Category Archives: Life Lessons

Why we all have to learn the hard way. And why it’s worth it.

Mishap

“Hey bud i hope u are ok

u r one tough son of a gun

give me a shout when your feeling up for it”

-John’s text message this morning.

Not that tough.

Not that tough.

I was planning to drive down to Dulles International Airport to pick up my good friend Naveen but never made it.  Earlier that day, some friends and I were skating on a small pond at one of my coworker’s (John) family estate north of Baltimore.  This pond was a beautiful heart-shaped affair that his grandfather had dug for his grandmother for Valentine’s day.  So sweet and cute right?

I tell you, this pond is made of cold, hard, solid ice.  Great for the business end of a skate, but not the soft and supple face.  To tell the truth, I have no memory of even beginning to fall, plus most of the events after that.  In fact, all I remember is a group of shadowy figures huddled around in-front of a grayish sky and one of them saying, “The ambulance is almost here!”

Will too many paramedics in one spot break the ice!?!

Will too many paramedics in one spot break the ice!?!

From all the witness accounts, I did a good head-knock on the ice, “Four inches of bounce!” from one bye-stander.  This was a textbook concussion.  My eyes were open but glazed, blood was streaming and according to my worried girlfriend, Alyssa, I did have a pulse and was breathing, but my left eye was wild; looking off in some strange direction.  She lovingly cradled my limp frame and tried to stay behind me so that I would not see her crying, but I think that even if she was directly in front of me at the time, I would not have seen her crying, or laughing, or doing jumping jacks for that matter.

Concussion symptoms according to one Google search:

  • Loss of consciousness after any trauma to the head
  • Confusion
  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Blurred vision
  • Loss of short-term memory (you may not remember the actual injury and the events some time before or after the impact)
  • Perseverating (repeating the same thing over and over, despite being told the answer each time, for example, “Was I in an accident?”)

I’m not sure if I was “perseverating,” but all of the others fit to a t.

Because of all of this and a nice trip to the Emergency Room, I was not able to pick up Naveen.  I guess I got to miss all of his journey.  Thankfully, my friend Ayehlet was a trooper and jetted down an hour-and-a-half to get him.  Thanks Ayehlet!

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The Short and Long of it.

I made an agreement.  That’s the short of it.

I made an agreement with Naveen to visit his home country of India. I sealed this agreement with a British Airways ticket scheduled to depart the evening of January 11, 2009 from Baltimore Washington International Airport, arrive in Hyderabad India and return to Dulles International Airport January 31.  I did not follow-through with my agreement.

On the 31st at 8:30 I plan to pick-up Naveen from Dulles.  He flew alone,  and I will drive alone to welcome him back to the United States.  We should have been weary and wonder-filled after weeks of traveling together; that was the agreement, if only in my mind.  Now Naveen, alone, will be weary from 23 hours of flying and waiting.  I will be much more rested and comfortable; maybe with just a little numbness in my seat from the drive around the beltway.  I am glad that I can at least connect with him on some leg of his journey though, even if it is just a shuttle to his home.

January 3.  I committed to myself that I should cancel my $1200 plane ticket after weeks of internal debate.  I dearly wanted to travel to India, but the initial joy of that prospect faded as the logistics and letdowns of life crowded in.  “I can’t go to India now, that would be foolish.  I don’t have the money, my life is changing too quickly, work is crazy right now…But I made an agreement.  What do I tell Naveen?”  Thankfully, I think he knew as well as I did that his trip home would be well spent even if I did not go.  He hadn’t seen his family for a year and a half, he needed this to be his trip.  My trip should be something different, something I believe in.

January 6.  I called the travel agency to cancel the ticket.  In doing so, I was informed by a Mr. Jeff that I had to rebook my ticket before my departure date to preserve its value.  Foolish me, I had assumed that the airline would give a simple credit and allow me to make up my mind for a flight sometime in the future.  Not this airline, I had five days and counting, plus over $250 in additional fees and the loss of any new ticket price difference, over or under the original value of this ticket.  Thanks a lot Jeff.

Ever wish you had a ticket and could just spin the globe in a game of roulette to choose a destination?  I always believed that would be exciting and fun, but all I felt this time was anxiety.  Where the heck would I go, and when for that matter?  How long?  By myself?–that was the worst part, by myself? I knew I had to have a reason to travel, some meaning for this hiatus.  By the way, I had three days to make up my mind at this point.

January 9.  Breakthrough.

Searching the web and my mind for organizations and causes I believed in, I found what I was looking for:  The Foundation for Sustainable Development.  I had done years of service with particular non-profits and loved the fulfillment, but I always felt like there was never enough time to use any skill or trait to a full measure, never enough time to make a connection with the people I was with.  I would spend a comparatively small percentage of the time actually serving, and before I knew it, would then be bussed away with all the other volunteers to our nice big hotel; out of sight of those who needed more from us.  I knew that this time I would be committing to a longer-term goal.  My dream has always been to work with local communities developing sustainable living practices and environments that foster hope, purpose and life.  Thankfully, I believe I found a way to take another step in that direction.  After an expedited application process and the great help of Andie in the FSD application office, I could feel safe committing to a trip.

January 10, 10PM.  I canceled my ticket to India with just hours to spare and rescheduled a ticket for Nairobi, Kenya on February 26.  Surprisingly, the two tickets were almost identical in price! February 26 is a very soon departure indeed, but it really was the only reasonable open time to serve with the foundation. That leads to the present challenge:  I still have no idea what exact project I will be doing, what community organization I will work with or what kind of role I will have there.  I still need to raise about $2500 to go (please see the page on this blog entitled Sustainable Development: Kakamega, Kenya to help me meet my fund-raising goal.)  I do however, know that I will be trained for a short time, live with a local family, and begin to learn their language.  I also know that these trips, however long or short, are intended to familiarize, train and foster a long-term perspective on how to train the local population make a future for themselves full of hope and direction.

I do know that the local community organizations that FSD works with have more needs than people, have several projects that excite me, and are willing to accommodate my skills and abilities.  I will be in the field for only four weeks this trip, but I hope that this journey is a doorway into my long-term dream.  I know that this dream cannot be realized quickly, it will take years and years of small steps and continual learning; many trips and experiences I expect to be similar to this trip.  That really is the long of it.

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