Sometimes, you just know.
Just like I knew, the very first time I heard the most beautiful Spanish being spoken by a blonde-haired, USA born girl who had studied abroad in Mexico, that I, too, would someday have foreign adventures fueled by a lustful curiosity, a carefree spirit, and heaps of naivety that would eventually turn into some of the most powerful wisdom I’ve acquired.
It wasn’t something I ever questioned; it was simply something that I knew, with every fiber of my being, that I was going to do.
At that point, I didn’t have the money to do it. I didn’t have a passport. I had never been on a plane. And at age 19, there still remained many, many life lessons that I had yet to learn, such as knowing when someone was trying to take advantage of me, or, more importantly, when to pass on the tequila.
But logistics didn’t matter, and my lack of knowledge only further proved how desperately I needed the experience.
That’s called conviction.–
Passion Isn’t Enough
We’ve heard it over and over that we need to have passion in order to start living with intention; that meaningful lives can be created through following one’s passion.
Yet, while true to some extent, it’s also a myth, because passion alone is simply not enough.
Rather, there needs to be a delicate balance of passion, but conviction as well. Being passionate about something is great, but it’s rendered meaningless unless we have the courage–the conviction–to actually do something with it.
When Passion + Conviction Combine . . .
Sarah Vandiver, founder of Sis Hope, a sparkling gem of an organization that serves to empower women in developing countries, is a fine example of the beauty that can come at the intersection of passion and conviction. She is someone who just knew. (P.S. That’s not an affiliate link. Sarah is just bad to the bone and needed to be talked up. Someone should probably send her mounds of presents for being so damn driven.)
Sarah wrote a humbling email to me last week, thanking me for my work here at TMF, and telling me a bit of her background. Like so many of us, a few years ago she had her life all planned out. She was headed straight to law school on a scholarship and had the world at her fingertips. Or, so it seemed on the outside.
But on the inside, something else was happening. There was an inner turmoil, as she described it, and without being able to explain to family members and friends exactly why, something about law school just didn’t feel right.
So what did she do?
She threw caution (and those heavy law books) to the wind, ditched her plan, and instead, decided to do something she had only dreamed about since she was a little girl, growing up in a small, rural town.
Sarah went to Africa. Uganda, to be specific.
In her words:
“One week before classes began I knew something more was out there. I had never really stopped to analyze why exactly I was going to law school, I was just going through the motions. I started asking myself questions like, ‘Why exactly do I want to go to law school? If I could do anything with my life, what would it be? What motivates and inspires me? If I die tomorrow, what will I regret that I ‘didn’t get to do’?‘
My answers to these questions made me realize that I did not belong in law school. So I ran. I ran to find to follow my heart, I ran to find myself, and I ran to escape ‘the shoulds’. Long story short, I ended up in Uganda and the rest is history. It was a life changing trip.”
While in Uganda, Sarah felt a deep connection with the women there, as if they were family, despite their differences. She was in awe of their strength and resilience, but also shocked at some of the unnecessary hardships these women faced on a daily basis, such as not having the proper tools to manage a menstrual cycle. To improvise, they’d use tree bark. (I’ll say it one more time for emphasis: Tree bark. As in, the substance once used to make canoes. Probably not the most absorbent material, if I had to guess. Indeed, the things we take for granted.) Yet, beyond being incredibly uncomfortable, the bigger problem that Sarah identified was the impact such a small detail had on young girls’ educations.
More often than not, young women would miss significant amounts of school each month, simply because they didn’t have the resources to prevent embarrassing leaks and stains and all of the other complications that come with being a woman on her period.
And just like that, her future revealed itself to her. She knew she had to do something to help. Enter: Sis Hope.
In her words:
“I started a social business, Sis Hope, that sells Fair Trade purses, totes, and eco friendly bags. For every bag purchased, we give a menstrual kit to a girl in need in Uganda. One to One. My dream is to keep girls in school everyday, even during their period.
While Sis Hope is new, I’m working everyday to grow and develop it. I have big dreams, and while I’m following the unconventional path compared to everyone I know, I’ve really never been happier.”
Voilà. Passion + Conviction to do something with it.
I was incredibly inspired by Sarah’s story, and thought you might be, too. Click here to check out Sis Hope–the bags are very, very cool.–
Don’t Be a Sissy (Yes, That WAS the Most Appropriate Heading)
I cannot stress the incredible power of creating a life out of your interests, and the things that truly awaken you inside. While it may not always be easy, it isn’t impossible. Do not let logistics set up a roadblock; decide what it is that you’re aching to do–whether it’s travel, make art for a living, start a non-profit benefiting Ugandan women, or whatever it may be, and make a commitment to yourself to pursue it. Then, slowly but surely, begin to figure out how to make it happen. You won’t regret it–just ask Sarah.–
By the way . . .
On a related note, Chris Guillebeau’s Empire Building Kit was launched again today, and is now available for purchase again.
If you already know what lights you up inside, but don’t know how to proceed, don’t let that prevent you from taking action; start figuring out how to start making money from your passion (the hardest part), which is what the Empire Building Kit is for. I encourage you to go check it out here.