Unsustained Glory – journeying with burnout

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(Sharing a deeply personal journey in the hope that others will avoid making the same mistakes. I am now ready to share.)

Through a random series of events including a missed return flight home, I found myself having cocktails at a beach café in Cape Town on Friday night with a few new girl friends. After hearing my story and with encouraging nods of support, one declared that I should read Arianna Huffington’s book Thrive because “you need it!”.

After a fall due to exhaustion, Arianna’s “aha” moment took her on a journey to redefine success beyond money and power, adding a third metric that creates a life of well-being, wisdom and a sense of wonder. While I am grateful for this book, it is taking me on a journey of reflection on the events leading up to my very own burnout and my journey to recovery…

To begin with, I live a pretty glorious life. Not always easy, but pretty glorious. I do the kind of work that I truly believe is my life’s calling, providing me with new experiences almost daily and taking me to distant lands I wouldn’t have imagined I’d possibly travel to. The journey of a first generation entrepreneur in your family is one of the toughest paths that one can choose. Nobody before you is fronting startup capital or buffer income to live off until you generate a profit and it does not come with a great social network of contacts to broker strategic deals. It’s a tough struggle and the risk of failure comes with dire consequences.

Despite this upward battle, I managed to have successes along the way, including awards, loads of recognition through media coverage for my work, great feedback from those who have benefited from my offering and I get invited to be part of awesome opportunities. Along the way I did however lose myself. With a steep learning curve and low on resources, I allowed circumstances to slowly start chipping away at various parts of me for the sake of the business. Not only is pulling all-nighters or sleeping for four or five hours at best over-glorified in the entrepreneurial community but I let go of all my hobbies one-by-one. My spiritual life took a beating and I was never available to friends – either because of being too broke or busy the calls slowed down and eventually stopped. I always felt guilty for not being available to family, but kept prioritizing mounting deadlines anyway. When not working I was mostly out at networking events with the lines blurring between friendships and acquaintances until hardly any identity remained beyond a work context.  My most meaningful relationship was with my business partner and when that relationship disintegrated, it followed a huge depressing void, but the fight needed to continue despite the loneliness and skills gap – and so it did.

I have never been a sickly person but in the past three years I have been battling allergies and when I get ill, I’m wiped out for about a week. I got first stage shingles when my business partnership fell apart and somehow still managed to travel and speak at conferences, wearing long-sleeved shirts to cover the evidence of painful boils. At some point my doctor put me on a six-month immune booster and encouraged me to “take it easy” as I suppose they all do. My life literally came to a crash when my car got hit by a bus with me in it, missing the driver’s door which possibly saved my life but the car was a write-off. The accident was no fault of my own but I do believe that God was trying to give me a wake-up call. What did Lesley do?….. well, I had my car moved and got a ride to my next meeting (face palm moment). Soon into the meeting I had a migraine which lasted for a week. I forced myself to work only to get a kidney stone a week later. Lying alone on my bathroom floor clenching my belly, throwing up and with the most excruciating pain I would not wish upon anyone was eventually my “aha” moment.

Journey to recovery…

After closing shop last June, I went to Calitzdorp in the Klein Karoo to look after the farm of my old priest for a week. I forgot my cellphone charger in Joburg (thanks God) and spent the week praying, meditating, journaling, reading and taking the dogs for long walks through vineyards, olive groves and the valley. I spent five months mostly sleeping, crying and starting my recovery from burnout with the help of a few sessions with my psychologist, gifted business coach, priest and five remarkable friends who allowed me to be depressed without judgement but also gently (and sometimes harshly) spurred me on. I say “starting my recovery” because I feel like an alcoholic in the sense that you can’t ever stop managing it.

The second half of 2015 was about reconnecting to God with a sense of wonder, appreciating this blessed life that I get to live. With this core in place, I can now re-imagine the kind of life that I want to live. It is essential that I start my day giving thanks and I have recently started taking up yoga again. I’ve never been a jogger but after a three-day hike in the Semien Mountains of Ethiopia where I realized just how unfit I am; I’ve started doing it at my own pace – small steps while taking deep breaths. I am trying to alternate between hiking and biking over the weekends and can see my guitar giving me the side eye from my bedroom corner. Who knows which hobbies I’ll discard and pick up again. I am rebuilding me. My weight and body shape may never be what it once was but I appreciate this vessel for carrying me thus far.

Work pressure is always there but I now consciously try to see my family weekly, make time for unexpected new and wonderful friends I have been gifted while at the same time guarding my time and heart by letting the worthy in. While difficult, I am attempting to be disciplined by not going out two nights in a row; I am simply not effective and tend to be grumpy if I have less than seven hours sleep for two nights in a row. In the end this is counter-productive to quality work output anyway. It’s also great to have an open heart for dating when the brain goes beyond the daily checklist:)

I do not claim to have now mastered self-care but it is a daily practice that I have to prioritize. I now understand why the flight attendant says “own mask first” because I am of no use to anyone if I am not abundantly refilled. I’d like to give from a place of joy, not depletion. I’d love to have a sustained glorious life.

*A special thanks to Thokoza Mjo, Norma Young, Rosie Motene, Freda Isingoma, Debbie Donaldson, Pascal Frohlicher, Simon & Jen Cashmore, Kevin Naidoo, Jason Ross, Christoph Birkholz, Davina van Wyk and Family for being gems in my life in 2015. Your wisdom, support & grace carried me. I am eternally grateful:)

Sagas of a Freelancer – Contracts Matter!

freelance picThe last time I had a full-time job was at the beginning of 2005. Going out on my own was an exciting, yet scary time for me, what I would imagine it to be for a baby bird leaving its mother’s nest. When calling or emailing on behalf of the Gordon Institute of Business Science, it would seem that doors would magically open up for me. However, having a different encounter with the same individuals and making that same request from your own brand would not garner the same response. I now understand that startups need to develop credibility through excellence and longevity.

I have since moved abroad, done freelance work in over two dozen countries, represented two international brands and developed credibility within the various hats I’ve worn. Having said all this, one would think that I am immune to ineffective contracting.

I am very appreciative of Symphonia’s invitation to their Flawless Consulting workshop a few years ago. The workshop focused on Peter Block’s work around effective contracting and how to enter these contractual relationships as equals for the ultimate pursuit of the project goal. I remember doing very tough role-plays for different contracting scenarios and while I have not implemented the lessons step by step over the years, it was a definite guide as I entered client relationships over the years. What I took for granted however was the increasing brand strength of Impact Hub Johannesburg when I entered negotiations. In hindsight, I could have followed clearer process with freelancers that I sub-contracted, but the outcome was always based on relationship, a spirit of collaboration and with a win-win outcome.

On 30th June this year we temporarily closed Impact Hub Johannesburg to upgrade the space and services with a re-launch set for 2016. After several years of focusing on building the institutional brand, I am once again operating from my own name. I write this blog post because of two unsatisfactory new client relationships I’ve since entered into which led to me recalling decade old lessons that I’ve compromised on but re-instituting and hoping that it will encourage other freelancers on their journey.

My freelance principles:

  1. You are a brand; do not shy away from it: the quality of your work gives testament to what you have achieved so own it!
  2. Do not negotiate from a point of desperation: we tend to do this when broke, but feel compromised and yucky afterwards – ever hear that freelancers say they feel exploited? This practice breeds that feeling
  3. Only you can give yourself a promotion: unlike employment, you determine your pay grade, the kind of work you’ll do and the clients you associate with. Excellence, credibility and reputation supports this journey
  4. Share knowledge and experience: while many new freelancers tend to hold their cards close to their heart around pay rates, structure and process, I choose to enter into peer-mentoring relationships where we collaboratively influence the field. Nobody else has my unique set of skills and experience anyway so there can be no threat. Abundant thinking expands the pie and I want to play that game
  5. My work is relational: if I cannot see myself entering into a long-term relationship with the institution I am working with or influencing their journey then the work will not be meaningful for me as it’s void of a greater purpose
  6. Sign a contract before commencing work: this protects both you and the client, as expectations are clear. A deeper courting period often helps this phase, but the paperwork seals the deal of the relationship regardless of how trustworthy they seem. Many sleepless nights could have been avoided if I was a purist about this as I could hold them accountable to payment rates, terms and process when it shifted. Even a simple one-pager would suffice
  7. Educate but be prepared to walk away: do not assume that clients are experienced or even professional at contracting. If the contracting phase is painful then the execution phase will feel like extracting teeth. Even if you have a shared vision, trust your instincts and walk away if you do not feel honoured in the deal.

The Colour of Money

Every so often I need to check myself to see if I’m not defaulting into a stereotypical race lens when not treated fairly or respectfully – because that’s what we do in South Africa, see things through a racial lens. In these attempts to self-correct my thinking and shake off the feeling sticking to me like a bad odour, I can’t help but think that it’s not just me. That was indeed a racial jab.

I hate pulling the race card, would love injustices of the past to remain in the past and typically “get on with it” living my life and career as if there were no racial or cultural bias. Now you may say that I’m being naïve but this attitude has gotten me to rise above seeming limitations, opening doors on an international scale. When I experience discrimination I become super focused on achieving my goals. Unfortunately, until the playing field is equal for cultures all around the world to access opportunities regardless of where we come from, it’s up to my generation to be more mindful and work extra hard, strive for excellence and receive from merit. Creating a new kind of legacy will leave a more just inheritance for future generations.

Unfortunately my glorious vision and daily reality are still far removed. I also believe in keeping people accountable for how they treat me, so that they can reflect and hopefully it will result in behavioural change on an individual and institutional level. This is the reason for my post.

Two Saturday nights in a row I partied at Churchills, a bar lounge at Melrose Arch, Johannesburg. Given the location and positioning of the place, I was more attentive of my attire and prepared to spend more than usual on the night out. Last week was my cousin’s birthday celebration and about twenty family members came out for the night. We had a good time despite receiving a nonnegotiable no from the manager when my cousin asked a few times if we could move to the lounge area because we were too many for the booth. She acknowledged that we should have made a booking for a larger number, but still, there was an entire lounge area empty that we could see from where we were sitting. When we asked the waitress about it, she had more fear for the manager than achieving customer satisfaction. Now, my uncles love a good whiskey so were spending on the good stuff, surely this would have covered additional cleaning costs as a result of moving us?

I returned to Churchills last night with two highly accomplished black female entrepreneurs. With it being a celebratory girl’s night out, I was in great spirits and dressed to kill in my little black dress. At the door, I asked the doorman what the minimum amount of people is required to reserve a table. He said typically six but they could come down to four people if I was here to spend. It left a bitter taste in my mouth when he added “we like coloured money”. Now you see, up until that moment, I was a Woman Of The World who had gone out on the town with my girls, later to be joined by my New Yorker friend who had just brought an international artist to the country. There was a major disconnect between my perceived self-worth and what the doorman reduced me to. While Churchills has diverse clientele, the attitude and reception of my first encounter represents their institutional view.

One of my friends who was the first to arrive last night asked a waiter if we could sit in the lounge and not table and was met with that nonnegotiable no. We carried on with dinner, drinks and dancing but then realized that all the people going into the lounge were white. We were well into our third bottle of expensive champagne so knew that we were spending quite a bit and surely qualify for VIP treatment. After taking it up with management and insisting that we be moved, we finally got to the holy grail of the place – their VIP lounge. As we ordered two more bottles of champagne, we noticed that the other two groups were not spending on anything special or ordering much for that matter. I am now stumped, because I don’t know what qualifies you for the lounge area of Churchills. When one of my friends called the manager/owner over once again to ask why we could not get in earlier his response was that he did not want riffraff sitting in the lounge. She then asked him what he sees when he looks at us beyond the color of our skin (we were dressed up after all and were having good clean fun) he got very uncomfortable and just said “I don’t want to go there”.

Discrimination is a disease and we need a strong vaccination to kill it on a societal level. Most people do it unconsciously, but it aggregates to institutional racism when not addressed. I have had two bad experiences at Churchills now, but like the place enough to return. My point is not to shutdown or boycott places – this is but one where I happened to have had a bad experience 100% of my visits. My intention is to raise consciousness of discrimination, transform society and promote business practice where all clients can experience great service in an equal society… also, I just want to be a girl out on the town having fun without this crap hanging over me!

Brave Soul On Display

Yesterday I went to a Writer’s workshop at Rosebank Union Church. The guest speaker was Lucy Gannon, renowned British playwright, television writer and producer. She shared with us her writing journey, challenges and even the design of her lifestyle that supports her work. It hit a nerve when she said, “As a scriptwriter you’re out there dodging bullets everyday.” You spend your days in meetings, doing re-writes, and need to put up with constant criticism.

Now I’m no scriptwriter and consider myself an amateur writer at best but do identify with the risk of sharing your life’s work. As entrepreneurs we pour months and most often years into our offering to the world. This is our form of art that obsesses our thoughts of every waking hour. In our vulnerability we need to display confidence. This is what the world expects from us, even though a product is never truly finished or perfect. We know our flaws; there are more naysayers than cheerleaders that surround us. Yet, we are taking the risk to try something new. If it works, the world will be a better place for it and we have the responsibility of using our God-given talent to make it happen.

I have a number of friends who are filmmakers and watch as the excitement of their creation hitting the big screen turns into anxiety of what the critics and audience may say. I appreciated Lucy Gannon reminding us to be gentle to our fellow human being who mulled over exact words for months over fifteen or more drafts pouring their hearts out. I see entrepreneurs going through the same turmoil when doing an investor pitch. I’ve been there, will be there again and many times find myself as the judge on panels giving feedback. On reflection, I may have been a cocky bastard at times relentless in my feedback. This does not support anyone; we need brave souls stepping up to innovate. They need encouragement.

In response to my question about when to publish in a world of regurgitated thoughts on non-fiction topics, Lucy encouraged me to write whatever is burning in my heart. I need to step up to have my voice be heard, sharing my perspective while reaching new audiences. With that, I shall continue to display my soul (with often reluctant) bravery and WRITE ON!

Inspire. Engage. Educate. Connect.

Really nice blog written about Impact Hub Johannesburg. I look forward to her write ups promoting the social entrepreneurial sector.

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That’s the inviting slogan of Impact Hub – want to know more? Well we have a hub right here in South Africa, and it’s worth a look if you like the sound of these calls to action.

I checked it out today: the first Impact Hub in Africa, located in trendy Braamfontein, Joburg.

Impact Hub Joburg combines a relaxed and friendly vibe with the stimulating dynamic atmosphere of an innovation lab. Set above the bustle on the corner of De Beer and Smit it offers an appealing package of office conveniences combined with on-tap networking opportunities.

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This exciting initiative started in London in 2005 and has since grown to a global reach of 63 hubs across 5 continents to-date. Impact Hub describes itself as:

“a social enterprise community centre… offering a unique ecosystem of resources, inspiration, and collaboration opportunities to grow the positive impact of your work.”

More than 10,000 members have joined the movement and…

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The Experimental Journey

Throughout my adult life I have been part of many intentional networks that have shaped not only my career, but my worldview and circle of friends. I find that it is often easier to state your values with conviction when the risks are low and you have been relatively unexposed to various scenarios that life may throw your way.

With each passing year, we tend to navigate through increasing complexity. We may be swayed by a stage of life, be it the liability of student loans, sick parents, an increase in material desires or childbirth. Some may call this maturing, some an evolution in priorities. Whatever it is, there is an underlying component of what identity means to you at any given time. When in the Pioneers of Change network, we hosted a monthly meeting called The Hypocrites Club. This was a form of confessional if you like, where we shared stories on how we sold out on our beliefs…. just today a  former fellow vegetarian was surprised to hear that I ate meat for lunch.

I do get sad when I meet up with what was once a fiery doer-activist, only to see glassy jaded eyes look back at me with feedback that they’d given up. I also get frustrated by mentors who respond to a request for advice with. “I don’t know, but you seem to be on the right path.”

The truth is that none of us really know. Sometimes it takes sitting on the balcony with a cuppa tea and journaling without judging yourself. Take a deep breath and risk your next uncertain step. As author Meg Wheatley, during a workshop once invited “Live life as an experiment, make it up as you go along.”

The Crippled Visionary

I stumble forward. My pains, my hopes, my dreams, my big hairy audacious goal, my legendary pioneering vision, my disappointments, my failures, conversations with my idealistic sixteen year old self.
I am the master of my destiny operating within God’s domain. Yet so much uncertainty, so much self-doubt, so much public portrayal of prosperity, so much self-hypnotic pep talks, so much top-layer shine covering a hillside of debt. So much self-imposed expectations.
And yet I rise. Operating within grace. For I know that the other lies ahead. Fueled by illogical hope that governs my every step. The unseen is carrying me, the unimaginable within grasp. Clumsily midwifing the birth of a new season. My small quivering frame, a cog in the new world of possibility. For dreams and faith give me wings, carrying me beyond my undeserved reality, for my contribution is greater than I. Thank you dear Father.
 
*** An ode to the collective story of so many of us chartering the road less travelled***

Our Collective Values Will Determine The Future Of The World

I am often astounded at how we as the human race have assumed trust of each other. We trust that the driver at the next intersection won’t run through a red traffic light to end our day, we trust that the bank will hold our pennies in a safe place, we trust that the ingredients in our soft drink will be safe and unaltered from the last 500 times of consuming it.

Are we merely naïve or have we been designed to trust?

I have a passion for designing structures of belonging; be it through one-on-one dialogue, the design of social space or how we convene as groups – I am therefore overjoyed at Peter Block’s book Community: The Structure of Belonging that speaks to all of this. I am relieved that social entrepreneurs are sensitive to how we relate as people to each other and to the planet (although I hope that in the near future we can drop the word “social” with moving to a mainstream approach to doing business). I do however skip a few heartbeats when we forget how we treat each other in our everyday that detracts from our grand intentions of creating this alternate world we want to live in.

As a wannabe social architect, I conform to the belief that every conversation we have, every action and inaction either contributes or detracts from the greater good of humanity. We cannot outsource our personal behavior to the organisations we work in, or hide behind those brands. Our values are integral to our personal development, our ability to relate to others, our roles in organization and society. It determines if and how we do our part of an agreement, be it a written or social agreement. It determines whether we become armchair critics or roll up our sleeves in shaping society or merely the block where we live.

Through my work and circle of friends, I see many people battling with relationships. The choice between retribution and forgiveness is not an obvious option to select when an injustice has occurred. Applying integrity at work with quality delivery does not come easily when uninspired. Many of us begin our journey in life with hand-me-down values based on the religious principles we were born into. Through the knocks and bumps we receive in life, we may let go of a few and adopt a few new ones. I love the saying that a diamond is simply coal that handles pressure well. It’s through adversity that our true values, and thereby character shows up. This is when our ore (also core) is sharpened in the flames of life and our convictions are refined.

Who are we when nobody is watching? Are we bringing our gifts into the world without thought of punishment or reward? Are we showing up as our authentic selves regardless of the consequence? Perhaps we should not wait for the conditions of operation to be ideal. We face a gap in society where we as citizens need to be the leader examples that we need in order to overcome the state of corruption and selfishness that we find ourselves immersed in. We need to create this alternative future by both stepping forward, but also merely practicing our values.

I don’t think this is an overwhelming ambition for any of us; it starts by merely giving thought to how we show up. Are we contributing or detracting in any given situation? Take a moment to pause and breathe before acting and speaking. What good would that piece of gossip bring? Seeing that you tarnish your own character by tarnishing another’s.

While this is a constant practice in my life, I have been met by a few surprises. As an entrepreneur, I speak with the passion of intention of what my work will offer the world. While I truly believe it, the future is uncertain so any promise that I make will be done on a shaky foundation of uncertainty. I have however on more than one occasion received investment and an invitation to paid work because of the belief that I would practice integrity and perseverance in delivery. While reward is not the aim, the circle of life gifts it to us:)

Celebrating 20 years of Democracy: a gift of subcultures

When I started university in 1998, it was quite daunting being a timid Coloured student at die Randse Afrikaanse Universiteit (RAU). Everyone from my race group knew each other and social groups were still based on the superficial quality of race. I was not the popular type, and if anything more of a social survivalist. I had very little in common with this social grouping; my thoughts lingered on philosophy and you’d find Allanis Morisette in my CD player, not some R&B jam.

For some or other reason I stumbled into the transformation conversation on campus (university). Having lived in campus residence, I found myself playing translator for black girls at residence meetings; translating very important information from Afrikaans to English – never mind that statistics at the time showed that 65% of classes were taken in English and not Afrikaans. At the time we had the choir and an African choir. It was well known that the choir had more budget and opportunities than the African choir that sang more traditional vernacular chorals. We explicitly had white parties and black parties institutionally organized on different sides of campus, including White Spring Day and Black Spring Day – at Milo Park. My heart silently yearned for the music of the White Party, but I had no access point and no business being there – I would also forever be ostracized by “my people” if I went.

University life started to shift for me when I went to an information session about Toastmasters, the international public speaking society. Coming from a family that values leadership and public speaking, I longed to be a great orator. I was hooked and soon found myself being part of the founding team along with Fatima, Wilhelm and Shelley – we could not be any more racially and culturally diverse for the South African context. I finally found a home that could nurture my philosophical mind, and great friendships were ensued. Within a year I was part of the SRC Societies Council and invited to an AIESEC conference. AIESEC is the largest student-run organization in the world with presence in 120 countries. The conference changed my life and I was soon President of the local committee. Suddenly I was hosting people from all over the world, an equal in a meta-culture.

Back to the present…

Through my work and friendships, I spend several hours per week in conversation with people from all over the world. I also get to travel to some of these locations a few times a year. Joburg is undoubtedly my city of choice to live in, but I do get tired of our national conversation through the eyes of the race lens that is not always in tune with the ordinary person’s reality. In Joburg, we have a plethora of interest-based sub-cultures. I see it every time I take part in Critical Mass or speak to my friends and neighbours about to take their mountain bike out for a ride. I see it in our vibrant community of entrepreneurs. In hanging out with hipsters at the Neighbourgoods Market in Braamies on a Saturday. In conversation with friends on our unconscious filter to like someone on Tinder and how chats are challenging assumptions. We are at a point in our electoral process where people from all walks of life are questioning the status quo. This is not race-based and has mostly emerged in the last 5 years. I truly celebrated Freedom Day yesterday by going to the Back To The City Festival. It’s the biggest Hip Hop Festival in Africa and there were thousands of people on the streets of the inner-city who were styling, skating, beatboxing etc.

While we still have work to do on building national unity and bridging the socio-economic divide I acknowledge that it unfortunately has a racial undertone. However, after 20 years of democracy in South Africa, as we debate our differences, may they be differences based on interests and exciting opportunities that valuing sub-cultures are introducing, not on the superficial and increasingly irrelevant circumstance of skin tone.

My Day With Raul: across Mexico City

Humans are designed for relationship; it’s even biblical. But if you’re expecting a post about an encounter with a beautiful Latin Lover then stop reading now.

…It’s my last day in Mexico City and despite being pressed for time; I stubbornly decided that I will be making my way to the Teotihuacan Pyramids. If in town, I may as well go see the place where “the gods were created” and why it’s come to be a World Heritage Site. My only problem was that the least expensive and most efficient way to get there was by hiring a taxi for a day; that’s 8 hours with someone when I don’t speak Spanish!

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My colleague Monica from Impact Hub Mexico City arranged the whole thing. She did intros, negotiated the price and called every so often to check in on translation needs and if everything was going ok. I started off by sitting in the back seat with luggage by my side, with a smirk and nod every time he would look my way. It was a steaming hot day sitting in a perpetual traffic jam making our way across Insergentes Avenue. Raul motioned to me to open my window wider so the breeze could flow through. We eventually stopped for fuel where I could arm myself with water and Oreos – my tummy was done with foreign food. Two hours later, after crossing a grey industrial landscape we finally found ourselves entering Teotihuacan City where I would partially walk the Avenue of the Dead.

raulThe ancient structures were breathtaking. I climbed one of the pyramids, but possibly more astonished that all the kids on school tours were wearing tracksuits in the blazing heat! This senorita had to fist pump a bunch of excited boys while a girl laughed out loud and ran to announce that senorita no habla espanol.

me at mexican pyramids

I decided on last minute shopping and after a successful card swipe at one store, I went crazy at the next. The problem was however that there was no signal for it to swipe again. After 30mins of negotiating payment options by attempting Spanglish, the storeowner walked over with me to Raul where we decided to go to the banco. Raul made a sweet gesture by offering to pay for my purchases and we decided to pay with the cash set aside for him that we’d replace later.

The ride back to Mexico City was pleasant. Raul pulled over, inviting me to sit in front. Soon we were singing (me dancing) to traditional mariachi music on his mixed tape – that he repeated one too many times. We conversed through animated expression and hand gestures. We drank from the same bottle of water and he even put eye drops in for me. By the time we got to aeroporto, we were taking selfies to the amusement of the other taxi drivers.

By not being able to express myself through voice, I often felt trapped. I have come to see that humans have not evolved to many other forms of expression. English is not the first language to a vast majority of the world so we need to be adaptable. Beyond the spoken word, what other symbols can we exchange to get to shared meaning? A dance, a smile, the shared meaning of lipstick between women, the unifying power of The Village People’s YMCA across nationalities? We want to connect; I see the frustration at airports over long layovers. Let’s keep on trying, keep on evolving.