2013 has been a fantastic year for me. It was filled with amazing moments, great trips, and wonderful accomplishments. When I look back I feel extremely lucky to live the life that I do. But the last few months of the year have had a big impact on me. I hope I remember these moments forever because they have awakened something inside of me.
This time last year, I was asked to be executive producer of TEDxJacksonville and I apprehensively accepted. I was so nervous about taking on the event but am so glad that I did. The event allowed me to see Jacksonville in a new light. It made me fall in love with the city for its flaws and its potential. I also met some amazing people and am so honored to now call them my friends. You all know the quote, “surround yourself with the dreamers and the doers, the believers and thinkers, but most of all, surround yourself with those who see the greatness within you, even when you don’t see it yourself.” All my TEDxJacksonville team members are a source of inspiration for me because the status quo is never good enough for them. They constantly push me and make me want to do more.
This doesn’t just apply to friends and family. I believe this is also true about people you encounter in passing. I witnessed two demonstrations this week. Garment factory workers were protesting their wages and demanding change. This would have never happened in Cambodia before the age of social media and its power to amplify stories. The poor finally feel they have a voice and that the world is listening. Seeing them fight for what is fair and just was an amazing moment.
Over the past few weeks, I have developed a friendship with a Cambodian colleague. Ra is a recent college graduate and is transitioning from a volunteer role to a fulltime position at Aide et Action. He is so excited about the opportunity and the fact that he can help change the status of education in Cambodia. He asked me to help him with some of his projects because he wants to make them more effective. He doesn’t want to settle for mediocrity and is genuinely passionate about his work. When I get back home, I hope I am as passionate as him about my job.
On the way back from a field trip this week, I made eye contact with a teenage boy while getting off of a ferry. He had severe scarring on his face and was in old unwashed clothes and torn slippers. His eyes had a look of uncertainty. I kept thinking about him. I felt guilty because I have everything and he had nothing. I see this every day and am still not sure how to process it. I moved out to Cambodia to see the challenges of development first hand and it has been a struggle. Today, news spreads like wildfire but sometimes it feels like the wrong news is getting all the attention. How do we keep the plight of others relevant when mainstream news channels choose to focus on reality tv stars and celebrities?
I want to take these moments with me in 2014 because I want them to continue to push me. Fear is a waste of time and during moments of weakness we allow it to conquer us. The unknown is only the unknown until you try it. I hope each of you tackles something you have always wanted to in this New Year.