“So now what?” my brother asked me once I had finished taking pictures with various friends and professors. I had just finished with all of my commencement activities and my family was eager to know what the plans for dinner were.
“Uhh…I’m not sure,” I mumbled, looking around in disbelief at the fact that I was now undeniably a college graduate. I knew he was only asking for a restaurant, but I felt like I was talking about life in general. I graduated…Now what? It seemed as though all my life planning and thinking out only went as far as this one point.
I mean, I knew I had firm plans for the upcoming summer and then for a year after that–plans that I’m very excited about–but there was still that fuzzy area before that began and then the great expanse after that. Now, more so than ever before, I was aware of the harsh reality that nothing in life is guaranteed. As I stood at the threshold of the rest of my life, I couldn’t help but be aware of all the great unknowns ahead of me and my perceived inability to handle it. At that moment, my life soundtrack was playing the Tom Petty song “Learning to Fly.”
I’m learning to fly, but I ain’t got wings,
So I started out, for God knows where,
I guess I’ll know, when I get there.
As I transition into the “Real World,” I’m beginning to learn to take comfort in the fact that “I ain’t got wings.” For the next year or so, I have a pretty good idea of where that will take me. In less than a week, I’ll be Minnesota bound.* I’ll be spending the summer working with a Presbyterian church in Minneapolis. The internship is made possible by a grant the chaplain at my college received to place students traditionally not well represented in ministry (because of their race, gender, or orientation) in placement sites that celebrate that part of their identity. Because of this grant, which also funded my experience last summer in Washington, DC, I’ll be able to further discern how I can lead the church as a queer future clergyperson.
Following that, I’ll be spending a year serving as a Young Adult Volunteer (YAV) with the Presbyterian Church (USA) in the Philippines. The YAV program aims to expose participants to systems of injustice that perpetuate violence and poverty and teaches how to respond with compassion and reconciliation.
I will be working with sites affiliated with the United Church of Christ in the Philippines to accomplish those ends and further understand their connection to American colonial influence. As part of the experience, I’ll be living with a host family.
One of the expectations of the program to raise financial support to help cover the cost of the program. On average, one year of YAV service costs $26,000 per volunteer. To help alleviate the financial burden and to encourage volunteers take further ownership of their experience, I am expected to raise $4,000 to cover my experience abroad. The first check to advance this goal comes from my own personal account, but I won’t be able to make it there alone. I am the product the unbelievable generosity of the various communities of love, encouragement, and faith that surround me. This support has empowered me in many transformative and inspiring experiences. My biggest goal in life is to be able to carry that love forward and foster similar communities of love and support. Therefore, I am asking you to join me in this experience in whatever way possible. To make a tax deductible donation to this program and my year of service, click this link and following the instructions. Additionally, you can mail a check made out to PCUSA with “Andrew Flanigan, Philippines, E210503” on the memo line to:
Presbyterian Church (USA)
P.O. Box 643700
Pittsburgh, PA 15264-3700
I enthusiastically welcome any way you’re able to support me on this journey and I look forward to sharing my experiences with everyone. To keep up with me throughout the year, you can follow this blog which I aim to regularly update. Alternatively, as a big fan of written letters, if you provide me an address, then I would absolutely love to correspond, whether by letter or postcard. If you have any questions or requests, then please do not hesitate to contact me.
After several days worth of painful goodbyes (and one or two easy ones) and arduous packing, I drove away from the college that had nurtured me for four years. As I looked across campus one last time, the radio echoed “oh, it’s just me, myself, and I/Solo ride until I die.” For a brief second, I believed it. I was beginning a six hour drive alone away from a community that had become my first home away from home, away from friends that I’m not certain when I’ll see again. I quickly remembered, however, that no matter how far away I went from Westminster or from any community of support nor how much time had passed, I would never leave the love and support of those I’ve already met along the journey of life. Rather, my ‘cloud of witnesses’ comes and grows with me. Even as I watch my now Alma Mater disappear in my rearview mirror, with the whole world ahead of me, I know that I am never alone.
So what if I ain’t got wings?
*Made you look.