Years ago, right before I graduated from college, my dad knew I was feeling pretty aimless. I had my heart set on non-profit work, and he had his heart set on a job that would pay me money. Because of his vast work experience in the banking world, his recommendations for networking and connections came primarily through those he had known at the bank. Some from the legal side, some on trading, anything but what sounded fun and familiar to me. Having still to this day never taken a business class, those jobs and connections felt completely out of my league.
But one thing my dad did do for me was coordinate a weekend trip to Charlotte for me to visit my cousin Sloan. At the time she was single, a few years older, had her own house and had been very successful career-wise. He thought that me spending some time with her and hearing about her day-to-day work experience would be a meaningful thing for a 21/22 year old to do. He also coordinated for me to spend some time with a cousin of his who was a lawyer, and another friend from the Charlotte banking world. All vibrant and successful women.
Those connections and meetings were fine. I don’t remember anything particularly poignant about any of them, other than me seeing all the lives and careers I didn’t want. Which I guess you could argue was equally important, but led me no closer to finding a job that I wanted. But on the last night of my trip, the three women took me out to a really hip and modern restaurant in Charlotte and spent some time getting to know me. They asked me what I really wanted to do. Where was my heart in all of this?
And all I could think about was doing work in Africa. I wanted to work at an orphanage or help build wells and just get my hands dirty with real life. I wanted to know what it was like to live without, to see poverty with my own eyes and have to reconcile that with how I lived. I wanted to help those less fortunate in some way. I wanted to give back and sow in and uplift. I don’t remember a conversation before that one where I started to connect who I am with what I would consider to be meaningful work. And I was young, my life experience narrow and unforgiving. But what this conversation led me to was
the next step.
I applied for a summer internship in Kenya after I graduated with 20 other college students. We worked in orphanages, schools, homes for disabled children, learned to slaughter a goat, hiked, fed giraffes, slept in a college dorm, learned how to cook a full Kenyan meal, ate meals in the homes of locals, and spent time teaching in the slums. Each day we set out to love the people in front of us. If that meant helping them cut spinach or playing with children or carrying cinder blocks or learning Kenyan dances, we were all in. Every day. And looking back, my dad’s meeting didn’t necessarily propel me forward into any particular career. But he did connect me with women who had hearts who took time to listen and encourage me in the things that were important to me. And for me, that was my right next step. To start connecting my heart with what I would spend time doing each day.
And although its been 10 years since that trip, that small investment my dad made in helping me learn my own way in this world has made me forever grateful.
And while I gave the non-profit world a shot, I now find myself thriving in a business role in corporate America. Go figure! But its still a role that impacts people and influences how they live and do their day-to-day jobs. My work with (RED) being the most significant in my career, to date. With the goal to see the first AIDS-free generation.
So in a sense, that trip to Charlotte was an investment in me. And one that led me to the right next step to get me to here.