“Money Comes and Goes – From One Pocket to Another” – On Visiting the Mountain Top
October 23, 2012 § Leave a Comment
It’s getting chilly in New York, this month. I’ve been enjoying dark Oktoberfest brews, cooking warm soups, cobblers and buying fall flowers at the local market. This weekend, I even took to it and painted the Nakate office space a deep, warm shade of gold. Here’s to the changing seasons! I’ve been taking extra time to walk through colorful Central Park instead of taking the bus.
As the seasons change, I’m aware that New York is teaching me new lessons about entrepreneurship, about myself – about collaboration: both cross culturally and within my own, chilly city.
A Be Social Change friend commented this weekend that, “if we are not constantly meeting new people and living outside our comfort zone, in New York, we might as well have never come here.” Her comment was timely for me – it wrapped up a week full of inspiring conversations with people I hadn’t known before.
First, it was a conversation with a Chinese woman, working as a nanny on the upper west side. She began telling me her life story in a waiting room – about her past as a business woman, her solo journey to New York city, and her discouragement when she discovered that Mandarin was not the language they spoke in China town. She said she struggled with her identity when she came to the United States – giving up her dream to further her career, her financial situation and her thoughts on how she expected things to go for herself. Nine years later, she has put her daughter through school, and raised a nine year old girl she says she has come to love as her own.
“I returned to China and my father told me I had been to the mountain,” she told me. “He said, ‘before, when your life was easy, you were living in a valley – a village. Now, you have been to the mountain top. You have struggled.’”
He told her she had discovered what it is to be human – to struggle, and keep walking forward.
He told her that struggle reminds us of our true selves.
“Money comes and goes – from one pocket to another,” she said. “Your hopes, your beliefs, your love – if you lose those things, you have lost it all.”
I left my new friend for a meeting at the Issyra African Art Gallery in Hoboken, where my Senegalese friend Issa and I are planning an event this holiday season. Issa showed me a new painting he’s been working on – two faces are looking outward. In front of them, painted gold coins are dotted through out the air. Behind them, a group of tall villagers are dancing together.
“It’s history,” Issa told me. “You must remember where you come from. It is easy to get caught up in things, and lose your legacy.”
In case I wasn’t getting the message, I ended up meeting a gentleman at a party in Astoria this weekend who shared with me about his current job, and said he’s been working to find ways to say no.
“It’s so easy to become a yes person, when you get comfortable in what you’re doing,” he said. “I don’t want to be that person in my life – always nodding, always agreeing – losing myself. I want to remember to create discomfort, to challenge the status quo, and push things to the next level, even when I’m scared.”
I smiled when he said that – thankful for a brand and a company that always pushes me to the edge of my comfort zone, asks me to give more and find new solutions…thankful to be working with a group of people that are always creating discomfort, and challenging the status quo.
I am grateful to work with women that regularly take me to the mountain top – reminding me that love for others, finding joy in each day and living in the moment and its challenges are more important than things – that what’s in my heart matters infinitely more than the items in my home.
There is nothing as satisfying, for me, as collaborating across an ocean, making early morning Skype phone calls, emailing furiously back and forth and – finally – coming to find a beautiful solution between two cultures, for a group of talented women whose work we all are committed to celebrating.
What mountain tops are you visiting, this fall?
(This blog originally posted on the Nakate Project website).