Empty, Complete, and In-Between
I completed my first term at Andover on an abnormally warm December afternoon. After the momentary rush of relief and adrenaline of completing my last final, I packed my room, stepped into my parent's sedan and exited isolation into a practical world I had forgotten. This is what it's like to ride in the front seat.
This is what it's like to prepare food for myself.
This is what it's like to laugh until your stomach hurts.
Several nights later, alone in a room full of moving boxes I took off my headphones and sat still on the inflatable bed. My parents congratulated me, applauded me, assured that I had "made it through." But what had I made it through the past months with? I sat there in the unpainted, unpacked room, with one desk, one chair, and one inflatable mattress and wondered where the last three months had gone. Other than the inkjet grades left on a transcript what had I worked towards in the past months?
Despite the overwhelming emptiness and lack of fulfillment I felt, I couldn't answer what I wanted to do to fill it. And so, in the cream colored room, I closed the louvers to the swaying snow dusted evergreens and went to sleep.
Months later, sprawled on a hotel room bed surrounded by clothes and toiletries to pack, I watched a video of Manav Sadhna founder Jayesh Patel guide a tour through a slum in Ahmedabad. Manav Sadhna, based on Ghandi's Sabermati ashram has cultivated a network of dozens of programs and several organizations to provide services for the local area. As clumps of small children trailed his path through the dusty streets of the slum, he explained that our journeys as people are not about ambition and instead, "I am a person and I want to do this."
The leaders and volunteers within the Manav Sadhna family all embody this conviction principle wholeheartedly. Vandana, the manager of a textile company that employs and empowers women oversees inventory ordering, marketing, designing, shipping, and more. When asked the title of her position in the organization she simply replied, "volunteer, 24/7, 365 days." Architect turned volunteer, Vandana explained the shift in her purpose: "when the universe gives you an opportunity to do good you must seize it."
Viranbhai, a leader at Manav Sadhna described his path from a successful career as a mechanical engineer in the United States to the point when he found the opportunity to do good in Ahmedabad. He left his steady employment and moved back to India with all the faith that it would work out: "I can give you one hundred fifty examples of how the universe will always answer you."
Jayesh Patel, Viranbhai, Vandana: I am a person and I want to do this.
Months after that December night, I walked the hallways of Gramshree. Lining the shelves were flowing waves of teal embroidered quilts, layers of intricate white patterns, fields of shining sequins in mango orange shirts. Made by slum women. With a needle. With cloth. With two hands eager do to something. And while the emptiness I felt in December has faded, I still wonder with the world of ACTs, SATs, and APs what my will as a person is moving towards, what it is creating. And while I am not always sure what to endeavor towards, I know I will find something. I am a person and I want to do something.