Friday, March 06, 2009
Last time I penned a letter like this I was sitting in a small apartment in Malaysia during Thaipusam , listening to a 1981 Grateful Dead concert and sipping a much too large coke flavored with black market and very scary rum.
This time is a little different. This day, amber waves of Tom Petty dance and weave around me a blanket to block out the cold Wisconsin air on a night not 24 hours after my closest cousin's birthday. Cold and Delicious Milk sits comfortably within reach, arousing and alluring the taste buds.
I no longer have many friends here in Fond du Lac, so reprieves to this place often entail a great deal of reflective thought. Fortunately or unfortunately you get to bear the fruits of this silent and self indulgent labor, but I believe by sharing it we can all reach a place of better understanding and perhaps unknowing but mutual respect.
In the past 6 months I chaired 2 ROKS conferences. What you learn when you exit AIESEC is it is unique not in its mission or model, but in its human nature. It provides a special existence where you join others in throwing vast amounts of energy at a problem you may not fully understand (I didn't--and still don't), but you do it because you believe that some way and some how you can make a worthwhile change maybe not for yourself but definitely for others. And you go it not alone; you're joined by others just as crazed, deranged, and foolish as you are who just can't quite seem to find the limits to their effort and emotional depths.
That's why I chaired these conferences - to immerse myself back in that pool of passion and blinding energy.
What you'll find, woe as it may be, is that this is quite hard to find outside of AIESEC. Somehow, it's different, even if you're in a non profit or mission driven organization. The relationships that seemed so natural in AIESEC don't come quite as easily in these other places. That true fabric guiding those around you becomes harder to find, more deeply guarded and hidden.
And so, what I found happening over the past year or so is that slowly my internal flame, the same one that burned bright with ideas and absolute rejection of the status quo, slowly began to fade. I stopped back flipping out of bed ready to stick it to the man. My heels dragged a little, then a little more
On Sunday, February 22nd, I wrapped up the North East Beast ROKS conference, once again a little lighter on the feet and with a more inspired flame. It was just like last time, only I hoped this time it wouldn't fade out.
And it didn't.
About 5 hours after we left the conference I got a text message telling me a market in Cairo, Egypt had been bombed. My beloved Egypt.
Khan el Khalili, the market I'd spent countless hours in drinking tea, ripping down shisha, discovering the endless kindness of my Egyptian peers, and haggling with those A-hole merchants, had been bombed again. It didn't--and still doesn't--seem fair.
My mental gears began to turn.
If I don't evangelize Egypt, who will? If someone like me, packed with numerous incredible Egyptian experiences, doesn't stand up and be counted, how do I expect others to answer the call? How do I expect not to fall into the abyssal masses of stone faced, half-baked shapeless drifters?
I realized I was at an intersection of good news and bad news. I realized the intersection between good news and bad news is a human. I realized the intersection between good news and bad news is me, and you. I had to make a choice.
Will I let the evil few shroud the good many in shadows? Or will I stand and outshine?
So here's my promise. It's to you and to myself.
From here on out I hustle. I hustle for Egypt. I hustle for my Egyptian NGO support idea, the one I've been sitting on for 14 months, and make it a reality by this Fall. I hustle to relight that fire under my ass so I can back flip out of bed in the morning, and crumble down at night thinking WHAT A RIDE, grinning 100% of the damn time.
Then I hustle for more.
And I hope you'll hustle with me.
The Prime Time for AIESEC exchange is approaching soon and I hope you'll play a part, whether going abroad yourself (the best way) or making it happen for someone else. Regardless of your team, you can throw your hat in the exchange ring and make shit happen.
It's now or never baby. The time for talk of "potential" has ended. It's time to act, to drop the dime, to shoot the fish, to let it rain, to realize.
Sit at the computer.
Pick a country.
Bring the hammer down.
And click APPLY.
Then lean over and help that beautiful baby next to you.
Make a change. I'll be here in my corner of the world watching, and making a change of my own.
It won't be easy, but we can do it. We need to. We were born to.
Thanks for lighting the fire.
Even more crazy, deranged and foolish than before,