Okay, confession time: I’m a little addicted to timed writing exercises. I use them to warm up before writing, in order to get ideas and inspiration flowing. But I also do them because when you write for ten minutes straight—no stopping—the good stuff starts to come out. Through these exercises you can obtain a level of honesty that only happens when you’re forced to keep the pen moving.
Flipping through my writing notebook the other day, I found a list I made last May, around the time I decided to apply to the LIFE program
. The list was titled What I hope to get out of B’tzedek LIFE. Besides some of the more obvious things like getting to go to India and making new friends, some of my goals for the program included...
...to feel confident that I’m living a life with purpose
...to be able to better articulate and understand why I am committed to making the world a better place
...to learn what leadership really means (I have a vague idea, but I think people throw around the term)
...to do things and take risks I might not otherwise take
...to learn new skills and find ones I didn’t know I had
...to improve my ability to not stop, or become paralyzed by a problem that seems really big or insurmountable
...to get closer to knowing what I might want to do with my life in the future
...to meet new people and allow their stories, points of view, theories, and ideas to blow my mind—to constantly have my paradigm shattered, and then rebuilt, and then shattered again
...to further develop my Jewish identity; no, actually, to challenge myself to figure out what that—a Jewish identity—even means to me”
So, seven months into the program, which of these points have I accomplished? Which am I on the path towards accomplishing? If I am to be completely honest, every single item I wrote on that list is an active part of my experience with the LIFE program.
But let me back up a moment. I applied to LIFE because I wanted to do meaningful work with sustainable results. I hoped to work at the grassroots level, enacting small changes or improvements that ultimately would contribute to global change. I wanted to throw my energy into worthy causes and a local community, while learning how to tailor my work to best suit what is needed.
At my core, I wholeheartedly believed that we must try to improve the world, but that we need to interact with, work with, and get to know people, places, and ideas different from our own in order to do so. LIFE appeared to, and does, provide these opportunities and fit these criteria.