After 3 months fulfilling my dream of backpacking Europe after my Peace Corps service, I landed on American soil on my birthday in July of 2011.
I had promised my mom that I would take the rest of the summer to enjoy being home and catch up with family and friends before doubling down on my job hunt efforts, but that lasted only a few weeks.
I got a call from one of my best friends - another Returned Peace Corps Volunteer and someone I had met in NYC during my time leading short term urban service trips - that she was going to apply for AmeriCorps positions in Baltimore and DC, and she wanted to know if I wanted to be roommates. I'm fairly sure my response was, "If you end up in Baltimore, I'm in."
And then she did. We rented a row home together that was so small that you had to walk through my bedroom to get to our one bathroom, and if we used the futon in the living room, we had to make sure everyone was safely in the house before we unfolded it or you couldn't open the front door.
I had a car, a roommate, and a growing love for Baltimore, but not a clue as to what the future held for me professionally.
I knew my resume teed me up best for youth development jobs, but there was that tug on my heart to learn more about the veteran space and homeless services.
I spent my first couple of years in Baltimore working for two different local nonprofits coordinating volunteer efforts - a public charter school and then the Beans & Bread Center. During that time, I met my husband and rapidly began navigating our life and story as a military family touched by combat injury and trauma.
Not long after, I was offered a volunteer gig coordinating volunteer opportunities for the Wounded Warrior Project. I fell in love with the mission and firmly believed that if WWP executed their mission well, eventually this country would see far fewer military veterans walking through the doors of places like the Beans & Bread Center. I still believe that to be true.
Eventually, I set my sights on a full time job with WWP and started as an Outreach Coordinator in 2014.
For 3 years, I sat with Warriors and their families at bedside at Walter Reed National Military Medical Hospital. I planned outreach and engagement events at military installations and treatment facilities throughout the Mid-Atlantic. I trained Peer Support Mentors and delivered SafeTalk training. I planned social events and family outings. I was flying by the seat of my pants and I loved [almost] every second.
In fact, I'm not sure I'll ever love another job the way I loved that one.
But I'll also never give as much of myself as I did for those 3 years... compassion fatigue and burn out is real.
I moved on from WWP in 2017 - not because I was looking for a new opportunity, but because The Mission Continues was expanding their reach from Washington DC, and I was hired to be the first City Impact Manager to laser focus efforts on my beloved Baltimore.
For the next 3 and a half years, I existed at the blissful intersection of my Peace Corps background and my passion for my own military community. I loved uncovering community assets and leveraging my veteran leaders to generate impact in my home city.
I also loved the freedom and flexibility that I had in that role to innovate and try new things.
Join me for Part 3!