"But we can’t all be Paris Geller"

Our latest blog post comes from Jannel Mariano. Jannel serves at Catholic Charities Atlanta. Thank you for your service, Jannel.

Jannel Mariano  ( far left) and her community in Atlanta

If you’re anything like me, you’re no Paris Geller (a character from Gilmore Girls with a go big or go home attitude). No operation finish line in the making filled with charts and schedules of what connections need to be made and what tests need to be done before graduating college. I’ll be the first to admit that throughout my Gilmore Girls binge watching extravaganza, Paris Geller was my ultimate girl crush. Watching someone with fierce determination and the willingness and drive to do anything to get what she wanted as long as it was moving in the right direction of following her dreams to combine medicine with law was enough for me to dub her my girl crush. We later find out Paris Geller runs the country’s most successful surrogate clinic where she manages to find a way to combine both medicine and law. But we can’t all be Paris Geller. Some we find ourselves feeling more Rory Gilmore, she’s done everything right up to this point. Straight A’s, valedictorian, editor of the Yale newspaper and a dream of being a writer. However, she finds herself with no job offer or the will and drive to try to find a job and feels more or less stuck. Now I don’t want to be a writer (trust me, writing this blog has been far from easy) and I’m no valedictorian but I do relate to Rory in that she had a dream but still felt stuck. I found myself amongst many Paris Gellers during my senior year of college, watching people step into their next check mark on their to-do list whether that meant grad school or their first big girl job and amongst all of that I felt stuck. I knew there were opportunities and I knew the world was filled with them. I was filled with wonder and awe of what the world had to offer now that I had a bachelor’s degree in my hand. But it didn’t feel like enough. I wanted more (much like Ariel because let’s be honest flipping your fins really never did get you far). So I packed up my bags and I joined DVUSA. Because of this experience, I’ve learned more and experienced more than I could ever bargain for. And since I’m a huge Gilmore Girls fan (if you haven’t noticed already), here’s a list of 7 (one for every Gilmore Girl season) reasons being part of DVUSA has been incredible.

1)    I work with refugees as my 9-5 job. How cool is that! Not only do I work with refugees as in my job description says I am to help refugees find jobs and help them integrate to the American society. I also work WITH refugees as in my coworkers and other volunteers were former refugees. Which in turn means that I am surrounded by so much culture and rich history from places I didn’t even know were on the map. And although the paperwork and all the rules that comes with being a nonprofit can sometimes weigh me down, I am grateful and humbled to be of support to these refugees especially at the state our country is at. To be the person to let them know that someone cares and to be the person to remind them that at the core they are human is something I’m grateful for every day when I step into my office.
2)    I have the greatest community known to man (no bias of course). I live with three amazing sisters, a family with a 2 year old son, and a former Peace Corps/Episcopal Volunteer. So if that sentence alone doesn’t scream diversity, I don’t know what would. We are all in such different places in our lives and so our discussions during meals and prayer really do open up my eyes. I learn from their stories, their experiences, their jobs, their passions and their wisdom. And having a 2 year old in the house (who has finally learned how to say your name) greet you in the mornings to start off your day and greet you after work when you’ve had a bad day is definitely a plus as well!
3)    Atlanta is amazing! It’s a big city with a small town feel. There are festivals every weekend, lots of beautiful nature, history at its root (MLK was born here for goodness sakes!), and the biggest aquarium in the United States (which in case you were wondering does in fact have beluga whales). There’s lots of quirky communities and LOTS of shows and movies are filmed here in Atlanta which means the chances of you running into a character from The Walking Dead or Stranger Things is actually pretty high.
4)    I became pen pals with a detainee. I had an incredible opportunity to go visit the largest detention center here in Atlanta. My housemates are heavily involved with El Refugio which provides housing and food for families who are visiting their loved ones at the detention center. I spent a weekend as a volunteer at El Refugio and was able to visit a detainee through their visitation program. I had a one hour conversation with my now pen pal and by the end of the conversation came out with a friend. To put a face to the problems that surround detention centers was an experience I can’t put into words but to remind someone of their dignity and let them know that I see the injustice and they aren’t a criminal is more than I could ask for. 
5)    If you’ve always wanted a GNO but couldn’t find the perfect girls to go out with then have no fear! Because the sisters will be willing and able to. Your GNO will consist of and is not limited to: a night out to the theater filled with Christmas songs and drinks, Friday night happy hours at the house, movie nights with homemade popcorn, going out to eat pho for your birthday, and desserts every night!
6)    I know I already mentioned my job already but I feel like working with refugees deserves another number. Because when a client of yours gets her dream job and starts crying because she’s so lucky that God brought you to them, you realize that all the hard work you put into finding her that job is worth it. When she thanks you for finding her a job that gives her purpose and helps her provide for her kids, you realize that all the paperwork needed to get her there was worth it. Even though you’re here for service and the refugees are the ones receiving the benefits and help from the program you are involved in, it’s nice to have that reminder of why you’re here in the first place.
7)    I am now part of a larger community of past volunteers, future volunteers, associates, sisters, etc and for that I am grateful. To have people who truly understand the experience I am going through and the ideals I’ve held close to my heart is something I wouldn’t trade for in the world. I’ve made lifelong friendships and have a bond unlike any other with the current volunteers and I have DVUSA to thank for that.
And if you were at all curious about what my next move in my big girl world is, here’s a Rory Gilmore quote to answer just that, “I’ve got about the next two and half hours planned and then there’s just darkness and possibly some dragons.”