If you’ve been following me on social media, you’ll know that last December, under the full winter solstice moon I wrote a poem about becoming something new, and then I posted it.
What followed were lots of poems, that on some level, were the outcry that led to resigning from my career and taking a summer road trip, followed by a month of quiet at home, and then a flurry of list-making. Part of my push into feeling good, was making lists. I’m a list maker. If it’s not on the list (or my calendar) it doesn’t exist.
One particular list was different because, instead of tasks and to-dos, it was filled with wants and desires. Only those things that my soul craved most. I was on a kick to bring into my life only good stuff. Stuff that felt full of joy and ease and adventure. Can you imagine, filling your life with only things that make you feel good? It’s pretty awesome.
On that list, I made a wish to go back to India, which had been a distant desire of mine since going the first time in 2018 (read about that here). But, I did what anyone with attention deficit tendencies would do and promptly forgot about that list. I was deep into launching a podcast, and figuring out my new life and chances were slim that I could afford a trip to India anyway. I was living on a sabbatical savings account that was dwindling and needed to be maximized for time, not travel.
And Yet, in December, that lost list started to vibrate somewhere in my house and shook loose the opportunity for a sponsored trip to India.
I Think They Call This Manifesting
Some time in late summer, I read a little 10 page book, How to Get Whatever You Want, that had been around for about 100 years, and it laid out succinctly how to get, well, whatever you want. It sounds dubious except it was written long before gurus and self help were mainstream, so it’s longevity intrigued me.
The instructions were simple: write down every last thing your heart desires, don’t show it to anyone and don’t talk about it. Read it everyday. Update as needed. Watch it all come true. I was game!
I think they call this manifesting: sending wishes out, and then getting yourself prepared in every way to receive the return, and then letting go of the idea that it will ever come true. Except I really, really wanted to go because I had time, and itchy wanderlust feet, and I wanted to see the girls. I also wanted to do what I hadn’t given myself the chance to do in well over a decade, which was to get on a plane alone and go around the world, because I could. On that level, it felt like the most important soul’s desire.
When Education is the Highest Priority
So it all came together. In some ways against the odds, with timing that wasn’t ideal but with a pull to go anyway. And so I set off. A brutal 38 hour transit from D.C. to Delhi to Kolkata. But I was there, and so grateful, so full of hope, so excited for what I was bringing to the table on this trip. If you read part one of this story, then you know, the first time in India set me on a course, and this felt very much like a full circle of that course.
Going back was just as sweet as the first time. The school has grown, the girls have grown, but their smiles and sweet demeanor are ever the same. If you want to get inspired and feel awe over something, have a few days with these young ladies who are lifting themselves up out of poverty and the dangers of trafficking and early marriage. They are already changed by their education. I’m not being dramatic when I say they have real hope and real joy that I dare say American and First World kids could take note of. There is something very endearing and inspiring about young people who understand what they have, and know that their lives will be unlike almost anyone they know. That this sisterhood they have found at the school will be for a lifetime, and that their amazing and highly-educated teachers are there to advocate and guide them towards a full life, and a chance to give back.
During those two weeks I got an appreciation for the priority that is education in India. The infrastructure and politics might fail the greater population of the country, but for those who have access they take it very seriously. The teacher roster alone is comprised of women already with Masters degrees, and nearly all actively attaining additional certifications and/or PHDs. Once again I was reminded that I was not there to save anyone, or to feel any superiority. This fact was really driven home by the General Knowledge competition of which I was a judge and only knew some of the answers. Proof that access is only one of the ingredients so success. Showing up and wanting it is just as important.
Writing My Way Around the World
Taking a page out of the Piyali Learning Center handbook, I showed up, too. Me, a self-proclaimed writer, with plans for writing workshops on the theme of telling your story.
The writing workshops were a highlight for me. We talked about how writing can be a profession. If you can think of it, you can get paid to write about it. It’s all about telling stories. BUT, the most important story you will ever tell, is your own. Everyone already has a story, simply because you are alive. Paid or not, write this story, even if it’s just for you. Speak it, if that feels good. Be it, without apology. Do it, because it matters.
In those workshops we wrote our stories. With an Aspiring Writer’s care package of a journal, pen and pencil with the most adorable erasers - just part of the gifts I was able to bring through generous donations from many of you. And so we wrote, about memories of times that were funny, scary, a surprise. We wrote about hopes for the future and dreams of a life we hope to have.
Then, THE BEST PART! They stood up and shared their stories. So bravely, with so much courage and humility. I’ll never be the same after these classes. I’ve never taught kids like this before, but I’ll tell you, teachers out there I SEE YOU. And WOW! No wonder you keep showing up even when the chips are down. There’s nothing quite like holding that space for someone else to shine.
Thriving Against the Odds
One of the most striking aspects of the visit was our walk around the village of Piyali. Oh, how it has come up in the last five years. Thanks to a grant from Rotary International and the diligent work of the school founder Deepa Willingham, a total of 15 fresh water wells were installed around the village many years ago.
In the beginning years of the school, the teachers struggled with malnourished children who would be de-wormed at school but then go home and drink contaminated water. A losing battle. So Deepa arranged large quantities of multi-vitamins to build up their health, and then provided them de-worming pills, and then went to work getting fresh water wells installed all over the village.
The transformation is astounding. More agriculture, more farm animals, a village with healthy, athletic and thriving families. It’s first hand witness that these things we so take for granted in modern life, really and truly matter. There’s no doubt in my mind that they create a base-line of health that can be the difference to a child and family in every way. If you ask me how you might make an impact in the world, my vote is invest in clean water, and education.
And on that note, that’s exactly what I plan to keep doing. We shall see if the wish list shakes loose another journey to the Far East for next January. Fingers crossed. And thank you for coming along with me on the journey. Namaste.
If you feel compelled to help, you can donate to PACE Universal and sponsor a student for just a little over a dollar a day for a year of education. http://paceuniversal.org/