By Polly Carlson
Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Hello fellow MVSers,

Last I saw all of you, I was home for my childhood best friend's wedding. If you haven't attended — or been in the bridal party of — a close friend's wedding, that day is probably quickly approaching, as we are all in that phase of life where a lot of our peers are getting married. 

I always imagined finding my spouse at Bethel College, like my friend did at Hesston College. We would have settled down in some small Kansas town. I would have taught upper elementary school kids, and hopefully, he would have done something that made more money than me! Eventually we'd have a family and maybe move back to South Dakota.

Around Christmas break of my senior year, I got the vibe from God that my imagined future was not going to happen. I took that as God saying, "Hey, you are braver and much more capable than you think." So, I applied for Mennonite Voluntary Service (MVS) — something I never would have considered when I was a freshman.  

At my friend's wedding, I had an out-of-body experience: I looked around at these two Mennonite families (both sets of parents also met at Hesston), the other bridal party members (all Hesston alumni), and my best friend and her new husband. I thought, "Woah, I thought this was going to be me."

And for a few days after I got back to San Francisco, I was still thinking about that, and honestly, it didn't sit well with me. I was upset that I wasn't going to have that big college wedding, where everyone knows each other and the families are friends.

My first weekend back in the city my MVS housemate, Claire Waidelich, and I biked to the beach. There aren't many things that give me a feeling of euphoria quite like biking downhill on a sunny day with a killer playlist going. I had Harry Styles' "Golden" blasting in my headphones right as the ocean became visible. As we walked the smooth sand close to the water, I thought: "One day I am going to have a life partner and a family. I'm going to be a teacher. We'll have a home and some sort of crossover vehicle. We will buy our own groceries and I won't have to worry about a roommate eating my leftovers. I can live close enough to family that I don't have to fly to see them."

But when that day comes, I will think back to when I biked to the Pacific Ocean whenever I wanted. When I didn't have to pay bills, and I worked remotely — with kids and coworkers I love — and slept until nine every morning. I'll remember how much time I had to read for pleasure, journal and do devotions. When I lived above a dry cleaner's in the heart of San Francisco, and my bedroom had five massive windows and an old fireplace. When MVS stretched and challenged me in the best ways.

My friend married the love of her life at 22. They just got a puppy and she's adorable. But she also works at an insurance company from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day. My life isn't going as 18-year-old Polly planned it. And wow, the pandemic sucks. But I'm right where I need to be. I hope for all of you the same sense of contentment and satisfaction in wherever life has brought you to this point. 


​Polly Carlson is an MVS participant at the 2019-2020 San Francisco unit.



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