Turning a Corner

You guys, my new thing this week is a Big Deal.

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Say hello to the newest board member of Odyssey Youth Movement, a nonprofit focused on centering queer youth to be active in creating a safer, more inclusive environment. They do work on health and wellness, training and community advocacy, and creating safer schools for queer youth. Doesn’t that all sound amazing?

Well, that’s because it is.

I volunteered at Odyssey a long time ago, when I first moved to Spokane, as part of the Writers in the Community program at Eastern Washington University’s MFA program. I worked with the kids to write and perform slam poetry, while also working with middle school students on a film/poetry project on bullying. At the end of the year, we had a big slam poetry competition and film premiere. I had a blast volunteering at Odyssey, and I always intended to volunteer again, but life got in the way, and I let everyone else do the volunteering for me.

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After Trump was elected, I felt a burning need to work in my community, to do what I could on the ground level to fight against everything that hideous and vile man stands for. I contacted Odyssey to see about volunteering again. Apparently I wasn’t the only one who had a fire lit under them, because they were bombarded with so many volunteer applications, they actually had to turn people away.  So I moved onto other things in the community, but my heart has always belonged to our little queer youth center–one of only two on the eastern side of Washington state, and the only one serving the entire Spokane metro area.

I was invited to attend an event this summer for the center, which I ended up not going to because my anxiety was so crippling the day of that I couldn’t leave the house. After I apologized for missing the event, my friend asked if I would be interested in becoming a board member.

I’ve always wanted to be a board member of an organization, but I never knew how that process really worked. I still don’t know how the process works, unless current board members recruiting future board members is the process. I applied, submitted a resume and cover letter, and was interviewed.

I definitely was nervous at the interview. I wanted to impress them, and also not stick my foot in my mouth by referring to someone by the wrong pronouns (I do this way more often than I’d like to) or saying something inadvertently ignorant.  Luckily, all went well, and I even made them laugh a time or two.

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My position as a board member was finalized on Thursday over a beer with the treasurer. He informed me of the obligations that board members are required to fulfill, which includes contributing something each month to the organization and sitting on at least one committee.

My first assignment as a board member is my next new thing: to attend a masquerade party fundraiser. My wife and I spent all weekend gathering together the items for our perfect Halloween/masquerade costume. Except masks. I wear glasses–a mask is impossible for me!

The idea for this blog was borne out of a desire to push myself to be a better version of myself, one that is healthier, both mentally and physically, and to be diligent and committed to writing. If there was an objective way to measure whether or not the project was working, this is it.

In August, I planned to attend a brunch fundraiser for Odyssey. Who doesn’t love brunch? I certainly love brunch. The event was free, on a Saturday, at a reasonable time (11:00 am), and involved free food. There was nothing inherently high-stress about it. That morning, as the event drew nearer, my chest tightened. I felt nauseous. My heart was pounding. I curled up on the couch, pulled the blanket over me, and tried to breathe. Finally, I texted my wife and told her I wouldn’t be going to the brunch. Certainly, part of the reason I was overcome with anxiety was because she was out of town and I would be going alone. I didn’t go. I stayed wrapped up in that blanket. I didn’t get dressed. I didn’t eat. I didn’t shower. And then I felt guilty, embarrassed, and ashamed for not going, which further compounded my anxiety.

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There is a light up ahead.

That was almost exactly two months ago. It was actually the week I wrote my first post. And today, on my tenth week into this project, I’m writing about accomplishing a goal I’ve had for years, that I put myself out there in a HUGE way, and that I committed to something outside of myself and my career. I don’t know about you, but I’d say that looks like progress.

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