Dear future self…

Bit of a departure from the usual here this week. Before setting off to Ghana, I spent one month in Toronto in “Pre-departure Training”, EWB’s way of preparing staff for their work and lives overseas. The month is really really intense, emotionally and in terms of learning. After a frequently overwhelming month, as the last session on the last day, you write a “letter to yourself”, to be delivered in a few months. I opened that letter yesterday and was pretty moved by it. So, I decided to share it – I basically challenged myself to share it, though I didn’t recognize it at the time.  Back to Questions next week!

What a thing, to write a letter to yourself. To take this moment, this collection of experiences that has delivered me here, with THIS set of experiences, THIS sense of self. To capture a snapshot, and preserve it, to look for things dynamic, and those that stay the same.

The month of pre-dep is over. This experience was a truly remarkable experience, a forming of bonds, a learning of the self, a breaking and forming and reinforcing of beliefs ideal, and ideas. Do you remember those first days, the abject shattering of an arrogance fostered over time? It was a freeing thing, to know that you’re wrong, to see the seeds inside yourself, and to do all you can to grow them. In humility, in embracing ignorance, you commit to learning. Have you grown arrogant, or relaxed? Do you learn, question, and reflect every day? Are you looking for the ways in which you are wrong, and embracing the error, moving forward with a new, still incomplete, but converging understanding?

The month has been a steady flow of experiences through which I float and swim, sometimes slipping under, sometimes faltering, but inexorably moving forward. The opportunities for growth are always right there, usually staring you in the face. The challenge is to seize them, to dig and ask why, what, who. In great challenge there is great opportunity, and if there is no challenge, then you’re not pushing hard enough.

Right now, I am 74 hours away from that leap. I feel both ill-prepared and ready at the same time. I have fostered a head space of critical thought, found a hundred new lenses through which I could look at a challenge. All that is left in this chapter is to end it. “Pre-departure” – so aptly named! As soon as I shoulder that backpack, Departure begins, and I leap into that fast flowing river. Right now, in my objective stand on the shore, it flows blue and calm, faint ripples belying the tranquillity and simplicity of the steady flow forward. When I jump in, THEN I will begin to understand the true nature of what I have come so far to do.

I’m somewhat jealous of you, you know. You have a set of experiences and enormous opportunities moving forward, that I can only imagine in the faintest fantasies of my mind. Look around at where you are. Maybe it’s comfortable, maybe it’s not. Maybe you’re surrounded by love, and maybe sometimes you wonder if anyone even cares. When I look forward and think of where you are and what you’re doing, I am so proud, and so confident. Remember your passion. Embrace your ability. Be thankful for your humility, and move forward with confidence. Embrace the failures as the necessary learning steps along the way, and rejoice in the successes, even if right now they seem small or far between.

Don’t be afraid to push. I have a vision in me now, though it’s still ill-formed and amorphous and most days I don’t recognize it. But it’s beautiful. It’s a vision of a better world, a world in which I am happy to live, in which each man loves his neighbour, in which no one goes hungry or is trapped in circumstances they didn’t ask for. The vision is worth the battle. Share that vision, that goal. Collect allies. Pre-dep has brought me together with 5 other fantastic people. We pushed each other to new heights, and together got a little closer to that vision. We created something this past month. Share that vision, and keep pushing.

Love. Share love. Find love, embrace it, embrace friends new and old. Look for it, and offer it freely, without hesitation. Don’t try to create a mask but accept yourself, and give people the space to the same, and be accepted for it. Integrate. Learn the language, – use the cue cards. There is no greater sign of respect. But don’t stop there – be curious! You’re in Africa – this IS an adventure, and create those bonds, those relationships.

Most of all, remember why you’re there. Push yourself and push others – role model changes, and offer support. Time is short – push, and keep pushing, but keep the foundation strong.

What else can be said? No one has higher expectations than you, but give yourself the space you need. I feel so excited right now, so filled with love, and so open to learning. These are all incredible assets – hold them tight and share them.

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8 Responses to Dear future self…

  1. “Do you remember those first days, the abject shattering of an arrogance fostered over time?” Beautiful. Thank you. A beautiful reminder for us all.

  2. Mike says:

    Dan this is phenomenal. I know you wrote it for yourself, but thanks for writing it to me too brother. It gave me goosebumps and stopped me in my tracks a few times.

    My favourite part is “Look for it, and offer it freely, without hesitation. Don’t try to create a mask but accept yourself, and give people the space to the same, and be accepted for it.”

    I think this powerful human connection and love truly shines through in the way you interact with so many different people, and when coupled with your core critical questions makes you an indominable force. Keep it up.

  3. This is beautiful Dan. Thanks for being so open, honest… and humble.

  4. Conor says:

    Powerful stuff, Dan. I’ll be forwarding this on to a few people – there’s an International Development Research Network here at UBC, who I think would really appreciate your insights.

  5. Thanks for positive responses guys!! Felt a little awkward sharing this one 😛

  6. Pingback: Development Digest – 11/03/11 « What am I doing here?

  7. minashahid says:

    Wow!

    I think that letter will be the opening chapter to the best selling book you will soon write. It reminds me of that feeling of possibility we all have when we leave predep. How do we keep that fire burning? How do we keep our hearts open? Things that have been on my mind lately, perhaps in your infinite wisdom you may know how!

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