Kevin Ridder, CAC AmeriCorps Member 2016-2017
Before I kick this post off, let me ask you my all-time least favorite question: where do you see yourself in five years?
If you think you know, congratulations! If you are now filled with a raw, seething hatred, you’re not alone. I couldn’t even tell you what I’m doing for dinner tonight.
Then again, uncertainty is nothing new to me.
It took me three years at the University of Tennessee to find the right major, and even then I didn’t know if I would graduate in five years or six. It wasn’t until my final semester that my petition to use 30 geology credits for environmental studies was confirmed and I could graduate in five. Feeling a bit better about my back-to-back 20 credit hour semesters, I was now able to take my hyper-focused stress and anxiety and point it at finding one of those fabled “jobs” I’d heard so much about.
Luckily, the journalism career fair had already passed me by, so I went instead to the spring job and internship fair in an attempt to fund future meals. Having not the faintest clue of who I would talk to, I noticed CAC AmeriCorps on the employer list and decided to pay them a visit. I had heard of them in passing but had only ever considered them as a backup option — an opinion that was swiftly changed after a conversation with easily the most passionate people in the building. I applied that night, not knowing what to expect (surprise).
After a whirlwind of emails, interviews, exams, essays, graduation photos, and one very, very, VERY long summer, I found myself in a room with 39 other slightly confused faces. Another whirlwind of icebreakers, contract-signing, and nights out followed, and suddenly I was at my first day on the job at the City of Knoxville Solid Waste Office (trash and recycling, not the kind of waste you’re thinking of).
Seeking an eventual job in journalism, I had mixed emotions about working there but was excited to learn the ins-and-outs of environmental public policy. Also, as I soon found out, the people I work with are nothing short of wonderful.
Outside of my actual job assignment, I’ve been delighted to be able to help my community in the form of environmental cleanups and other volunteer opportunities. But what I’ve enjoyed most is getting to know my fellow Corps members. The people I’m surrounded by are passionate, intelligent, and all-around fantastic individuals who are now some of my closest friends.
Serving with AmeriCorps has been by far the best decision I could have made after graduation. I’ve learned so much about myself, my goals, and the blind outrage an absurd number of citizens have toward changes in their waste collection systems. While I can’t say for certain where I’ll be in five years, I’m a lot more confident about who I want to be.
This blog post is a collection of personal reflections and expressions. All opinions represented are those of the author and do not represent the official opinion or views of the Knoxville – Knox County Community Action Committee, CAC AmeriCorps or any other party referenced.