be joyous. In this way, here in Biloxi I have come full circle. I started out in New Orleans year one as a negative person who was ready to grow but prevented myself from doing it with my own attitude, in year two I became a positive person pushing myself to live life fully, and in year three here in Biloxi I stood against an extreme challenge and overcame with my positive attitude intact.
So while the coming months will be extraordinarily difficult for me, I have this trip in my heart to keep me going. I have watched myself change as a person, and I am proud of what I have achieved. I am confident that future trips will bring new revelations and more growth to myself. I look forward to them as I leave Biloxi.
Colleen Schroth, Class of 2016