This is a reflection from Katie, an intern who started a few months ago….Here are her first impressions of what it’s like to walk into a Starfire circle:
In 2011, during my senior year of high school, I was writing college essays trying to convince the colleges of my choice why they should admit me into their programs. I had spent the past four years preparing for college, trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. It is fair to say that not many eighteen-year-olds know what they want. However, what I did know was that I had an empathy for human suffering. I felt driven to help people and during my junior year I went to Africa, this solidified my urge to help others because it was the most human anguish I had ever seen. So I wanted to help people, but how? I started by wanting to be a writer, then I started thinking I could major in International Relations, and finally I settled on the practicality of nursing. I was able to pinpoint mental health as my cause, because I realized every human has their own mental health to maintain. A mind needs managed regardless of whether an individual has a disability in the body or mind, is extremely impoverished and hungry, or if someone is a fairly happy citizen of Cincinnati, Ohio. I think of my parent’s divorce, a common thing to happen these days, something that causes damage to the mental health of many. My Dad naturally suffered some mental health damage, so he tried to get some talk therapy with a psychologist. Although he had health insurance, not a single kind of talk therapy was covered; a blatant disregard to mental health. This led me to want to become a psychiatric nurse, and that’s how I started my schooling. However, I was hit hard by the reality of anatomy, physiology, and chemistry. I had good intentions, but I wasn’t a scientist, I was a writer. It dawned on me that I wanted to be an advocate for those who were unable to maintain their mental health. I had a dream to change the healthcare system and shed light on how important everyone’s mental health is. I decided that I would get a degree in English, Psychology, and Communication so that I could write and speak to raise awareness.
On March 14, 2016, I walked into Starfire for the first time. I was there for a community building meeting where the Starfire organization meets to share progress and lack thereof. This allows for stale ideas to air out and new ideas to flow in. This meeting would allow me to get a glimpse of Starfire’s cause. I found myself at Starfire due to an internship opportunity to help share Starfire’s stories via my writing skills. Being any new person in an unknown situation I was nervous, but also excited for the opportunity. As I walked into the doors of Starfire everyone in the lobby erupted into friendly greetings. I felt as if I had opened a threshold of positive energy, and I knew instantly this was a good place to be. A girl who looked to be close to my age had been sitting in the lobby, and immediately jumped up to asked me where I was trying to go. I simply said the community building meeting, and she took me through the bright, clean halls of Starfire. She led me to an open room with big windows where many chairs were arranged in a wide circle. Only two other people had arrived and I praised myself for being early. Sure enough, before I knew it, the room was full. Everyone said hello and was so kind and welcoming. The beautiful part of the meeting was that it created community. Not just any community, but an unfortunately rare community, one of people with and without disabilities. A community where everyone took their turn speaking and sharing triumphs and hardships. Even if someone’s speech wasn’t as articulate as the next, everyone was still respected, listened to, and understood. Throughout history people who come across to be different than the societal norm in appearance, speech, behavior, etc. have been segregated. Conversely, Starfire wants to set the example for everyone that a community starts with a bond between two individuals no matter the amount of differences between them. Starfire is a trailblazing organization that is paving the way for a societal community that thrives off of our sameness instead of lowering our quality of life by dwelling on our differences.
During my journey in finding what I am supposed to do with my life I have been yearning for purpose. After going to Africa, one of the ways I learned to cope with my guilt for being born into such privilege was to recognize that if everyone was born into poverty then no one would be able to help. I could then grasp my purpose which was to use my blessings and strengths to aid those who had less. What I grasped from Starfire that day was the importance of looking within ourselves to find sameness with others. A community is built when we realize no one person is better or worse than another. We all have to make a choice to connect with another’s heart and soul through sharing joy, sorrow, pleasure, and pain. That is exactly what I want to do with my life, I want to help people find community and make connections. Every second of the meeting made realize I was in the exact right place and some will of the universe had led me to some remarkable people who are much farther along in the process of utilizing their strengths to help others than myself. I realized that the universe led me to the people I needed to learn from. Connecting with Starfire has already given me an invigorated sense of purpose and has affirmed all that I have been striving to accomplish. The people sitting around that circle with me have the same dream that one-day society will be a place where we see people for their hearts, minds, and souls.