How I Became a VISTA

It all started on Feb. 25, 2007. I didn't know it at the time, but I was at the onset of a bout of appendicitis that would eventually cause my appendix to rupture and land me in the hospital a few days later for emergency surgery and a long recuperation period.

It's a strange start to a story, I know. But really, that's how it happened.

The surgery and the recovery time left me with little to do for a couple weeks. I was off work and too tired to do much other than think and have some conversations with both of my parents about what I was doing with my life. And I really started to think that continuing in journalism -- the field I thought I was going to spend my entire career in -- was maybe no longer really the way to go.

Don't get me wrong: being a reporter was lots of fun. The people I got to meet, the stories to tell, the heart-pounding deadlines. It was a rush. It also involved lots of sacrifice. Weekends. Evenings. I was constantly frustrated by feeling like I couldn't get involved in community activities, either because my schedule was preventing it, or there was a perceived conflict of interest. The illness and surgery gave me time to really think about whether I was willing to continue to make those kinds of sacrifices for the rest of my career.

And for a time, at least, I decided I wasn't.

So I made a different kind of sacrifice.

I resigned my position at the paper and signed up to spend the next year of my life working for a nonprofit agency through AmeriCorps*VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America.)

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