Quest to Help Others and Learn About the World – the Adenture Begins

Blog entry created by: Teresa

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Leaving the Job I Love

December 23, 2009.  Today I begin my blog.  Today is the day I told the President of the Board that I am leaving our organization.  I am the Executive Director of the Archaeological Institute of America and the Publisher of Archaeology magazine.  I tried to tell him once before, but he didn’t take it very well.  He talked me into staying…but nagging dreams of trying to achieve lifelong goals kept calling to me…not to mention the loud protests of my three children that I am never around.

Memories from childhood

Let me explain.  Ever since I was a teenager, I wanted to do something to help the very poor in other countries.  When I was a child, there were commercials encouraging people to help children who were suffering because of the famine in Ethiopia .  My young mind could not reconcile the abundance of food we had with the pictures of the starving children.

Much More Power Than We Realize

I thought of those kids – sitting on the ground with flies on them, probably feeling powerless and perhaps wondering why people with access to resources don’t do more to help.  In fact, I could just as easily have been born as one of those kids – if I were, I bet I would think to myself, “If I had the power to, I would help people”.  Living in the US , having been fortunate enough to have access to education and good jobs, I think that I – and many others who might not even realize it – have much more power than we realize.

I know that this is a simplistic view and that many people are already doing a lot to help.  Also, it is tough to know what can be done.  Yes, we have an abundance of things, but how can we share them with others – would our things even be of use to them? What about shipping costs; political issues, cultural differences?  I don’t have answers, so I am planning a way to find out.

A Trip to Peru

My plan came out of a trip to Peru last year.  I saw people trekking up a huge hill of loose sand to their make unsteady make-shift shelters just outside of Trujillo .  A very young boy sold me a pack of gum to make money for his family.  It was Palm Sunday.  The people were friendly and they also seemed happy.  Then we visited a wealthy estate.  On our way in, we saw the armed guards protecting the estate from the many poor folks who lived just outside its walls.  I wondered how the woman who so kindly welcomed us into her lovely home drove past the people outside and the guards each day.  If I were her, would I get used to the different standards of living and drive past, too?  What were her other options?  Do I do this already, when I walk by the homeless on the streets in Boston ?

Time Poor in the US

I often think about how poverty takes different forms.  The people I saw in Peru were financially poor, but many people I know in America are time poor.  The sad fact is that my current lifestyle does not allow me enough time for my kids.  I think sometimes in countries like American, we work very hard for others and some of us – including me – lose part of our true selves as a result.

My friend Rizia is from Brazil .  She works hard to afford a decent lifestyle for herself and her kids.  She finds it tough at times.  She’s cleans as many houses as she can, but at times she struggles to get by.  Sometimes she feels depressed.  She calls her family in Brazil to check in.  Her mom answers with a bellowing, joyful, “HELLLLO!!”  Then, “How am I?  Oh, I’m WONDERFUL!!!  My grandson just started talking and I spent the day with my granddaughter who is just staring to walk!.”  Rizia says to me, “They have nothing!  They eat rice and beans, rice and beans every day because they have nothing else, and they are…so…happy!  How can they be so happy, while I get depressed?”

Sometimes I come home late from work and my kids say, “You are never here!  You work all the time.  Why can’t you be home?”  Of course, this makes me feel terrible.  Then I go to work (an hour and a half commute each way) and I feel as though I am not doing enough there either.”  My boyfriend is coming to visit – how will I find the time to do little things to make his visit special?  When I visit him, he has things all planned.  I have always prided myself on being thoughtful, but with little time for things, I can’t be as thoughtful as I want to be.  Sometimes I feel downright neglectful of everyone in my life.  I am definitely time poor!

My Clearest Thinking Always Happens in the Shower and on Airplanes :-)

On the plane on the way home from Peru I thought and thought about what to do.  I had recently become a single mom – again.   By the time we landed, I had a plan.  I would quit my (wonderful but time-consuming) job, sell most of my stuff, borrow against my retirement fund, raise some money, home school my kids for a year, and backpack around the world with them, volunteering at various non-profits as we go.  I will learn about the world while I spend time with my kids 24/7 for an entire year.

My kids will get a learning experience they will carry with them the rest of their lives.  I can figure out what I can do to help people, and maybe the kids will develop a nagging desire to help others as well.  If not, at least they will live with their eyes opened to the great diversity in the way people live in different parts of the world.

On a Train Back to Boston

So – here I am – on a train back to Boston , after having resigned from the best job I have ever had.  My boss was angry with me. It was really tough to disappoint him.  I am a people pleaser there are many people at AIA who will not be pleased.  I really love the people I work with at AIA, my employees, the Board and hundreds of volunteers.  But, after six years of long hours and commuting, it is time to move on.  (In defense of my two-days-before-Christmas timing, my boss is insanely busy except during school breaks, and our Annual Meeting is in January so I felt that people had to be told before then.)

Just Close Your Eyes and Do It

I know what you are thinking – it’s financially crazy to quit a good job in this economy.  I was trying to hire someone to help with homework and dinner since I am often late getting home, and several professionals who had been out of work for more than a year called about this $10/hour job.  Yikes!  Will that be me if I go through with this?  I know that I can make it through the year living very cheaply in developing countries, but what about when I come back and need to find a job?  Who’s to know how that will work out?  One thing is for sure, my daughter Jennifer graduates high school this year.  If I am going to take her with me, it is now or never. At some point, you just have to close your eyes and do it.

Well, tomorrow is Christmas Eve.  I have more to do to get ready for the holiday.  Then I have the day after Christmas off – so I will get busy setting up the trip, the website, and the non-profit.

The adventure begins!!  I hope you will join us!

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Posted on: December 23, 2009 | Categories: It's Tough to Leave, Pre-Departure Thoughts, Why We Are Doing This


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