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If dinner conversations can change the world

Social media is abuzz with prevailing issues. How to provide platforms for underrepresented voices. How to protect those speaking out against injustice. How to tip scales and create balanced systems of power.

Maybe it’s overwhelming to expect or look for answers. Maybe the best we can do is focus on finding solutions through awareness. From awareness comes discussion.

If people aren’t encouraged to tell their stories for fear of retribution or alienation or ostracism, how can we fight for change? If derogatory names are spat freely, if media remains unmonitored and unchecked, how will anyone find the people they need — those to assemble, those who create, those who listen.

One day, legislative change. For today, maybe it starts with a conversation at dinner.

Ask for what you need

Before you can ask, you have to know what you need.

When you pay attention to how you ask for what you need, you may be surprised. If you fail to voice for what it is that you require, how will the universe bring it to you? Owning your feelings gives you the platform to issue requests.

Assertiveness doesn’t need to be an intimidating habit, however; understanding the areas in which you experience lack help can contribute to greater empathy, more confidence, and deeper understanding. Advocating for your needs increases the likelihood of success.

To improve your asking skills, check out this nifty guide from The Creative Independent.

Career counseling

I was asked to speak to a group of Nepali students on “Career counseling.” I wrote a few things down.

When you’re uncertain, you’re uncomfortable. No one likes being uncomfortable. That’s why we go to doctors to get medicine instead of taking vitamins.

In addition to telling you to take vitamins and take good care of your health, I’m going to tell you to make mistakes.

Yup, you heard me. Mistakes. Galti. Galti haaru. 

Lots of them.

See, we think that once we graduate and get a degree, we will have a good paying job and maybe a family to look after. This perfect recipe will bring happiness and joy, maybe even success or fame, and definitely enough money to take a vacation once in awhile.

It rarely works that way.

In fact, the happiest moments in life will come after devastating blows, points when you convince yourself you have made a bunch of mistakes that can never and will never be fixed.

These winding, dark roads reveal who you are and what you are capable of.

Before I came to Nepal, I was living in New York City. In a pretty decent apartment next to Central Park. I was working in advertising with unique clients, and some of them were famous people. But I wasn’t 100% satisfied. I had gone to Columbia University for my Masters in Social Work, yet I didn’t feel like I was making the contribution I was meant to. I was doing interesting work, sure, but I didn’t feel like I was helping people who really needed it. I knew there was something more.

After a bad breakup and nights sleeping on friends’ couches, I found myself trekking to Everest Base Camp. I ended up volunteering after the trek and saw things in Nepal I couldn’t walk away from. Bit by bit, I set out to learn more about Nepali culture.

I used my social work degree to understand more about systems and community.

I practiced empathy I learned as a probation officer to listen to people’s stories, hear their worries and stresses and pain.

I used my experiences in advertising to come up with plans.

And then I used my professional and personal connections to fundraise money to start Learning House, which maybe some of you have heard about.

My life was set into an entirely new track. All because I was open. I wasn’t fixed on a particular goal, but I knew what I wanted and what I was good at.

I knew I liked bringing people together in unique and fun ways, and that I wanted to encourage leadership and education.

I knew that I wanted to create and make things. I also knew that I wanted to be my own boss, but that I wanted to work alongside fun, energetic, and passionate people.

Nothing is impossible. Especially not with the internet at your hands.

Now, I’m able to work as a travel writer and freelancer to pay my own bills and keep Learning House going.

I am able to keep in touch with friends and mentors all over the world.

I can get business advice when I’m totally confused (remember, my training is in psychology and social work, but I am happy to say that I will be entering an alt MBA online program in a few months).

So, what’s my point?

Find people whose lives you admire. People who you want to be like. Then copy them. Ask them questions. What keeps them going? What motivates them? Where do they find inspiration? Set up an informational interview: Ask them for fifteen minutes of their time, write down a list of questions, and go to their office to meet them. Leave after fifteen minutes, not a minute more, then send a thank you note to them afterwards.

Always stay grateful.

You never know where life will take you. You never know who you will meet or how they might help you later on down the line. We have a saying, “Don’t burn bridges.” Watch your mouth, how to speak to others — and how you speak to yourself. You are your biggest advocate and cheerleader. Be positive to yourself and to those around you.

It may sound cliche, but you really can do anything you set your mind to.

Including building a learning center from nothing.

Make mistakes. Galti haru.

The perfect gift

Before worrying about what to give a friend or loved one, first consider your intention. Do you want to provide laughter or joy, comfort, or maybe a moment of calm?

The art of gift-giving is less about the gift itself and more about your motivation. When your heart is in the right place, the perfect present will follow.

Whether a kind word, a listening ear, a gift wrapped in homemade paper, or a voucher for a date night, your gift matters for two main reasons:

1.) You are taking time to show another that you care

2.) You have the opportunity to momentarily change someone’s world

Lead with love and stay grounded in kindness, and your thoughtfulness will be received with gratitude.

The what matters less than the why.

Be kind, online and off

Pew Research Center found that 73% of adults have seen someone bullied online in some way; 40% reported such harassment themselves. In fact, 60% of those polled had watched someone use offensive, hurtful names to target another person. Over half of the participants in this study knew these online messages were sent and posted with the intent to embarrass or harm another. 

From celebrities to colleagues, even family members and friends, social media has made it possible for us to watch. Watch and not participate. Sit back without standing up for what is right. Conversations that should be taking place in person are now occurring strictly online. 

Messages sent from behind a screen can cause damage, emotional and otherwise. Talking about personal challenges can be difficult, but keeping problems to yourself can feel isolating and make issues even worse. A quick online search can bring up local and international resources if you are not sure where to turn. Cultivate a network of support. 

If you see a friend is a target of hateful or hurtful speech or is posting concerning messages online, reach out. During the holiday season, it is even more important to realize you and others may be under excessive stress. 

Remember, you are never alone.