In November 2017, I took a work trip to El Salvador for a research site visit and a humanitarian photography gig. It was my first research storytelling job based in Latin America for a project very parallel to my dissertation topic. The project, titled “The National Evaluation of Quality of Childcare in El Salvador”, focused on improving the caregiving environments for vulnerable children by effecting changes within childcare centers and orphanages.
There’s a Japanese concept that I love called ikigai that means “a reason for being” or “a reason to get up in the morning.” According to Japanese culture, everyone has an ikigai. Finding it often requires a deep and lengthy search of self, but it’s usually a sweet spot made from a combination of four things: what you love, what you’re good at, what you can be paid for, and what the world needs.
“In the end, only three things matter how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.”
I lost one of my best friends this week. I’ve cried more in the last week than I’ve cried in the past ten years. I’ve hugged loved ones longer and tighter than I ever have before. And yet, throughout this full-on grieving process with our close circle of friends, I’ve also experienced such a healing new depth of love.
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In October, I had a Friday the 13th themed storytelling potluck to celebrate the most unlucky day in Western superstition. We shared stories of childhood rituals, spooky cultural folklore, and our most comically tragic stories of misfortune. We feasted together on the most abundant potluck spread I’ve ever seen. Yeah, it was a really special night. (I’m just gushing with gratitude for this new community in Durham.)