What I'm scared of: I'm scared that we'll lose some of our teachers, especially Alex, if we have to go back to WhatsApp teaching for the next five months. I'm scared of what that would mean for the students, scared of the damage that it will do to them personally, and the disastrous consequences that would have for the rest of their lives. Scared for the kids who live in precarious home situations, with families that could barely earn enough even before the lockdown, and scared of the horrible toll that rampant Covid and another lockdown might have on their families, and on the students themselves. Scared that some of them don't have enough to eat, barely have electricity, and are already at such a disadvantage.

What I need to hold onto: We can do this. Abaarso had terrible years early on, before I got there. The third year of the school we didn't even accept a class because there was so much pressure on us from the government. Jonathan's co-founder in Somaliland turned on the school, tried to use it for his financial gain, and stole money from it. They cancelled classes for months and almost moved the whole school to Ethiopia. If Abaarso did it, we can do it. We have the people, we have the reputation, we have the students. Do I have the willpower and the toughness to stick it out? I hope so.


What I'm scared of: I'm scared about how hard it will be to be the kind of positive, comforting, empathetic leader that they need. Scared about being back in Florida and how hard it will be to hold in my mind every day what they are going through, as removed as I will likely be from it.

What I need to do: I need photos on my desk. I need a routine every day to be grateful for what I have, and to keep in mind the students and their families and how tough things are for them. I need to get up early and sleep earlier be at least close to their daily schedule. I need to write to them regularly. I need to find something that's more personal than writing - I need to record audio, send video. They need more direct and personal encouragement. And I need to give the same to the teachers, check in with them often, talk to them rather than just texting.


What I'm scared of: I'm scared to be a deadbeat boyfriend / husband. I see in this situation the kind of future that some people are predicting and that is already happening - successful women who are able to adapt, grow, flourish, and men who are stubborn, resentful, and end up crushed by the new economy. Scared that I'll become a sort of highly educated version of a truck driver or manufacturing worker, whose jobs simply disappear and who aren't able / willing to retrain. I'm scared that I'll have too much pride to start over. Scared that I'll be embarrassed or intimidated about being with you, with your incredible combination of success, resourcefulness, glamour, heart. I'm scared that if I don't do well, I'll come to resent those qualities and others that I most love and admire about you, and what a terrible and unfair thing that would be.

What I'm holding onto: I've adapted before, after a terrible failure. I've risen and changed my identity. After my biggest failure came my greatest success, my most satisfying accomplishment. I know that I have you, and I know how much you inspire me, especially with your own story of redemption and strength. And I know that my love of you will always be bigger than anything else I feel about our relationship. I know I can always go back to that, and any other feelings will drop away. I know that no matter what happens in my career, I can be a good husband and will be a good father. I know I would take pride in both and bring the same determination and compassion and intelligence to those as I do to everything else.


What I'm scared of: I'm scared about how strong my principles are, how much of a purist I am. I'm scared that making money and building a career will require doing things that I find tiresome or objectionable or somewhat dirty. I'm scared that I won't let myself realize how much of a privilege it is to even think that way, and won't let myself just embrace what needs to be done and find value in other areas of my life.

I'm scared that I won't do something extraordinary, and in (not) doing so, that I'll disappoint people, and fail to live up to all the privilege that I've been given, and the expectations that I have for myself.

I'm scared that those expectations are impossibly high. That I'll never satisfy them, no matter what I do. Scared of the reflection and pain and (likely) counseling that I need to change how I think about those expectations, and myself.

What I'm going to do: I'm going to write about it this time. I'm going to put my thoughts on paper so that I don't think about them all day, and when I write I'm going to be fully open and honest about what I say. I'm going to write with the idea that what I say might be helpful to someone else, or at least will be helpful to me. And I'm going to step outside myself a bit, writing both about what I feel and also about the advice that I would give to myself, so that I don't get to swallowed in my own head.

I'm going to teach myself to find meaning in small things, to do yoga so that I have practice settling my mind and can learn, as you pointed out, that finding peace doesn't always come by moving forward.

And I'm going to hang onto what I said to myself back in January, as I was getting ready to leave home again for Zimbabwe, to start new again - that if I were to die tomorrow, I would be happy with how I lived my life, I would feel that I've accomplished something important, touched a small number of other lives in a big way, and that someone would be able to look at my life and understand a bit about my values. That, so far, I've "let my life speak," as the Quakers say.


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