As I write this, I’m coming off of a week that felt particularly catastrophic. We’re in a global pandemic. The US west coast, where we live, is ablaze like never before. People are missing, the air is dangerous to breathe. Massive injustices plague our communities here in the US and everywhere. International travel is on hold, making it increasingly more difficult to run the young mental health organization we started two years ago. Additionally, Aaron and I are in the midst of a cross-country move that has taken numerous stressful twists and turns.
And I’m turning 30 today.
Perhaps the hardest thing to do in this moment is to look beyond it. Recently I heard someone say that the role of stewardship is to protect the future from the present. Whether on the board of an organization, or as caretakers of our own trajectory, I need that reminder now.
The meaning of 30
Truthfully, I find that age is just a number— I am not dramatically different today than I was yesterday, and tomorrow will be a continuation. However, 3 decades is a long time in context of one human life. Since the day I was born, the world has changed, and so have I.
Birthdays are a great opportunity to pause and glance into that proverbial rearview mirror. They’re also an appropriate moment to check the map on where we’re headed— although with immense uncertainty, perhaps a compass is more likely. That’s what I’ll be doing this week.
Celebrating the past: gratitude for so many gifts
One of my friends recently said to me, “When you decided to be my friend, you were committed 100%. You were going to take care of me.” The past 3 decades have been deeply enriched by friendships, but not the kind we frequently think of as 20-somethings going out to bars and meeting up for small talking (shouting?) across cocktails. As much as I like sitting at the bar every so often, I sought depth in all of my friendships and I’m so glad I did. Marrying Aaron is part of this, as is continuing this life journey with incredible friends and family as we all ride the ups and downs. Weddings, babies, funerals, divorces, moves, graduations and more— meaningful friendships have gotten us through. Read about friendships here and here.
Expanding my limits.
For a solid 2/3 of the past 3 decades, I’ve spent time being formally educated. While I’m proud to have graduated from both Harvard and Yale this past decade, that isn’t the point. The point is this: I’ve learned to push myself not to make the grade, pass the test, or even to receive recognition. Instead, I’ve discovered the joy of exploring what I can and love to do, to do it better, for a purpose greater than myself. Read about schooling here and here.
Finding my purpose and living it daily.
Speaking of this, I’m grateful for the privilege of being able to work everyday on something that connects so deeply in my soul that it frequently brings me to my knees. Ever since I was 8 years old and wanted to be like Mother Theresa, I’ve searched for where I fit in communities facing adversity. Initially, it was just an inkling to serve others by moving overseas; nowadays, I find myself daily in contact with community organizations across 3 different continents, accompanying local leaders in the creation of contextualized mental health support. I don’t need to be a hero, and have never thought of myself as one. Quite the contrary— part of my salvation and restoration comes from standing shoulder-to-shoulder with people who remind me of my own humanity. Read about purpose finding here and here.
Discovering new places.
The privilege I’ve had since childhood to visit new and faraway places is nearly indescribable. Prior to turning 1 year old, I flew to Taipei with my mom to visit family. I spoke my first words there, played with my cousins, and found a second home. Since then, I’ve traveled in more than 30 countries, visiting many of them multiple times. Despite having traveled so much, I don’t believe in bucket lists or adding countries for the sake of adding them— I believe in deep, thoughtful local engagement wherever we go. I’ve learned you can return to the same place over and over and still find that it teaches you, inspires you, and breaks your heart. As it should.
Visioning the future: my dreams for the years to come
More love, patience, and hospitality.
To the extent that we can, we’ve decided to make the San Francisco Bay Area our home for the foreseeable future. This is where we must look beyond the present moment— the physical distancing required by Covid-19, the fires encroaching on our communities, the immense inequality and ill treatment of migrants. This is a place that needs more love, more patience, and eventually hospitality, and I want our home to be a place where people know they can find those things. Read about hospitality here.
Leading a meaningful movement with impact.
Despite the challenges posed by 2020, our nonprofit Brio has made great strides this year. We’re on our way to supporting thousands of people with mental health care this year (as we did last year), while expanding regionally across the Pacific to partner in new regions. Learn more about our work here. But even beyond the success of Brio, I want our future to be colored with our contributions, to offer more to the world than we take from it, and to receive from others the very care that we seek to give. This vision doesn’t end with running our own organization and simply growing or surviving year over year. It involves witnessing— and participating in— an expansion of human flourishing. Read more about impactful living here and here.
Rhythms of rest and restoration.
I’ve long been an advocate of drawing good boundaries, living intentionally, and resisting the urge to work all the time. But moving forward, I want to increase that commitment to taking regular opportunities to retreat from it all, to reflect, and to connect with God in quietness. While we are ambitious people, I have no desire to wake up middle-aged one day, having accomplished so much but lost myself. I want joy and peace to be readily accessible, so that we can share it as an overflow of who we are. Read more about rest here and here.
Now that we’re on the other side of our own schooling (and without children of our own), I see us returning to post-pandemic travel in a different way. We used to fly so much— a long weekend here, a week there— because school kept forcing us to return. But now, with international work and a desire to linger and take fewer flights, I see us extending our travels from a few days to a few weeks at a time, circumstances permitting. There are so many more places we where we hope to visit and to work… but we will balance that with returning to our home base and investing ourselves here too. Read more about our travel philosophy here and here.
My prayer for 30 and beyond
Today I’m saying a simple prayer.
For the love of God to be the wings beneath which we live. For the joy of good work, the joy of sharing, and the joy of retreating from it all. For the conversations and movements that make our world more beautiful, just, and whole. For compassionate healing that helps people come home to themselves.
May I be a small part of this. May I play my part in this.