21 years ago, a young woman left Michigan to embark on a new adventure in Washington DC as an undergraduate of George Washington University. Her future was laid out with plans for a career in international affairs with frequent world travel, connecting and engaging on global topics with movers and shakers of all walks of life. Equipped with fluency in Russian, French, English, and Italian, she was ready to take on the world.
That young woman of course, was me. And that career in international affairs never materialized. Between one thing and another, life had other plans….until recently. As someone who has always believed that things happen for a reason, it occurred to me last week as I drove into Washington DC on a bright sunny day, with a crisp blue sky casting a a powerful contrast to the dome of the US Capitol and the pinnacle of the Washington Monument…that connecting the dots of my life, has brought me back, full circle, to where I started. Except that now, my dots are connected. They make sense. Each dot leads to the next, creating a basis and foundation for me to stand on. Dots that had I embarked on my theoretical dream career twenty years ago, would never have connected in the same way.
Connecting the Dots in Life
College opened my eyes to the realities of Washington with internships at think tanks and the State Department.
Moving back to Italy after undergrad instead of pursuing my studies in international affairs and Russian studies opened my eyes to my passion for education.
Moving back to the United States provided me first with a chance to start teaching and then with the support system to face my non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
Surviving cancer gave me perspective, led me to run my first marathon, to meeting my ex-husband, and then to my daughter.
Teaching for twelve years fueled my passion to build self sufficiency in others and reinforced my beliefs that there is nothing more important than building capacity in others.
Starting a blog as a hobby led me to find a new passion and dream new dreams.
New dreams became my reality and allowed me the time and opportunity to become an advocate for causes that I believe in.
Those causes and campaigns led me all the way back to where I started, on the streets of Washington, energized and ready to take on international issues like global heath.
And now? That last dot…..is where it comes all together. Empowering children as they are our future. Encouraging others to make every moment matter. Using my voice to advocate for issues like global health, because out of all the things in life that we CANNOT control…this one thing, giving children access to life saving vaccines that will enable them to have a shot at childhood…we can control that.
Above and beyond my work with Shot@Life, walking the streets of Washington DC last week, reminded me of an inner me, that comes alive when given the chance to speak, to present, to advocate, to build awareness and to educate. Not as a teacher in the traditional sense, but I felt like I was actually “doing” international affairs as an advocate. As a public speaker. As a trainer. As a voice.
Admittedly, it is not always easy to connect the dots in life. There are always more dots that need connecting. The dots of my future are looking at me squarely in the face asking me to identify sustainable next steps. There is doubt, uncertainty, and trepidation about whether using my voice is really enough.
Except that of course, I know the answer. The crisp blue sky over Washington DC, beckoning me along with 100 other Shot@Life Champions last week, to meet with over 100 members of Congress, gives me my answer. I give myself my answer.
I just have to find a way to keep connecting the dots.