Monday, March 29, 2010

a little more reflection.

"Janae is on a mission to be that voice of social change and show people what they are capable of."

A friend of mine wrote this one day in January 2010. I have no idea if that friend knows I've seen it nor if that friend reads this, all I know is that I have come back to this sentence over and over in the past few weeks and have tried to really see myself for who this person sees me as.

I have not updated this much since I got back from tour. And by much I mean I've written what? one post in the last few weeks. Whoops. I think the reason is because it is so extremely difficult to put what the pay it forward tour does for a person into words. I could ramble on about the logistics for days, but sharing how much I actually saw people grow and challenge themselves over the course of a few days is inspiring and incredible and I am not nearly eloquent enough to put that into words. It is an experience that changes people. The only thing I can say about it is that I am very lucky my sister went on a tour so that now when I go home my parents won't think that I have been holding things back from them because I am sure my sister will have just as hard of a time explaining the transformation that goes on as I have had.

A few things I have heard from participants:
"I have never felt happier for an entire week than I did when I was on tour."
"I have never been so comfortable around people who were strangers only a few days ago. Thank you for letting me be myself and liking me for me."
"People told me I'd leave this trip with 40 new best friends and I totally doubted them. Now I have to go back and tell them they were right."
"I think you will change the world."

Leading an experience that allows people to open up, feel comfortable, push through their comfort zones, talk to people they may never have met otherwise, understand each others backgrounds and stories, interact with people who are in entirely different places (literally and figuratively), and share their best and worst times is something that will stay with me for the rest of my life. The sentence that my friend wrote about me in late January feels very true post-tour. You may find this narcissistic of me to say, but this is my spot to rave about my life, so I guess I am narcissistic today. I truly feel like the rest of the core (the people that lead the bus with me) and I put our participants in a position in which they got a glimpse of the wonderful things they are capable of, even at a young age. I will forever be indebted and grateful for this experience, and am always going to wish you all could have it.

(If you are in college, high school, middle school or an adult who wants to go on a tour as a community member, please let me know and we can get you on a tour!)

Something I forgot to even think about before tour: this is my last college tour. Big things are changing in less than a few months. (More on that later.) Also, pictures and the logistics I dissed a little bit before will be coming up within the next week sometime. I've been keeping busy with job applications, meeting up with friends from my tour and others (so so so many of my friends lead other tours so it's been exciting sharing our own buses stories!) and trying to catch up on homework and sleep. In other words, I've primarily been trying to avoid the "real world" and am instead living on the "tour high" you get post-tour. So, this is my apology to those of you to whom I've promised calls and stories to that I have not yet given either. I'm trying to catch up on all of that this week!

Thank you for being patient with me. I'm so very lucky that some of you read this and want to partake in my life via these little updates. I'll leave you with something a boy said to me on the trip: "I love life. Life loves me." "How are you feeling today?" "Happy."

Monday, March 22, 2010

i'm back!

It is going to be incredibly hard to put these last few weeks into words, especially the whole pay it forward tour experience. Being a leader of the bus gives you such a different look and viewpoint on the tour and it is an experience I will never, ever forget. Since I'm not quite rested up enough to be eloquent, I'm going to just post a couple of the news stories we had written about us here today!

Oh! And our mystery route was:

Sterling, Illinois
Dayton, Ohio
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Scranton, Pennsylvania (home of the tv show "The Office")
Atlantic City, New Jersey (this is the city I planned!)
Celebration City with 8 other buses in Washington, D.C.
Connection City on the way back home in South Bend, Indiana

A wonderful write-up about us and our work at the Western Pennsylvania School for Blind Children is here: http://www.wpsbc.org/wpsbc/cwp/view.asp?A=3&Q=275320

And video from our work there is here: http://video.post-gazette.com/global/video/flash/popupplayer.asp?vt1=v&clipFormat=flv&clipId1=4622608&at1=News&h1=Minnesota&rnd=5564780

A great TV news story about us from WNEP in Scranton is here: http://www.wnep.com/news/countybycounty/wnep-scr-pay-it-forward,0,7688945.story

And a write-up about our time in Scranton is here: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/student-volunteers-clean-up-south-scranton-1.687803

These are only the ones I've been told about so far, I still have some digging and looking to do myself because I know there are more! I believe in this trip so much, and I'm so glad that others are recognizing the amazing work college students can do.

*Also, disregard any appearances and listen to the words - some days we did not shower. :)

Monday, March 8, 2010

why i do it.

"I have discovered that life in your early 20s is all about learning how to handle responsibilities."
- from here

I have been a busy, busy lady these last few weeks and this one is going to be the busiest yet. We are finalizing everything for our tour, and it is crazy. Small details, simple yet important little things we need to buy, multiple trips to multiple stores, it's exhausting. We spent 12 straight hours together as a core on Saturday and managed to finish many, many things and think of many more that we still need to do. On top of it, I am trying to keep up with my internship, work and classes. Oh yeah, did I mention midterms? Midterms are this week.

Every time we hit a little bump in the road, a small obstacle or snag in our planning, I just try to remind myself that this is going to be SO incredibly worth it once I step on the bus Friday morning. I am so wrapped up into the planning that I wake up with lists upon lists in my head, can't function unless I've checked my email one last time, and have been on my phone texting, calling and confirming things all day long today. I have absolutely loved the ride so far, and cannot wait to actually be ON TOUR with everyone who has so graciously decided to forego other spring break plans and come on a road trip with me and my friends to help better communities across the U.S.

The big picture really is in my head, sometimes I just have to settle down and remind myself why I chose to add this stressor into my life this year. It's because it's something I believe in. It's something I live for. It's expanding people's minds and allowing them to see new things, explore new cultures, understand new worlds, and reflect upon their own lives in one of the most uplifting and worthwhile trips of my lifetime. And I've already done it 3 times. I cannot wait to see the faces of those who have yet to experience this trip, and I am so lucky to be able to facilitate such an amazing group of people in four days.

FOUR DAYS.

We've been planning since September. SIX MONTHS. When do college students do anything this substantial for six months? I know this is a unique experience I am lucky to have, and I have one person in my life to thank for making me go on a tour when I was a sophomore in college. He yelled at me daily, actually, until I finally signed up. Then he yelled at me again because he forgot that I had signed up the day before and told him so. Now, he is one of my favorite people and someone I admire. So remember, sometimes the friends who are yelling at you are just trying to tell you that you can do more, be more, see more and inspire more. They truly are yelling because they care. They yell because they see something of merit inside you that you may not be able to fish out quite yet. This trip brings that to life. This trip makes you feel like you are impacting the world. This trip makes you feel like you matter. And that is why I have dedicated the last six months of my life to making this trip the best it can be for 40 other people.

I really hope they enjoy the ride.


DISCLAIMER:
There is a very good chance that this will be my last post in a very long while, so if that is the case, have an amazing couple of weeks! I will be on Spring Break starting Friday, March 12 until Saturday, March 20. I'll probably be updating where I am via twitter (follow me @janaetime) and/or if you want to know, I will send out a mass text to a couple people who have already asked for it each night when we get there. (Let me know in comments, Facebook, or call/text me and I'll add you!)

Friday, March 5, 2010

one week.

one week until we leave.

one week until the planning stops and the participating begins.

one week until we put faces to the name list we have been pouring over day after day.

one week until we step on the bus.

one week until games and laughter fill the air.

one week until 40+ people make 40+ new friends.

one week until we travel across the country to Washington, D.C.

one week until we start doing community service over spring break, breaking from the mold and stereotype put upon college students.

one week.

it's going to be a hell of a week.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

tonight's updates.

WE MET A BUNCH OF THE PEOPLE WHO ARE GOING TO BE ON OUR BUS!

WE PLAYED GAMES.

WE HAD THEM SAY THEIR NAMES IN FRONT OF EVERYONE.

WE ANSWERED LOTS OF QUESTIONS.

I DANCED AWKWARDLY (AWESOMELY?) IN FRONT OF ALL OF THEM.

WE GOT EVEN MORE PUMPED UP FOR THE PAY IT FORWARD TOUR.

WE'RE GOING TO HAVE AN AMAZING TIME.

SIX MONTHS OF PLANNING WILL BE WORTH IT ONCE WE STEP ON THE BUS NEXT FRIDAY.

THIS IS IN ALL CAPS BECAUSE I'M THAT EXCITED. AND TIRED. AND PROBABLY CAN HARDLY SEE WHAT I'M WRITING BECAUSE I HAVEN'T SLEPT MUCH LATELY.IF YOU'RE NOT GOING ON MY TOUR, JEALOUS YET? :)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Happy March!

A crazy video for this crazy month:


I'm already too busy for my own good. 10 DAYS UNTIL THE PAY IT FORWARD TOUR!