For the past three years, I identified myself by my job. I lived it, breathed it, dreamed about it. It fulfilled my life goal: To live everyday as if it was a grand adventure. It was where I met my greatest friends, traveled the world, and went to bed every night feeling like we were changing the world. If we had been served Kool Aid, I imagine I would’ve pushed my coworkers out-of-the-way to drink it first. Then, the unexpected happened. We broke up. I asked for more of a challenge – instead I was told I no longer fit. My mind hung on the word “fit”. As if I was a pair of jeans you suddenly outgrow. As much as you lay down, suck in and pull, you just can’t get them to zip. In one broken heartbeat I went from raising donations, to being donated.
I don’t really know how it happened. Which makes it tough to explain it, really. But I guess the details aren’t important. No matter how many times you burst into tears while walking down the street (twice), go to coffee with friends and ex-coworkers in one week (eleven), or respond to emails with the subject line, “WTF happened?” (53), at the end of the day, it doesn’t change the outcome. I’m no longer there.
But what I’ve learned in these two months, has made all the difference. I have the best friends and greatest support network anyone can ask for. And you know who you are. You showed up at my apartment with open arms, and opened bottles of wine. You mailed me cookies. And books. Called me from Africa. Met me for dinner in Denver. You're the guy on Twitter whom I’ve never officially met, who keeps tweeting me to, “Get your blog done!” It was as if I witnessed my own eulogy, cashed in my chips and won the lottery at the same time. Sometimes I've cried just because I feel undeserving of such support and encouragement. If I could get paid per friend, I’d never work again.
Last week I was in Haiti. My first trip without my Kool Aid. A great friend brought me to “consult on his water program.” But it was more like an Eat, Pray, Love intervention in Port-au-Prince. Driving down the narrow and no-longer paved streets, dodging dancing children and Colman tents, I spotted something. It took me almost a day to notice it. But amongst the muted gray backdrop of collapsed buildings and twisted metal, were tiny shops. Made out of rubble.
Erected in between alleyways and on sidewalks, people had collected themselves, looked around, and made the most of a bad situation. From the backseat I reached frantically for my camera and screamed, “Look! Those people have taken the rubble, and built businesses!”
Old bricks and pieces of cement were transformed into display cases and store counters. Women used the crevices of the rocks to display their lovely high-heeled shoes. It was Nordstrom’s Rack, meets earthquake chic. I even saw a very prosperous photocopy business. A long line of noble well-dressed people, each with papers in hand, waiting to use the three copy machines run by generator. Simultaneously humming on top of stacked rubble, under a USAID tarp. On a sidewalk.
I had an epiphany. You can’t always predict a disaster. You’re allowed to mourn and cry. But at some point, you need to dust yourself off and make the most of it. The world will continue to shake. And sometimes you just need to hold on.
Seeing the progress since the quake, and meeting a few of the amazing people working tirelessly to help Haiti, made my heart swell. I don’t know exactly what I’ll do next. But I’ve wanted to live my life like it’s an adventure. And so far, I’ve yet to be disappointed. Haiti’s going places. And gosh darn it. So am I.