01 August 2009

coffee, bikes, art

I often moodle around with the idea of integrating the things I care about into something more cohesive. I don't compartmentalize well — I tend to do the hell out of one thing, often to the exclusion of others. (Recently, I've been doing the hell out of coffee but trying to keep my fingers in the pool of design, writing, & of course bikes.)

I also wonder if integrating the things I care about into one superthing is just a lazy way of changing the definition of a situation into not-a-problem rather than solving the problem.

And then I wonder if that's bad.

My sister, who is amazing, moved to Cambodia (!) when she was 25 (!!!) & started a non-profit micro-loan organization primarily for disabled people, who are severely discriminated against in Cambodia. (I could write a book about that.) The grass-roots non-profit, internationally funded & locally staffed, had a café as its public-facing element. You could help out by eating a cookie, or you could sit with that cookie & learn more, see where your own skills fit in to their current projects, or you could donate a few riel. She integrated cooking (specifically baking), human rights, Cambodia, & her incredible ability to talk to anyone about anything, into something truly groundbreaking. She changed the way people thought about charity, not to mention helped countless people get back on their feet with their own good ideas & their own two hands. Or one hand, depending on their disability.

But she didn't study baking, she worked at a bakery in college. She didn't study international relations, she took a vacation & fell in love with the region. What she did study was philosophy ... which included a lot of reading & writing about ethics & law, which is important for human rights & advocacy work. And she might be the most empathetic person I've ever met. She didn't really have a plan, not when she first visited Cambodia. But she was prepared when an opportunity presented itself, & she was willing to take a risk. Or nine.

Katie O'Shea c. January 2003, Casablanca Bar (Sihanoukville, Cambodia) — the last time I integrated all my interests, which were: Cambodia, talking to people, books, alcohol, art, comics, & being annoyed by a guy named Hunter (who took this photograph).
Now, I don't see myself changing the world by starting a micro-loan organization in a third-world country anytime soon, but I can take some cues from her, from how she used her many talents & skills for something cohesive & ground-breaking. By doing what I love, all of the time, & well, & being prepared, & then entertaining crazy notions at least as long as it takes to see whether they're viable. Then moving forward with them, or throwing them away.

I may be writing fewer e-mails soon. I may write here more, to update people on what I am & am not doing all in one go. Or I may drop off the face of the earth for a short while as I figure all this out. Even that's not sorted. I've got some work to do. But I've got no plans. Not yet.