I was raised to discover, primed by my mother, my city, and a large helping of wanderlust to seek and absorb. And as a result, I’ve found myself in some pretty ridiculous situations, from getting mistaken for a Nicaraguan refugee to ending up locked in the American Museum of Natural History at night and accidentally calling the police. My friends find my propensity for such situations crazy, but I chalk it up to luck. I always walk away [safely] with laughter and knowledge, and a heck of a good story to tell.
I was also raised believing that I could make an impact, that what I do and say has meaning and worth. A lot of this comes down to luck, too. I am lucky to have parents as old as mine, for they have encouraged me to explore independently and be a leader in my own life when their age kept them a few steps behind. I am lucky to have gone to schools that empowered me to question and challenge my perspective and limits, to rely on both research and experience. I am lucky to have lived in India, where I faced the often-uncomfortable realities that come with being both a part of and apart from a culture, and where I first realized what it means to be a “global citizen.” I am lucky to have gone to Camp Rising Sun in 2010 with girls from around the world who instilled in me a commitment to cultural understanding. And I am lucky to have grown up in New York, fueled by the drive of diversity and filled with a voice ready to talk about anything.
It didn’t surprise my parents much, then, when I told them I wanted to take a gap year. (Or they just hid their shock really well.) I’d always come home saying, “One day, I’m going to become an astronaut…climb a mountain…go back in time…meet the Dalai Lama…change policy…” In May, when a friend asked if I thought my younger self would be proud of the girl about to graduate, I decided to make my “one day” happen and turn childhood dreams and the promises sown in me by the people and places that have raised me into something meaningful. That luck of mine kicked in again, and I found Global Citizen Year. With each day, I grow more excited to start this journey with the other Fellows, who I can’t wait to get to know! I want to gain a cultural awareness powerful enough to defeat stereotypes. I want to learn about development and its challenges, to become wholly immersed in my community and experiences, and to learn to trust myself as I go forward with that terrifying, awesome, ethereal feeling of not knowing. I’m eager now to learn by living.
While I’m in Ecuador, I hope you’ll hold me to these words. I hope to laugh with those in need of happiness, lend a hand when I’m needed, and share the stories of those who go unheard. I hope to have my breath stolen by beautiful sights and haunting sounds, leave a part of me with something that changes me. I hope to dance with strangers until I find myself among friends, wake up and realize that inevitably and impossibly, I am home.
Some may call it crazy, but I call it luck.