People often ask – either with a curious or perplexed expression – “What made you want to start the nonprofit?” I smile and say something to the effect of, “A lifetime of screwing up.”
Be About Change (the nonprofit) provides higher education scholarships to students from low-income households, and we write about individuals and organizations that embrace change and seek to make a difference in the lives of others.
Lately, when interacting with people, whether I just met them or have known them for a while, I ask myself two questions: Is there anything I can do personally to help further their goals? Who in my network of people might be able to help them?
The questions I used to ask were usually quite the opposite and I spent a lot of time figuring out ways to avoid dealing with internal conflict, or at the very, least suppressing it (only to realize that this in fact compounded things). Social media? I thought that was a platform for complaining and posting versions of my ideal self, as projected by my ego. As it turns out, the ego can be useful, but I’ve found its energy is wasted on creating facades.
Ironically – and I’ve never actually said this before – the nonprofit functions in a similar way. It’s an alter ego of sorts, and when I compartmentalize what I believe are positive efforts, I seem to be able to hold myself to a higher standard within the confines or premise of the nonprofit. In a way, it gives me a place to practice BEING my ideal self. Not the aesthetic kind – but the kind that is rooted in the foundational principles with which I was instilled when I was growing up.
Not so long ago, I made decisions from a very self-serving place; this of course compelled me to act in corresponding ways – addictions, self-isolation, no consideration of others, permanent judgment of others, and essentially no value for the lives of others or my own.
Even still, almost a year into sobriety, my darkness seemed to have a stronghold on me…and I knew, yet again, it was time for change. In a way, I felt cheated…where was the reward for voluntary sobriety? Wasn’t life supposed to be much better now? 2015…dead sober…and it was one of the most difficult times in my life…because for the first time in my life, I knew I had to travel to the deepest, darkest corners of my mind if I was to find peace.
I spent a lot of time identifying behavioral patterns in my life and learning how my mind works. I habitually sought out new experiences and scenarios that made me uncomfortable. I got used to immersing myself in my fears. My running training was often at 4:30 and 5:00 a.m., with no sunlight. There was something liberating about conquering physical challenges in darkness.
After the run, hitting other personal records, and practicing writing more honestly, it dawned on me that I could actually harness the madness…the unsettled nature of my mind, and channel it to do something productive, while trying to help others. I use the word “trying” because there is an inherent sense of arrogance in saying “I help others.” It’s presumptuous to assume you know what is best for someone else. Rather, I try to configure and reconfigure my motivation to be conscious of where others are in life, understanding that all of us generally operate from a place where we feel mentally safe.
I can’t honestly say I wanted to…it was never some life-long goal of mine. I guess you could say I became a person that was no longer solely motivated by service to self. I became aware that the smallest effort we make TODAY can have a positive impact on a person…generations later, after that spark ignites action in others throughout time.
As I conclude this article, a song starts playing on my Spotify playlist that I used to hear when I wanted to make changes in my life, but couldn’t. When fear of the unknown was paralyzing. But don’t take my word for it.
Imagine your fears and the stronghold they have on you. Thank them for bringing you this far (gratitude for them is important, in my opinion). Then allow that energy to propel you into a state of continuously being about change. Thank you for letting me share my #halfthestory.