The first part of this blog post might seem like it’s not entirely timely, considering the current state of the world. But I promise it is. If you’re stressed and feeling out of control and like, you don’t know where to focus your attention or how to calm down, you’re in the right spot. Trust me.
It BLOWS my mind that I was preparing to graduate college a year ago.
I very clearly didn’t end up moving to Bemidji and working at the newspaper there. Nor did I take another journalism job. I didn’t really know what type of job to take. I was about to graduate college with a double major in Media & Journalism and Political Science. Most of my classmates were applying for or accepting jobs with news organizations, ad agencies, or government offices. Others were planning on entering graduate programs. I didn’t know what I wanted to do – so I did what any wing seven enneagram type would and explored EVERY option. While there were many places I could see myself, my heart really only wanted to be in one place – Haiti.
I had been working for a non-profit in Haiti for a few years. I knew I could continue to help them on a full-time basis. I also learned from working in the industry and area for a few years that non-profits tend to struggle with the administrative end of things. Non-profits struggle with marketing, fundraising, and, to put it really bluntly – running efficient, effective programs (which isn’t necessarily their fault, but that’s an entirely different blog post).
All I wanted to do was get deep into on-the-ground non-profit work. So I made a choice – a choice to go to Haiti for eight weeks. Working for the non-profit, I had started a photography/marketing business for non-profits and mission teams and exploring starting a non-profit with one of my closest friends and her Haitian husband. I’d come back for a friend’s wedding and then finish moving to Haiti permanently. It seems great, doesn’t it?
While I look back a year later and still think that plan would have been ideal – I can’t help but laugh at how hard I was trying to do things to impress others.
Here’s some real talk: College is SO MUCH pressure. Especially when you’ve been a “high performer” at college for four years, it seems like professors, mentors, and peers expect to see success from you immediately. For four years, I was pumped with the narrative that “success” after graduation means you either get into a top graduate program or get a great job right out of college.
What nobody talks about: Being a recent college grad is hard….and awkward…. and all the things you’ve been lead to believe it shouldn’t be. You’re going to feel like a failure a million different times and always feel like you’re letting someone down no matter what decision you make (this again could be its own blog post).I felt so overwhelmed. I didn’t know what to do. I wished someone could have just told me – this is what you are supposed to do, now do it—looking back and this two-month-long period where I was freaking out about my future. I thought it was the end of the world, and it SO was not.
The day after I graduated I found myself packing up everything I owned and unpacking it into my parents’ garage. Once it was unpacked I put things into four piles
Pack into a storage unit
Pack up for nomadic/Haiti life
I spent about a month on the road in the US, using my grandma’s spare bedroom as a home base. Going to visit friends, work from coffee shops all over the midwest, and going on lots of hikes.
This time was spent brainstorming how I would impact the non-profit industry. My partners and I wanted to build a hotel in Haiti. We’d use it to create local jobs, house teams/tourists, and as a social hub to connect and empower non-profits across the country. We had a big dream and this big vision. And yet, we had no idea how to get there. Again, I felt overwhelmed. I felt so much pressure to perform (and quickly), and yet I thought I was still trying to get a breather from taking my final exams.
My last summer spent in Haiti could be an entire book – that I might actually write someday. But long story very short – while trying to do ALL the things at once just to make some money and help the world be a little bit better, I learned some things. I was given information that led me to discover the organization I had worked for for years was not what it seemed. I was also told that if I were to share any of the information, I would be putting friends I love like family in very real danger and putting myself in danger.
The dangerous aspect was why nobody in leadership knew about the corruption on the ground. Everyone was terrified to say anything negative. If they did and it was discovered they had told, it would result in physical danger for them.
This whole thing was SCARY. Like stuff, you read about in books scary. I was overwhelmed. Again, I just wanted someone to tell me – this is what you need to do, do it.
But that didn’t happen. Finally, after many hard (secret) conversations, shower cries and planning with very smart people. I decided I needed to come forward about the corruption I had learned about. It’s crazy how the more time you spend with the truth, and in a community, the more you know what to do.
This, again, was extremely overwhelming. The safety of my friends relied on me giving this information in the right way and it being received in a way that wouldn’t put anyone in harm’s way.
But I knew it was the right thing to do. So I came back to America and shared what I needed to. Then I was tasked with creating a plan to deal with corruption (again – so overwhelming I can’t even put it into words – anyone sensing the theme of this blog?).
Things moved very quickly after that. Within just months, what never seemed possible to me became a reality. I still get teary-eyed thinking about all the people who got help and how many amazing humans came together and the stars aligned to make it happen. It seems like a perfect end to a story, right?
Well here’s some more real talk: people don’t talk about what happens after the “The End” moments.
The whole time all of this info gathering and sharing was happening to expose injustice; the country of Haiti was getting into extreme protests and manifestations about the injustice happening all over the county. Pushing everything to a halt.
When I knew I couldn’t go back right away, the original plan was for me to stay in America, in my grandma’s spare bedroom (bless her soul) for a few months. I’d get a job in the US to help pay expenses while also trying to gather partners and financial support for the non-profit I still intended to start with my dear friends. We kept planning, and fundraising and the political situation in Haiti kept getting worse and worse.
Many non-profits have scaled their operations in Haiti way back or pulled out completely. The timing wasn’t right, and we had to decide to put the dream we wanted more than anything back on the shelf. Life came at us so fast. It comes at all of us so fast. Humans are so complex, and we have so many dreams and ambitions. But this was and is something I want more than anything else – to create a non-profit that connects and empowers non-profits in a geographical region to strengthen the whole sector.
The job I had taken in the US was a job with an American NGO. A historical society – and it was SOOO not the job for me. But I had no idea what I wanted to do. By this point, I was exhausted. I hadn’t taken a breath in over a year. I’d been moving all over the place with no real underlying purpose to any of it (any other enneagram seven peeps feel this!?), and I was TIRED. In a few months, I’d be diagnosed with PTSD.
But even while being completely overwhelmed, some things happen, and something was super clear – my ex-boyfriend from high school (Kris with a K) and I were supposed to get back together. So we did. And I moved back to my hometown to live with him, take a chill pill, and get some therapy (so important for EVERYONE).
Around the same time, I realized that two things got me out of every single overwhelming situation I’ve been in – truth and connection. So I decided to go full time with photography and storytelling to pursue that in my day-to-day life.
Right now, things are so overwhelming and uncertain. Statistics and predictions on how long COVID-19 panic will last change by the hour. The economy is plummeting, and government officials are changing the playbook. Today Kris and I stocked up on flour, canned goods, and light bulbs at a Dollar General while watching the MN Governor announce the brewery we both work at has to close by 5 p.m. tomorrow. Things are wild and extremely overwhelming. But I know truth and connection will get us through this too.
What I have found is somehow, after every scary, stressful situation I get through, the next one seems 10x worse. When really, I think I just forget so easily how powerful I really am. How powerful we all are. Humans are amazing, and when we band together – magic happens. I’ve seen it with my own eyes.
So here I am sharing my truth and looking for connection (just virtually or 6 feet away for now). What’s your truth? How do you need to be connected right now?
I genuinely want to know. Do you feel overwhelmed? And what about it feels overwhelming. I’m still brainstorming how we can all share together without it just feeling like we’re screaming into the void of social media. So please – share your story, and let me know how you like to connect. Once we get a conversation going – magic happens.