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Somehow, I find myself already at the end of March, meaning my fellow housemates and I have
been at this service year thing for about eight months now. You would think with eight months
under my belt answering the question of “What are you doing this year?” would be pretty easy.
After graduating college this past spring, I was asked the same question numerous times: “What
are you doing next year?” I’d answer that I was doing a year of service in Chicago. Sometimes
that answer was sufficient for the ponderer to move along, but sometimes I’d be further probed:
what does that mean, what kind of job will you be doing, are you sure you want to live on the
South Side of Chicago? And while all reasonable questions, at that time, I really did not have a
great answer to any of them. Embracing the spirit of ‘go with the flow’, my plan was to venture to
a city where I had never been, to live with a group of people, most of whom I had never met,
and to start a job in a field where I had relatively little experience and even less idea of what I
would be doing on a daily basis. So, no matter how many questions were asked I was usually
okay settling on the fact that I did not know, but I would figure it out soon.

Over the past eight months, I’ve had the chance to see family and friends who continue to ask
me what I am doing this year. Interestingly, answering this question has gotten even more
difficult. Even though I am living my everyday life and know what I am doing, it is so hard to
answer that question. I could reply, “I am working at a federally qualified health center on the
South Side doing behavioral health triaging.” But, that’s just what I do at work each day. I could
say, “I’ve been living with five other people and we are all working in the general social justice
realm in Chicago”. Both statements together start to get at it, but it is not a complete vision of
what I am doing this year. It is near impossible to do the Amate service year justice in a short
answer to that question. To be honest, it is really difficult to put my experiences into words even
in a longer answer.

I have found this year that it is difficult to explain a year of service and living in community to
those outside the Amate world. Sometimes I’ll say it’s like JVC or AmeriCorps, other times I do
my best to try to explain. But no matter what I do, it never really seems to come across with the
full depth and intentionality that this year entails. This difficulty has helped me to realize how
special this year truly is. I am convinced that I will spend the rest of my life trying to find a way to
describe this year and probably will not find a way that encompasses everything that is Amate.
So far this year, I have explored a new city, become close friends with people who were once
strangers, shared countless laughs around a well-loved dinner table, had challenging
conversations, explored my faith, been entrusted with numerous stranger’s life stories at work,
and so much more. And, it’s not over yet. There are still two and a half months of hard to explain
Amate love to come and I cannot wait to savor every second of it.

So maybe it’s March and I still cannot explain what I am doing this year. But, personally, I think
that’s okay. It’s not that I do not know what I am doing or I do not care enough to figure out a
way to explain it, it is just simply a little bit unexplainable. It is an experience that has been in
part shared by my housemates and seen by the walls of the old convent, in part witnessed by
my coworkers and the patients I interact with daily, in part described to close family and friends,
but in its wholeness may only be fully understood by me. I think that’s okay. I will share the
things I learned this year and the pieces of Chicago, Amate, and Chicago Family Health Center
that changed and challenged me, but this year will always be just a little bit unexplainable.

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