The Year I Left My Mid 20’s

If you have been following my writing on this site, and you have good understanding about how and why I write, then you know that key life moments usually make the grade, among other inspiring things. Tomorrow is such a life event. Tomorrow I leave my mid 20’s. Tomorrow I turn 27.

Continue reading “The Year I Left My Mid 20’s”

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Fulfilled, With More to Come: Thoughts of a 26year old

In a few days, I turn twenty-six years old. Without jumping head first into the endless clichés about what I thought I would be doing at this age, what I’d be earning, or what number child I’d be raising, allow me to let you into my head.

As a very healthy (minus a busted ankle), average height, average weight, educated, Gen Y, you could say that things are going pretty well. Up to this point I have made it through life without breaking a bone (no fault to trying), received a trophy in tee-ball at the age of five, got baptized at 7, class president in the 5th grade, class clown in the 5th grade, won a relay race in the 7th grade, 7th grade: closest I came to getting straight A’s (next time would be in my graduate year, almost 9 years later) made it through junior high school (and that’s actually a great achievement if you know how horrible it is to be alive in a public school from ages 11-13), organized a “See You At The Pole” day junior year, led a Special Needs Physical Education class with my best friend, Corbin Elliott, led a Leadership Course senior year for sophomores (the course that convinced me that I wanted to work with teenagers when I was older), graduated high school with an above average GPA, was awarded the “Matt Corgian Life Award,” senior year, built an addition onto a church in Renosa, Mexico with my friends, went to a highly decorated philosophical college in Grand Rapids Michigan called Calvin College, discovered I wanted to have a career in Social Work, worked at Apple, Inc for two years, became a youth pastor for a year, became Head-Counselor at Dickson Valley Summer Camps, transferred to Aurora University, realized that I wanted to become an International Social Worker, considered the idea of moving to NZ, learned that youths with ‘suicidal ideation’ were going to be the population I would serve, received a Bachelors in Social Work, made the decision to move to NZ, I achieved “Excellence in Academics” during my graduate year, was awarded a Masters in Social Work, acquired my work visa overseas, moved to a country half-way across the world, traveled the breathtaking New Zealand landscape, watched/talked/ate with NZ’s politicians in governmental buildings, and graduated from a very prestigious internship in Auckland called the Maxim Internship.

As I sit here in the dwindling light, in this increasingly uncomfortable wicker chair, thinking about all the things that I have done in my life up to this point, I know in full understanding that my life is only a quarter of the way complete. There is much more to be written, many more knees to be scraped, stories to be told, loves to be had, and breaths to be taken away. I know that.

And let me reassure you that for every good thing mentioned above, there was an antithesis. A few for example: no broken bones? MANY torn ligaments, sprains, and hairline fractures. Trophy in tee-ball? Every other team I would played for after that would never win first place…ever. Made it through junior high? If “making it through” with emotional/physical scaring due to incessant bullying for 6 years, all thanks to my red hair, counts as “making it through,” then I made it through. See You At The Pole day? Add ‘Christian’ to the list of things I was randomly punched in the hall for at school. Wanting to become an international social worker and moving overseas? Well this one takes the cake, because if you asked scrawny, 13-year-old Eric, walking home after getting verbally thrown down in the dirt, for something he couldn’t change about himself, that one day he would leave the most comforting, loving, understanding, and wholesome people in his life…people that cried for him, prayed for him, and were there for him…and move to a country where he knows only a handful of people and nothing else….to work with youths who aren’t given the time of day…..I would tell you that you were wrong. I would tell you that my family have been, and always will be, my rock…and that I would never leave them.

The fact of the matter is, I’m here. Over 8000 miles, (or 13,000 kilometers) separating us, doing what I feel called to do. Loving those I feel called to love. Investing in those young, crazy kids, and seeing myself in them every…single…week. And you know what? It may seem like I regret being here, or that I’ve made the wrong choice, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. A lot has happened since the days that I was a child.  I have seen tragedy. Loss. Hurt. Death. Seeing the vulnerable picked on, seeing the desperate crawl, and seeing the hopeless take life into their own hands and crush it. This is apart of growing up. This is apart of living life. A part of that is also learning countless lessons, making some incredible lifelong friends, seeing some incredible places, and knowing compassion of which I had never before known.

In the end, I hope to chalk a few more things up on my list of life achievements one day…things I can be proud of. A fulfilling job that I didn’t sell out for, a wife who loves me, a family with a kid of our own. A kid that will most likely experience similar trials I went through, but a child that I will one day love like crazy and pour everything I have into. Until then, I’m twenty-six, and instead of thinking back on the things I didn’t do, the things that I regret doing, or the things I don’t have…time is always better spent on the journey looking forward. So with that in mind, lets see what happens next.

Here’s what was next: The Beginning of the Ending –https://ericlukepeterson.wordpress.com/2016/09/16/the-beginning-of-the-ending/

What I’ve Been Doing for the Past 6 Months

Convicted murderer, high gang affiliations, addiction, domestic violence charges, and theft. I have to admit, I was quite nervous. Still, Te Whakaora Tangata wanted me to interview some people who attend their organization. I had never conducted interviews before, let alone talked for an hour at length with Maori people. What could I say? What couldn’t I say? What would be taboo for me to bring up? Will I insult them? What do I need to know before going into this? These questions and about thirty more were cycling through my head.

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For those who didn’t know, for the past 6 months I have been living in New Zealand, working with Maxim Institute. Maxim Institute is not the think tank where they come up with a bunch of ideas for a dirty magazine (sorry if that joke flew over your head), but rather a political think tank where we discuss policy and inform the leaders of the nation about issues that matter. Yeah, it’s been an interesting time. And for those who know me and are like, “Eric? You? Working at a political think tank? Yeah, okay. So what are you actually doing in NZ, common, you can tell me.” Ummm, I don’t know what to tell you. I have been.

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I graduate on Thursday and reflecting on what I’ve done here has been bitter/sweet. The beginning of this post was describing the project that I have been working on for the past 4 months. Basically Maxim and Te Whakaora Tangata (an organization that works on the Marae (a sacred meeting place for Maori (the native people of NZ))) have partnered to bring their first placement together in the internships history. Mainly to best take advantage of my specific skills as a Social Worker. What can I say? I’m kindof a big deal.

The day that I applied to the Maxim Institute, they asked me what I was passionate about. I told them that I loved being on the ground floor, helping people in their place of need. TW saw this as an opportunity to do something that they have been meaning to do for some time. They asked me if I could go to the Marae and interview people who have used their services. The object was to hear them out. The opportunity to be heard is a very powerful thing. To be noticed, to feel loved, cared for, and heard…can sometimes mean the difference between life and death. Additionally, as an organization, it is important to know that you are serving the people in the most effective and efficient way possible. This is done by the very popular and arduous process of research. I was to ask specific, and yet representative people questions about their past, present, and projected future through the work that TW has been doing in their lives. I was beyond excited. This was an opportunity for me to do what I have always wanted to do.

With my mentor Luke helping me through the process, I felt much more confident, as he has done this very thing in Germany 4 years ago. I knew from the start that the interviews would be incredibly helpful for the organization and for myself. I would gain knowledge and understanding about the people and culture, and TW would understand what they are doing well and maybe not so well.

Looking back on the experience now, I could not have been set up with a more perfect fit for my placement. This is Social Work. Helping people where they are at. Not in a cold office with a fluorescent light beating down on you, but on the streets, in their meeting places, in their homes, with their families, seeing the problems they’re facing, understanding their stories, and doing something about it. Social Work requires action, and I feel that my placement allowed me to know more about what that looks like. Now I am left with the question: “So what? What will you do about it?” Honestly, I can’t wait to answer that call, and this placement has given me the confidence to act.

This project was my baby, and tomorrow I present it to the organization, Maxim as well as the Lion Trust. I am excited and hopeful that the results will spur further action to aid the people in the Manurewa area. From here, I go on to bigger and more challenging opportunities in Social Work.

I will continue to live in the Maxim Intern Residence that I’ve been living in, until November, when the new batch of interns move in. There I will be living with the guys that I will be flatting with for the coming years in NZ. I have to say that I am excited for the changes ahead. Change, historically for me, Eric Peterson, doesn’t usually hit me until about 1-2 weeks later. At least not the sad things. So whatever comes, let it come. I’m ready for you.

A New Zealand-Sized Update

Hello everyone, and greetings from New Zealand. It’s raining here quite heavily, and thought this would be a good time to finally update you on my progress here. A lot has happened since my last update, and I feel that I have failed to clue you in. This is partially due to my laptop failing on me, and partially because I have been very busy.

First on the update: I have been accepted to the Maxim Internship. For all my American friends, this is not what you may think, and I do not work for the magazine. Let me make that quite clear, ha. The Maxim Institute features a very prestigious internship in the summer months (December-Feb), and then a semeser internship (March-July). The internship is esentially a ‘think tank’ that “produces research and informed analysis of contemporary issues; develops and promotes sound public policy; and communicates research findings and policy initiatives to the decision-makers and leaders of today.” (http://www.maxim.org.nz/about_us/overview3.aspx).

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The view from the Intern house

Second: Now that I am in the internship, I live in the 69825_10151495022459684_1375784229_nintern house that Maxim has provided for us. The house is on the North end of Wattle Bay, and comfortably fits me and the other 5 interns. The internship is a communal experience and also includes lectures and practical experience. I have been blessed to experience the internship due largly in part to the extremely generous donations by alumni and other donors. I am reminded everyday of the incredible opportunity I have to create change here in this country. I only hope that this internship can prepare me for working with this country’s people in a compitent and lasting way. The outside views from the intern porch also continue to remind me of God’s incredible creation and force me to take a break every once and a while, stop, and reflect. Always important I think.

About the Maxim Institute internship from Maxim Institute on Vimeo.

In the internship, I will be working with an organization named, “Te Whakaora Tangata,” which is the same organization that I have been volunteering with every other Saturday in Clendon. With them, I will be spending time with the people in that area, helping them, and providing services. In doing this, I will hopfully then be able to record their stories, and fulfill the need of someone hearing them and listening to them. By recording their stories, we can become better at what we do and thus offer more efficient services. Also, I feel it is an increbile service to listen to someone who feels invisible to the listening ears of their society. I can’t wait to get started, and in fact, I am quite eager to finally begin engaging.

Like I have stated before, I will be attending this internship until July, and then I will be looking for work in NZ as well as a flat to live in.

That will be all of the current updates about me at this point. I hope it hasn’t been too boring. Any prayers being sent my way would give me much joy. I love and miss you all and I pray that you will continue to work in making the area where you live into a much better place for everyone.

Eric Peterson