Over the past year, we’ve talked a lot about the course of our lives and careers, and how we want them to intersect. In a very simple sense, we’ve realized how fucking rich we are, and what responsibility we have to give back to those who don’t have as much. It means different things for both of us.
I’ll let Gabe speak for himself. But for me, for now, I can’t with a clear conscience waste any more time. I think about my twenties working in magazines in New York, and how hungry I was – I did anything and everything to survive, and eventually, to excel, and hopefully, abstractly, to write stories that matter. Not from the day I started working on September 10, 2001, to when I was laid off on November 19, 2009 did I not panic that I wasn’t moving forward fast enough, scrapping for whatever recognition I could. I was hungry in the kind of way that is dangerous, directionless, and insatiable, and in my first few years in New York managed to do enough damage to myself and my body for a lifetime.
My goal when I graduated college was that within 5 years I’d be a staff writer at a major consumer magazine, a place to do that “stories that matter” thing. Five years later, there I was a staff writer at BusinessWeek, still hungry and dissatisfied, watching the magazine world – which I’d fantasized about since I could read - fall apart around me. I can only imagine what terrors gripped the people who had devoted their entire lives and careers to the magazine. As for me, I can pinpoint maybe a dozen moments and stories in my career that I felt like MATTERED, which maybe at one point would have felt like an accomplishment, but now is just sad and embarrassing. Maybe it’s that my definition of “matter” has changed, or that I will always be dissatisfied, and maybe both of those are good things. I don’t know.
But I do know that I feel like I’ve wasted time and haven’t done enough. And I haven’t had any REAL challenges. I mean, my parents paid for college. I’ve never been poor. I was vaccinated for disease. I always had proper nutrition, for chrissakes. At the basic level, I’ve never had to survive. Whatever hardship or danger I have experienced, it is because I put myself squarely in its way. While I wouldn’t change how I’ve lived, I’m unsure what it’s worth. If I feel that my path to divinity is service, as I now do, I have to accept I am nowhere near God. And for the first time in my life, I really want to be.
We spent our last few weeks in India volunteering at Apne Aap, a non-governmental organization in Delhi that fights to eradicate sex trafficking in India and around the globe. It was an eye-opening window into the operations of NGOs, the skills we have to offer them, and how inspiring and small and agonizing the steps are to change. Working side-by-side with women who had devoted their lives to abolishing slavery, as we have come to see the sex trade, was a revelation. Learning about trafficking shattered our humored view of red-light districts and prostitution. Our day with a young girl who had been sold by her family and adamantly refused to go back to her village gave us the tiniest glimpse of rural poverty. Though the details are unclear, it seems she was being trafficked right under our noses for domestic labor, which often leads to prostitution – and it was no extraordinary day.
I left India with a different kind of desire than the one that has always pushed me, one that is not driven by fear of failure or inadequacy. I want to do more, and to do more with purpose. If I hated the daily elements of the grind in that country – the demoralizing, dehumanizing, filthy grind – I will always love India for giving me the gift of a new kind of hunger. Thank you.