Having just stepped into my twenty-fifth year of life, it still surprises me whenever I realize I’ve had the patience and commitment to pursue any endeavor for more than a one-or-two-year stint. But somehow I’ve managed to date the same person for three years, live in a city other than my hometown for five, and (perhaps most easily) practice vegetarianism for six.
Even more, as a dedicated humanitarian, since I graduated high school seven years ago I’ve worked tirelessly toward a career in international development. It’s a notoriously difficult field to break into, especially for a first-generation college student from Rural America. But I was too idealistic to care, and dove in with the determination of a Taurus – studying Yoruba, followed by French (so I could work at the UN); taking out extra student loans to move to DC for an unpaid internship; starting a development project in Uganda; attending national and international conferences; doing summer school, an accelerated graduate program, pro-bono consulting work, writing, lobbying, networking – all piled on top of the typical all-nighters and waitressing gigs of the average middle-class college student. I sacrificed – to some degree – my social life, and neglected relationships with my family. My parents often didn’t know which continent I was on, but my mom would give up eating meat whenever I was abroad as a sacrifice to the Travel Gods to protect her most radical offspring.
And it worked.
Less than two years ago I landed my Dream Job at a well-respected Think Tank with the Best Address In Washington, working with world leaders and traveling the globe to grapple with some of the greatest challenges we face as Humanity on the Planet: human rights abuses, poverty alleviation, population growth, climate change, resource scarcity, and war. I’m on a first-name basis with Africa’s second female Head of State (who is a baller!). I’ve been to four continents in the last six months, and two of the world’s most beautiful cities (Capetown and Rio). I am well-paid, have a beautiful Window Office, and talented, service-driven coworkers.
But I entered this line of work because I am driven in the depths of my being– like many others—by the belief that my destiny is interwoven with that of all of Humanity. Particularly because I had the extreme luck of being born into a life so privileged, I carry an extraordinary responsibility to use my status in the world to fight injustice and restore harmony to our precious Planet.
Although I’ve been fortunate enough to play a role in influencing policy at the national and global levels to improve the lives of some, change is certainly not happening fast enough. We are living at a turning point for humanity, and I personally feel a lot of pressure to steer us away from a path of entrenched inequity and accelerated destruction. I want my own children and all future generations to be able to enjoy the spotless beauty of the human experience—for I have not been able to uncover a reason for Life other than to live it to the fullest!
So, as long as this pervasive global power imbalance perpetuates widespread exploitation and injustice for the benefit of a gluttonous few, as long as we desecrate our exquisite natural environment, as long as I have brothers and sisters around the world for whom suffering is the norm rather than the exception, I cannot sit at my comfy desk and wait for marginal, insufficient progress from the international political system I have exalted for the last seven years.
In just over two weeks, I will be walking away from my Dream Job for no good reason other than an unshakeable feeling in my gut that there must be a better way. I’m leaving the intensity of this city I love so dearly to pause, muse, and seek new ideas (and maybe a bit of adventure).
I invite you to join me.