From New Jersey, USA
In a binder that I created at the beginning of my training to become a volunteer with IMALIVE, there is a buzzfeed article I printed out, laminated, and is the first thing I see when I open it. The article is about Karyn Washington, who was an upcoming writer and blogger who created the For Brown Girls Tumblr page, headed the #Darkskinredlips Project, and often wrote articles about empowering women of color as well as highlighting the power, beauty, and value of people of ALL cultures. In 2014, to the shock of many who knew or followed her, at the age of 22, Karyn took her own life after dealing with the grief and mourning of her mother who had just passed away. Many people had their theories as to why she may have taken her life, but no one will ever know for sure.
I didn’t know her. But at the time that I found that article, she felt strangely familiar. Something about her upbringing and the things she wanted to put into the world felt similar to mine. And at the time, I was at home struggling silently too. I was depressed, and circumstances left me on my kitchen floor trying to pick up the pieces. It was when I read up on her life that I began to understand why I wanted to be a volunteer for IMALIVE. Her story helped me pick up the pieces in many ways that are too long to explain here, but I use her article as a reminder every time I sit down for a shift to pay it forward the best I can.
I spend a lot of time with my heads in the clouds. Seriously, I am obsessed with learning about the cosmos, space, and the universe. As a kid, I secretly wanted to be an astronomer, but I think I wasn’t disciplined enough for the all that petty quantum physics stuff, and kind of just wanted to spend the night looking at the stars. One of my favorite places in the world is Griffith Observatory in LA and the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in DC. I don’t know what it is. I just love pondering the things beyond our world, the infinite, and the unfathomable, and yet, knowing, no matter how big and far everything is, we’re still a part of it all. I’m a walking cliché.
Volunteering with IMALIVE has shaped me in a way I didn’t expect, even just in the last year. It has helped me listen better, ask better questions, and really understand myself and others on a deeper level than I had before. It is an amazing organization, with amazing people and supervisors, and I would recommend that if you’re thinking of volunteering and getting involved…in the words of a great man named Shia LaBeouf…DO IT!