Letter From Melaku

Dear Fellow Millennial,

Below are the three most defining moments of my life so far:

 

1) When I left my brother and mom behind at 14. 

At the age of 14, my father explained that we were leaving Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for Portland, Oregon, which would become my home for the next four years. The airplane that I had chased from the ground as a child swept my two sisters, father, and me away from my mother and brother into a nation with a different language, culture, and cuisine. Tangled between my excitement for the new life and sorrow over my family’s separation, I trusted my father to take care of us. What expected to be a glamorous life in the US was not so attractive. I loathed Sundays because that’s when we called our mom and it was a constant reminder of her absence in our lives. In the little two-bedroom apartment with the four of us, we slowly learned how to make it feel like home. My sisters and I would clean the living room, bath rooms, clean the dishes, and make food while our father, a part time nursing student at the time, worked as Certified Nursing Assistant and an Interpreter. This was my life for three and half years before my mom and brother were able to join us in the States. 

 

2) When I realized I had to learn English to succeed in the US.

I remember my first few weeks of high school in the US very vividly. In my PE class, I didn’t like to participate because everyone played basketball. The only sport I grew up playing was soccer. So I spent a lot of time on the bleachers watching my classmates play. I recall a time in my high school gym when on of my classmates wrongly accused me of stealing his phone but nothing could come out of my mouth except the word, “No, no, no.” This was one of the most frustrating times to this day, not being able to defend myself because I couldn’t speak English yet.  

As my peers enrolled in Spanish classes in high school, English was my foreign language. And one that needed to be grasped quickly to ensure a successful academic career and integrate into my American community. My first month in the US, my literature class was assigned Warriors Don’t Cry. I did not even understand the title, so as classmates read aloud, I hid a dictionary under my desk to look up the definition of “warrior,” “segregation,” and many others. While working on my pronunciation, it was difficult to find out my tongue didn’t roll the way I wanted it to roll. I still remember how I would repeat to myself five, ten, fifteen times “we-rrr-l-d.” Ironically, though I’d traveled halfway cross it to reach my new home, “world” was the hardest word to tackle. Yet after eight months, I would have my first dream in English! 

 

3) When I witnessed the practice of medicine in Ethiopia.

Anyone that knows me knows how excited I get about medicine. After six years, the summer after my second year at Johns Hopkins, I excitedly returned to Ethiopia in hopes of revisiting my childhood and volunteering in the hospital, as my schooling in the US had instilled in me a desire to become a physician. As a volunteer, I worked with a surgeon at Bishoftu General Hospital. My job included carrying between operating rooms a surgical light and cauterizer machine and escorting patients and their families to the ICU after surgery. One day, as I was transporting a seven-year-old girl, I witnessed her mom was weeping. Later, I learned that many surgeons in the area had declined to operate on this little girl because they were afraid for their own safety due to her HIV infection. This experience in one of the poorest hospitals in Ethiopia elucidated my future role as a physician. I came to Ethiopia with the intention of becoming a surgeon but I left with more confusion about my future. Two things were clear though: I will incorporate global health in my profession and I swore to name my future daughter after this seven-year-old girl that changed my life. 

 

Letter From Schuyler

Musicians use social media a lot. If you have even one musician friend, your Facebook inbox is probably filled with event invites for shows.

That’s certainly the case for me. And I don’t know about you, but I’ve noticed something change about these invites.

In the last six months or so, it seems like events promote bands less – and social justice causes more. Bands of all sizes, willing to donate the money from their shows to the benefits of their choice.

The change came against the backdrop of a tumultuous political climate that had communities divided across the country. I was thinking a lot about where to start, how to help at a time when so many people were feeling vulnerable.

Then I realized all I had to do was go to a show, or pick up some new music.

This spike in benefit concerts – people infusing a sense of community and social responsibility into their passions – shows the potential our generation has to better our world with nothing but an instrument or two.

A local show might not make more than a few hundred dollars, but keep in mind what the smaller bands give up: a (rare) opportunity to temporarily set back the cost of strings, practice spaces, gas – and the satisfaction of some cash in your wallet after hours of practice, promoting shows and emailing back and forth with bookers.

If you’re on the road, those sacrifices are compounded. That’s why I talked to Hayden Eller, whose Bellingham-based band The Co-Founder recently decided to turn tour gigs into benefit shows.

“It wasn’t a difficult decision,” he says simply. “All four of us in The Co Founder place great importance in actively giving back to our community.”

Eller says the band just wants to combine their passion for music with their desire to make a positive impact.

“We were happy to take a ‘loss’ and fund those tours out-of-pocket so that the earnings could be used to help others.”

Eller also helps other bands do the same, through his nonprofit label, Life Vest Records. Profits from the label’s first compilation went to the Opportunity Council of Whatcom County, which helps homeless and low-income families in northern Washington.

Eller says there’s another compilation slated for June, but hasn’t decided what cause will get the money from that upcoming release.

The Co Founder is far from the only band of young people mixing passion with action. Just take Portland artists for example. Quone and (possibly my favorite local band) Two Moons recently played all-ages benefit show for Voz Hispana Cambio Communitario. You can pay what you want for Cool American’s Better Luck Next Year Vol. 2, and the band will pass the money along to the Southern Poverty Law Center. The dollar you throw down to get Turtlenecked’s new single “Boy’s Club” goes straight to Planned Parenthood.

Big names are getting involved too. Sleater-Kinney and Feist both released brand new singles for the vinyl box set “7-Inches for Planned Parenthood.” Beach Fossils, Animal Collective’s Avey Tare and Angel Olsen are just three of the 100 major artists contributing to “Our First 100 Days,” a compilation that benefits organizations involved with issues like LGBTQ rights and climate protection.

And – if you aren’t already – you can get involved. You can give back and create positive change through something as simple as going to a bar when a benefit art show or concert is going on. Or by buying an album that donates proceeds to nonprofits.

But if you play music, put together a show for a cause you care about. If you draw, use that to raise funds for a group of people doing something that excites you. I don’t know you. You know you. Figure out where your passions lie, and use that to make a small impact on something you care about.

Eller says, if you’re new to getting involved and want to know where to start, check out DIY art and punk shows. He says those crowds usually know which issues aren’t getting a fair shake in mainstream discussion (or funding opportunities, usually), so they can point you in the right direction.

Don’t get overwhelmed by how massive world issues can be. Don’t feel like it’s out of your control. Focus locally. Do the little things. Go to a show. Buy some art. Find your way to do what you love in a way that helps others. 

And really, if helping out your city by drinking beer and listening to music is too much to ask… we’re doomed. 

Schuyler

 A photo taken by one of our editors, Cody Burchfield.

A photo taken by one of our editors, Cody Burchfield.

Letter From Hemen

Lifting as We Climb: The Importance of Mentorship for Minority Students

Hemen Muleta

In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell states the following: "Success is not a random act. It arises out of a predictable and powerful set of circumstances and opportunities." This statement applies directly to my life. If you asked me thirteen years ago where I would like to be in my early 20s, I would have said “I want to be in medical school.” But, if you had asked me how I planned to get there, I would have given you a blank stare. My family and I had just migrated to Minnesota from Ethiopia, and though the small seed of interest in medicine was growing in me, I had two clearer, short-term goals in my life: I needed to learn how to speak English and I needed to learn how to eat American school lunch. 

As I fumbled my way through both American culture and middle school, my family’s love and support helped me continue. However, by the time I reached high school it was obvious that I would need more help in both my academic and personal life. As the first person in my family to go to college in the United States, my family and I were essentially tasked with learning the American education system from zero. Around this time, I stumbled across Upward Bound (UB), a preparatory program geared towards preparing low income and minority students for college. In UB, I met college students, incredible mentors, and friends.  I can honestly say that without UB, I absolutely would not have gotten into Johns Hopkins University or had the skills to succeed once at Hopkins. 

My story follows a similar path in college where, each step of the way, premedical advisors, students at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, and personal mentors helped me navigate college courses, the medical school application process, and perhaps most importantly, guided my personal journey to understanding myself and solidifying my passion for medicine. Whenever I felt like giving up—while studying for the MCAT, when receiving rejection letters from medical schools, and managing personal crises—my mentors helped me persevere. To think that I, a black girl from Ethiopia who barely spoke English, could make it to medical school truly makes me believe that other minority students can, too. Gladwell’s book has another line which reads "The values of the world we inhabit and the people we surround ourselves with have a profound effect on who we are." The biggest lesson in my life has been to reach out and ask for help. It’s been the realization that without the people in my life, I am nothing. 

As I think about my long path of training in medicine, as well as my current role as a first-year student, I also think of the fact that I still need the aid of others. From figuring out what the wards will be like, to study tips for board exams, to deciding on a specialty, I will continue to need mentors.  However, I also strongly believe that I can serve as a mentor for those who may walk the same road as me, even if they don’t take the same exact steps. Booker T. Washington’s phrase “lifting as we climb” comes to my mind—the idea that as we continue to work on our personal success, we must also lend a hand to those striving to do similarly. This, I think, is especially true in the medical field where only 5% of the physician workforce in the United States is black and less black men are enrolled in medical school in 2014, as compared to 1978. Research has also shown that doctors of underrepresented racial groups are more likely to work with patients from underrepresented backgrounds and may be part of a potential solution to the health disparities among different races that we see in the United States. 

For me, tutoring and mentoring has been my way of attempting to leave a mark in this world and give back some of what’s been given to me. While in college, this translated to spending my time as a language tutor for adopted Ethiopian students, as well as working as a high school teaching assistant in the Remington area of Baltimore. Now, as a medical student, I participate in HPREP, a program geared towards mentoring minority high school students who are interested in health professions. I am also part of the Pipeline Program as a member of the Harvard Medical School chapter of the Student National Medical Association (SNMA), an organization that focuses on providing chapter mentorship to younger premedical students that are part of the undergrad version of the program, Minority Association for Pre-health Education (MAPS). This is especially important to me, given that I was part of MAPS during undergrad and benefited immensely from the networking, service, and mentoring opportunities provided by the SNMA chapter of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. 

More specifically, the importance of mentoring should not be underestimated for students who come from underrepresented backgrounds, as well as those who are the first in their families to make the long and grueling journey to medical school and beyond. We often talk about the importance of work force diversity, or rather the lack of diversity in medicine and I sincerely believe that mentoring is part of the solution. As I continue in my career, I want to make it a point to support and encourage those who are taking the same journey as I did. Medicine is often described as a never-ending career of learning and teaching, and I look forward to a lifetime of engaging in both of these pursuits.

 

Letter From Liz Specht

Dear fellow Millennial,

I’m a scientist, an educator, an advocate, and a consumer. In all of these capacities, I can exert influence over the systems around me, even when other conduits of influence – like the political system – feel blockaded. The system I most desperately want to change is the food system, and I’ll tell you why – and I hope you’ll join me.

Millennials are a caring bunch. We have grave concern for our environment and the diverse ecosystems our planet harbors. We care deeply about humans across the globe, including those beyond our borders who suffer from poverty, starvation, and malnutrition. We care about our own health and wellbeing, and we are equally concerned about public health threats and infectious diseases that traverse the globe with ease. And we exhibit profound concern for non-human sentient beings. Our companion animals are true members of our family, and we recognize in all animals a right to exist and be free from harm, suffering, or exploitation.

These are values that we hold dear. We act on them in so many ways: we use public transportation; we avoid products of child labor; we donate to global health charities; we adopt our pets from shelters; we refuse to support circuses and other forms of coerced animal entertainment. And yet our current food system – most notably our reliance on factory farming – is an affront to all of these values. There is an enormous gap between our ideals and the systems through which our food is produced.

Animal agriculture poses massive, inherent problems for health, the environment, sustainability, and animal welfare. It is among the leading causes of environmental destruction – including deforestation, ocean dead zones from waste runoff, and water and air pollution – and it contributes more greenhouse gas emissions than the entire global transportation sector. Furthermore, rearinganimals poses significant public health threats from antibiotic resistance and zoonotic disease epidemics, and consumption of animal products is associated with higher rates of death from all leading chronic diseases in the Western world – a trend that is rapidly emerging in the developing world as well. Finally, consumers are increasingly concerned about the treatment of farmed animals. Undercover investigations have opened our eyes to the cruelty and confinement that are standard practice at the factory farms supplying 99% of our meat, dairy, and eggs.

Despite the massive implications of animal agriculture on all of these global fronts, gains to reduce our reliance on animal agriculture have been modest in the Western world and are outweighed globally by a growing population and an increased demand for animal protein in the developing world. There is simply not enough land on the planet to sustain a population predicted to grow to nearly 10 billion by 2050 without a dramatic shift towards more sustainable, less resource-intensive protein sources. 

Millennials have the power to reverse this trend. I’m empowered by our collective ability to steer the ship without standing at the helm: we can shift the currents in the seas, and we can shift the wind in the sails. We make decisions about food more frequently than any other product we consume – and thus we can use our food purchasing decisions to exert a tremendous amount of influence in the market. We vote with our dollars to make a statement about sustainability, animal welfare, and the equitable distribution of resources on this planet, even when the ballot box feels like an abyss. 

Every food industry leader is watching millennials because we are trendsetters. We act upon our values, and increasingly we are rejecting animal agriculture as we become better informed. Food producers and restaurants are taking note, as are investors, innovators, and educators. 

These day-to-day decisions matter a great deal but perhaps most powerfully, young professionals – that’s you, millennials! – can devote the 80,000 hours of your career to a meaningful endeavor to improve the world. Technology provides a tremendous opportunity to steer the ship in the right direction, simply by letting market forces act. If we can develop products that are more sustainable, humane, and healthy than animal products and that compete on taste, price, and convenience, the omnivore’s dilemma disappears. The food choice that’s good for the planet, ourselves, and animals becomes the default choice because consumers don’t have to compromise on any of the attributes that govern our food choices. Animal agriculture is an obsolete, inefficient, and outdated system that is ready for a complete technology-driven overhaul.

This is a pivotal moment for our food system, and I hope you’ll join me in using your time and talents to tip the scales towards a healthier, more sustainable, and more humane food future by rendering animal agriculture obsolete.

Sincerely,

Liz Specht, Ph.D.

Senior Scientist, the Good Food Institute

www.gfi.org
LizS@gfi.org

 The GFI Crew!

The GFI Crew!

Letter from Duy

Dear readers,

My name is Duy Tran. I work in social services in Seattle for an organization called Downtown Emergency Services Center. In 2016, my friends and I planned an “international friendship smuggling” (my friend's designation, not mine) trip to China. After many months of hyphy - and hella overtime shifts - I departed with three dear friends of mine on an all-too-brief adventure in China. This is our story.

Kunming was our playground as us four boys wreaked havoc throughout Yunnan (and on our bodies) charging and at times trudging from one destination to another. During the day, we explored the novel surroundings, peppering our walks with childish jokes about penises and vaginas. At night, we stalked the city, consuming an inordinate amount of red bull and cheap grain alcohol. The gang went to China and we managed to make it back in one piece, sans a pair of shoes lost after “Jaeger night.”

In between the numerous jokes about genitalia, my friends and I had discussions about our cultural observations. You gotta. When you encounter an unfamiliar cultural practice or novel object, you’re inclined to suss out its meaning. At one of the nights during our trip, we were hailed by some locals and all but coerced to drink with them. The reason we were roped into drinking with them was because my friends were tall white dudes. The locals took so many selfies with my white friends that you’d think that my friends were traveling celebrities. As for myself, the Asian looking dude, I sat in the corner bemused by the spectacle and resigned to my designated non-American, Chinese-passing status. 

What was just another night of partying – albeit partying in a foreign culture -  for my white friends was another instance of having to confront my Asian-American identity. I felt like Lindsay Lohan's character in Mean Girls when she introduces herself as being from South Africa (“Oh my god, Karen, you can't just ask people why they're white!”) I was in cultural limbo. I passed as Chinese but did not identify as such whereas my American-ness was put into question. Frankly, I was a bit frustrated at my friends and the locals. Obviously my friends did not choose to be white, but neither did I choose to be Vietnamese, yet I am punished for it. I mean, the punishment was fewer shots being offered to me, but still. The point is that there is a discernible difference between how I was treated during the trip – and just writ large – and how my white friends were treated. Whether it be fewer shots being offered to me at the bar or having my US passport being examined just a tad bit longer than my white friends, it was often enough for me not dismiss as chance.

Some of you readers might classify this as racism or as acts of microaggression. Please don't do that. Racism is not just something to be theorized, but something that is viscerally lived. My experiences might have been racialized, but I ought to hold the power to designate my own encounters with racism as such. Oppression is already messy as it is, I/we don't need someone else telling me/us what I/we should be feeling. The wonderful thing about talking about these experiences with my friends was that they listened without projecting their own expectations (see how I dropped the white modifier? I don't know why I did it, but it seems appropriate.) I talked and they just listened, just like I hope you are doing reader.

That is my call to action to y’all Millennials: listen, listen, listen. Try not to be defensive. Once you become defensive then you have concluded you have listened enough. Instead, you probably need to listen some more. Only then can we hope to form some participatory language where one party does not feel intimidated to say how they really feel. This is particularly important for the audience of this website because we have one, probably more, of these traits: white, decently financially secure, college-educated, and liberal.

If we want to change a hurtful system, we must listen to those that are injured by it. We cannot presume to know what is best for the injured voices and speak for them. We cannot stand in solidarity without listening. I don’t speak on behalf of folks of color; hell, I can’t even speak on the behalf of Asian immigrants living in America. However, I do speak. Listen to me and to the plethora of voices that are affected by the varying discrimination and violence exerted by the status quo. In return, I’ll lend you my ear (and/or beer). Please share your letter with us.

 Duy in Kunming

Duy in Kunming

Letter from Emily

Dear friend,

 

Want to talk about mental health and social medicine? I’m your girl.

There are not enough of us who are talking candidly about mental health and social medicine. But I am going to take a risk here and say I’m one of them.

 

May 2018 I will graduate with my MPH from Penn. Right now, I work in behavioral health research. I spend my days designing surveys that examine the state of mental healthcare, exploring integrative behavioral health models, and studying alcohol use disorder and trauma. And I love my job -- not because every day is full of whimsy and excitement, but because each day I walk into work knowing that we are making serious groundbreaking steps to address the crisis of behavioral health in America. 

I was drawn to this work because of personal ties I have developed over the years to the mental health field. Throughout the years, my interactions with people have motivated my engagement with this field – and if you are one of those people who know me personally and are reading this, be reassured that I am not referring to your specific story. The fact of the matter is that in aggregate, stories of mental health trauma and experiences have been a constant theme growing in prevalence around me. In fact, it has become so prevalent in my life that those inside my immediate network have become desensitized to what we are experiencing. I’m talking about mental health trauma that causes depression, anxiety, and even suicide. 

I think these experiences, however tragic, have changed me for the better. Mental health does not scare me anymore. Suicide is the biggest public health concerns for our generation, so we have to accept that mental health is a topic to be discussed, researched, and understood. The problem is staring us in the face and robbing our friends of their futures.  I want to tell you a fictional story that I have aggregated from stories of many people I have met over the years. It’s of Ava. Ava is a junior in college from a small Midwestern state. She is a daughter of immigrants away at college on a generous scholarship, which she needs to work hard in order to maintain. Ava’s differences make her stronger, but it also makes her… well, different. To fit in, Ava starts going to college parties with her friends, her grades start to suffer and when the next semester starts she is ineligible for her scholarship. Her new friends don’t understand the pressures she is under and cannot empathize well with her situation and how she’s dealing with it. Feeling hopeless, Ava doubles down on parties and begins to isolate herself further. The story does not improve and eventually Ava commits suicide. She is the second person that year on her campus to commit suicide. 

You see, there were many public health on ramps that could have intervened in Ava’s story. The college could have noticed her poor academic performance and recommended a tutor, stipulating that she had another semester to meet the criteria for the scholarship. Her friends could have been given mental health bystander training to recognize the signs of healthy stress and unhealthy stress – and may have been able to offer Ava the help she needed or recommend her a place to go. The fact that the campus already had a suicide that year also seems to indicate a paucity of mental health resources. 

Addressing mental health in a robust and sustainable way is an uphill battle, but every day we are making progress. I have never been more excited to be a part of anything in my whole life because I know the benefits that can be had. We are quite literally working to save the lives of people like you and me. Our generation of researchers and advocates is the one that will make progress in the mental health space. We will change our social environments, and find a way through a lot of hard work to improve mental health outcomes. We are starting to see that mental health is just as important as physical health. Your high blood pressure and depression have equal significance on your wellbeing. 

There is something that is uniquely different about behavioral health. All of us experience a broken arm in the same way, however each of us experience emotional harm in different ways. My experiences have taught me that perception is reality. Period. How you perceive your experiences and your world is your reality. And I may not understand it and I may not be able to change it, but it’s important to step out of your own reality enough to recognize that. It’s going to be a huge fight, and I promise you I will do everything in my power to be a part of it.

 

My excitement for this imminent breakthrough in the near future has even prompted me to do something I never expected from myself, to write. Despite my current academic dreams, job, and personal experiences I have never written or spoken about any of this. For some reason I have silently read. The truth is it’s hard to be completely honest on paper. We all have a terrible habit of just making things sound better than they actually are. Depression is the leading cause of disability in the U.S.  Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death in the 18-34 age group. There is no way even the most talented writer can make that sound good. Writing is brutally honest, and I believe that honesty is where we can start to affect change.

The pain that people are experiencing every day is real, but so is our progress. Just like a lot of our peers, I have been scared to publicly share and write about my academic aspirations in fear of not sounding “realistic” or “perfect.”

 

But really, I’m beyond okay with not being perfect. It’s never been about saying the perfect thing; it’s about moving the conversation forward.

 

So let’s keep moving,

 

 Emily

 

Letter from Sam

Dear friend,

What I wish I knew ten years ago was that things would be remarkably different now. Today, I’m proud of who I am and I’m merrily slaving away in an MD-PhD program in New York City.  I’ll be here for 8 years and graduate just in time to collect Medicare.  Perfect.

I do get a lot of crap from my parents and others about the fact that I will be in school “forever.”  I remember standing as a 13-year old in a crowded auditorium – it was your standard career fair. I listened intently as a school representative told me that there are some programs where you can get two degrees…for free... with a stipend. That was it. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go into medicine or graduate school, and I was definitely not down with taking on the notoriously large amount of debt inherent in medical school, so I was sold.

Yup. I’m probably one of the only people who will openly admit that I was first interested in a dual MD-PhD program because I was terrified of debt and uncertain if I wanted to become a doctor or a scientist. And though at the time I thought that was the depth of my decision, I’ve come to recognize things that unfolded before, during, and after that time that reshaped and confirmed my decision.

One of those reasons is my lifelong battle with a disease called IgA Nephropathy. It’s an autoimmune condition that basically causes damage to your kidney, and little is understood about it.  I was diagnosed when I was an angst-filled 13 year-old, and felt pretty alone in the fact that I had to battle a mysterious kidney disease.  I was stuck thinking: Why do I have this?  How come no one knows much about it?  This got my wheels turning and sparked my interest in science and medicine.

Though that past helped bring me here, I’ve begun redefining my future. There is a 110% chance that I will be going into Psychiatry, and I also happen to be among the millions of Americans who have personally struggled with a mental illness. It likely started in my teenage years and continued throughout high school, college, and persists still to this day in med school. For reasons that some of you reading might feel yourself, I was hesitant to seek help until things hit rock bottom for me during my first year of med school. And for me, rock bottom looked pretty ugly: rapid and chaotic mood swings, haunting paranoia and obsessions, anxiety in each and every interpersonal interaction and relationship I had, and even thoughts of harming myself.  It wasn’t until I was in the depths of despair and hadn’t slept for 72 hours straight that I finally sought help. Since then, things have only been getting better. Treatment has been incredibly helpful, and despite being on a cocktail of medications, I have no complaints.

For that reason, my interest in Psychiatry is personal. Just like I long for clarity with my autoimmune disease, I also wish to gain a better understanding of mental illness so that we can all live our lives to the fullest.  That’s why I have decided to pursue a PhD in neuroscience to study the brains of people with mental illnesses to find biomarkers to help detect and treat mental illnesses.

The last layer to my interest in psychiatry is that I’m gay. In the community in which I grew up, being gay meant that you’re going to Hell, or have been influenced by the devil, or brainwashed by the liberal media, or something like that. I hid that part of myself for ten years and repressed it to the max, afraid of the shame my family would feel.  All the while, I blamed myself, and though I knew that being gay is not something that needed to be changed and was not a mental condition, there was this rather desperate feeling I had as I tried to figure out what was going on in my own world with the slim hope that I could conform to the world everyone else wanted me to fit.

Throughout my life I battled things that were pathologies of the body, but it seemed that the pathologies of society threatened to hold me back more. My journey led me to this career path and I intend to make the most of it so that people don’t have to travel the way I did to get here. We desperately need better clinical care and more advanced research into the underpinnings of mental illness, and it’s something I’m terribly passionate about.  Alongside medical school, I currently facilitate a group therapy in Harlem, and after every session I leave with a beaming smile knowing that I may have helped someone with mental illness. Someone like me, possibly someone like you. After finishing my second year of medical school, I will eagerly join a lab to work on the neurobiology of several mental illnesses.

So let me leave some take-home messages with you that have helped me and may help you:

1.) It’s OK to not have a perfectly articulate reason for choosing a career path. That’s the beauty of hindsight. Looking back now, I can easily identify the factors that pushed me along the physician-scientist direction, but I didn’t know all of them at the time.  Even if the applications and interviews demand your certainty, give yourself time to grow and learn.

2.) It’s OK to have selfish motives for school and work. Wanting to have answers to my own problems pointed me to my current career path, and holy hell, I’m so glad I’m here.  Over time, you realize that helping others who you can identify with is one of the most gratifying experiences on earth. Being selfish can tell you a lot about your current and future passions.

3.) Life can suck in a lot of ways, but the level of happiness and satisfaction gathered from finding a positive solution from a bad problem is unreal. But at the same time, I will never say to anyone struggling with mental illness, being LGBTQ, and/or having a chronic disease that: “hey, yeah I know it sucks, but just turn that smile upside down.”  Frankly, if someone had said that to me when I was a teenager struggling with all of those things, I would have just assumed they didn’t know what the Hell they were talking about. Which brings me to my last point….   

4.) While you as a person are unique, your problems are not.  Let me repeat that: the problems you are struggling with right this very moment are not unique.  Trust me, I know. Somewhere out there, there is AT LEAST one other person who is currently or has gone through the same thing, even if it’s a combination of a lot of bad things.  So always remember that you are never alone.  Somewhere out there, there is someone going through what you’re going through.  Reach out, be open, and find strength in community.

Cheers to you all,

Sam Owen

Letter from Ben

Dear Millennial:

This week gave us sarin gas and Tomahawk missiles, deportations forces and White House lies, a man’s limp body dragged from an airplane and a kid’s dead body carted from a schoolhouse. This week gave us hate and fear and small-minded nativism, just like last week did, and like next week will, too. This week gave us yet more reasons to shield our eyes, to divert our gaze, to seek shelter from a cruel reality.

But this week also gave us countless moments of joy, moments when children came crying and squirming into the world, when congregations worshipped and neighbors rallied and lovers kissed. This week gave us hope, just enough to keep us going. And we must keep going, because the “arc of the moral universe bends toward justice” was never a promise. It was a call to action, a challenge to future Americans to join the resistance, to continue Dr. King’s fight, to keep yanking on that arc until it bends by sheer force of will and persistence and love.

Millennials, we are those future Americans.

The arc belongs to us now.

Let’s bend it.

-Ben

(4/14/17)

Letter from Maxi

Dear Millennials,

We’re selfish, lazy, and more interested in our phones than in the person standing a foot away.

Or at least that’s how we’re characterized.

As much as I have my own pre-coffee mornings of “EVERYONE’S STUPID PEOPLE SUCK”, my own generation keeps surprising me in the best way. Since graduating I have witnessed some of the most resourceful, intelligent, and inspiring acts of proactive altruism come from my own peers, and that gives me hope. I’d like to encourage all of you, fellow millennials, to realize we don’t suck as much as the world might imply. And more importantly, to help you realize your role in the forward motion our generation is… well, generating.

I decided to be an actor. Talk about feeling useless. Talk about feeling, back to that first thing, selfish. I had the opportunity to be a doctor, a lawyer, a diplomat; any number of careers that might have more traditionally served humanity for the better. And often I feel like I’ve let down my generation by not following a path with a more direct impact. But through a few years of surrendering myself to admittedly “woo-woo”, ooey-gooey emotional/meditative/self-reflective actor experiences I’m starting to see things differently.

You have something to contribute. Even if you aren’t the surgeon stitching up ER patients or the paralegal fighting a toxic legislative bill; maybe you’re serving them their coffee or fixing their stalled car. Maybe you’re their yoga teacher giving them a much needed mental break or simply the last person they see on their way out of the office who says “have a good night” and means it. We all contribute. It takes a very brave releasing of ego to realize that maybe we’re not the heroes. But even the heroes need sidekicks. People always forget Alfred taking care of the homefront-- I don’t think Batman could have done all his bad-assery without a clean warm bed to come home to recover in. Be a support network. Serve, serve, serve. Serve what’s in front of you. There are geniuses who will be our crusaders and there’s no reason you can’t be one of them. But if you don’t feel like you are—realize you still have a role to play. ‘No small parts, just small actors’ and all of that.

We’re not kids anymore, Millennials. And while it’s scary to grow up and realize our parents and their systems are imperfect, it’s also incredible liberating. I’m going to leave it to Ashton Kutcher circa very-old-Kid’s-Choice-Awards-speech to explain:

“Steve Jobs said when you grow up,” says Kutcher,” you tend to get told that the world is the way that it is. And your life is to live your life inside the world, and try not to get in too much trouble, and maybe get an education, get a job and make some money and have a family. But life can be a lot broader than that when you realize one simple thing. And that is that everything around us, that we call life, was made up by people that are no smarter than you. And you can build your own things, you can build your own life that other people can live in. So build a life–don’t live one–build one.”

First off, here’s a guy I remember as Kelso in That 70’s Show. A guy who, because of his profession and not just his character’s dimwittedness, I assumed to be without much to say or add to society. It’s the exact reaction I’ve had since seeing all the cool stuff my college and high school buddies are up to—engineering important medical devices, designing rockets, educating children in low-income communities, running non-profits, traveling the globe to lend a hand wherever needed. I can’t blame older generations for thinking so little of us—I’m guilty of thinking little of us! Of assuming that the same kids I drank in frat basements with or laughed at South Park with were somehow incapable of being these hero-types they’ve grown into. It’s just more proof that our superheroes are regular people. Just like you. Meaning, what’s stopping you from being a hero? Maybe I’m the only one who feels inferior by comparison, but that goes back to my original point. Do what you can. Like Elle Woods said—“Don’t fight the fabric; change it.” We’re building systems from scratch, and that’s anything but lazy.

I’m seeing it firsthand in Hollywood, as a micro-reflection of the larger transitions America is experiencing. Any time an actor complains about not being cast— or there not being enough good female roles or minority roles or whatever the case may be— we’re shut down pretty quickly with the response, “then do it yourself.” We’ll write, produce, direct, act in, and edit our own projects. Whether we turn to crowdfunding or shoot it with no budget on our iPhone, there is no excuse to not be cast in the type of work you want to do. And that’s the kind of work we’re doing on America right now. Instead of fighting a system that doesn’t serve us, we have to put in the extra effort to work outside of it. It’s not impossible, it’s just more difficult.

Same with quitting a miserable job or one where you’re asked to do things that keep you up at night. Be brave. Be willing to walk away from the comfort and security of the established system. Be willing to put the work into the new system, and you will be surprised by how many people want to help. While casting short films that I’ve made (for exactly this self-serving purpose), I have had submissions from 20-somethings for the role of “old woman”, offers from out-of-state actors to fly in on their own dime to shoot, and the borderline desperate bids to cut beards/dye hair/get tattoos/whateverit-takes-to-be-cast in unpaid, often non-dialogue roles that will appear on camera for less than a minute. People are just so excited to be a part of something, that they will put up with less than minimal compensation and give their time. So often we want to help out or do something good for the world or, on a more manageable level, the people we care most about. We simply don’t know how. What a gift if you lead the charge and give people a way to do something good. Imagine if you told your best friends or loved ones “I’m going to do something that makes me happy and I’m going to need help.” They would jump at the chance. We can’t expect to find sympathy for staying safely within a hostile system. Look outside of it and you will see countless willing sidekicks. In a perfectly millennial reference—“help will always be given […] to those who ask for it.” Bless you Dumbledore. Sometimes we have days where people seem to suck so much that we forget how many people want to help. They just may not know you need it. Be brave enough to ask for help, and tireless enough to build upon the help that is given.

As to the final point of being led by our phones and social media, it’s true. It’s easy to be digitally desensitized to reality. And as technology continues to leap forward, the lines of rules and ethics will get murkier and grayer. It’s up to us to commit to keeping a sense of humanity alive. It will get easier and more convenient to turn away from the humane choice as we burrow into our screens. It will get easier and more convenient to hide behind established rules and laws and lose sight of the humanity they’re meant to protect. Don’t do what’s easy. Do something good without being made to. Let your heart lead you. Let’s prove them wrong. Because isn’t happiness the best revenge?

Xox Millennial Maxi

Letter from J. Bonsu

Dear Friend,

 

I lost. I lost. I lost. I lost. I lost. I won.

 

I ran for five student government elections before I was ever successful. Who would have ever told me: “Sixth time is the charm?” My student government experience that has shaped my life so much could have been taken away from me if I didn’t have the perfect balance of stubbornness and unrelenting support of friends and family. I went from a girl unable to win a student council election since freshman year of high school to the President of the Student Government Association at Johns Hopkins University.

There is an onus on all of us to share our complete story and not just the Facebook highlights because the journey matters. In its entirety, my story is not a story about success or failure, but it is a story about resiliency. This is a common path I recognized in my own brother, as he went from being cut from his high school basketball team to a walk on player on his Division 1 college team. Resiliency is a lesson only learned through failures.

As I look ahead to my next four years, I am mixed with emotions. This May, I will earn my Masters of Public Health and, in four years, I will earn my medical degree from The Ohio State University. I have traveled a long way to get here. Yes, I was that young child who proclaimed that she wanted to be a doctor. But, after spending a semester touring prospective medical schools and explaining why I chose medicine, I came to the realization that I did not have a single defining moment at all – I have a lifetime of culminating moments. Each time I push forward in the face of adversity, inequality, and failure I look forward to having more of these moments.

From time spent growing up in Ghana to living the American-immigrant reality, the issues of public health and health care have grown to be my driving passion. For those who are unfamiliar with the term “public health,” it’s okay. Even scholars in the field have a hard time offering a single definition. The concept of public health is always shifting to adjust to the needs of a shifting population. For me, public health is a holistic approach to improving society’s health by addressing certain factors – such as poverty, discrimination, and education – that can lead to poor health outcomes.

Public health often focuses on historically underserved populations who tend to have a greater proportion of negative health outcomes due to past injustices. Public health rests on equity, not equality. This means that in the course of action, we must act proportionally – giving more to those who have less so that we can all achieve a basic standard of health. In that way, public health is not only the field of health surveillance and prevention, but it is also a means of advocacy to create healthy communities for everyone.

I am among those who simply believe that everyone should have basic access to primary and preventative care, irrespective of their capacity to pay. I didn’t realize how radical this thought was until recently. Critical issues of care have been tossed behind Blue and Red dividers. Our American health care system drips of capitalism and is steeped in politics. This shouldn’t be the case. Health care is a human right, which should never be subjected to political fights. The involvement of policy should be to establish an equitable and foundational level of primary and preventative health care services.

My public health training in qualitative research methods has prepared me for a future of grassroots activism and community engagement. Over the years, I have learned to make connections and talk to people of different beliefs and backgrounds. I have learned to speak to people without putting them on the defensive and to treat them with dignity, respect, and understanding.

The call for action, especially in these next four years, demands more from all of us. If you are like me and are a future physician, it is imperative that we do more to address the environment that our patients live, work, play, and get sick in. It is necessary for us to connect our medical schools with the broader campus and community. I hope to run again for student council (yes, I’m not done) and work with my colleagues to outline priorities for health and health education in our community. As a collective group of students from all backgrounds and walks, we can work to remove the partisan divide over health care. But it will take more than statements; we must follow our words in action.

You will find me these next four years in the classroom learning how to become a doctor, but most importantly, you will also find me organizing with other students to phone bank and volunteer on campaigns for politicians who stand for the issues that we stand for. Rather than blindly follow our party affiliations, the Hippocratic oath - the promise to treat the patient, not the disease, and to do no harm - will guide us. We will actively draft memos to our representatives on our experiences treating patients in need and on the health issues affecting our community, our state, and our nation.

Odds are that at this precise moment, you may not know what you want to do, but it is likely that you know the type of person you want to be. Demonstrate that. Our schools cannot shield us from the realities occurring outside the collegiate walls. As future health professionals, we do not have the luxury to overlook the exertion of politics on medical rights. If society refuses to depoliticize the issue of health care, we have no choice but to enter the political arena. Even as a student. Especially, as a student.

 

Yours in the pursuit for more,

Janice

Letter from Q. Scott

Here is a letter written by the illustrious Q. Scott. If you like lists, then you might decide to write a letter like this. Amongst a seemingly playful approach, Q. shares a vulnerable glimpse into his perspective. 

Re: Millennials

  1. Lists. Millennials love lists. Millennials are entitled, so you must order things for them. Millennials have limited attention spans, so you have to break information into small, digestible pieces if you want them to understand anything. Buzzfeed gets it. Buzzfeed is, also, fake news.

  2. A short attention span could also be a natural response to an increasingly fragmented world where information is disseminated in flurries, expanding and shattering, blossoming, into new shapes and permutations. Sometimes, to make sense of them, you can put them in lists.

  3. I love Vines.

  4.  
  5. I hate the term “millennials.”

  6. I don’t think I’ve ever used the term “millennial” without chasing it immediately with an ironic joke.  I don’t know if that is due to a reflexive distaste for taking things seriously, or a reflexive distaste for being labeled. It is likely both and it is likely neither.

  7. If I were to try and make an overarching statement on what a millennial movement could stand for, I would first state that I don’t want to make an overarching statement on what a millennial movement could stand for. With that being said, I hope that our generation can push for radical freedom, for radical compassion.                                                                But that’s sort of a tricky thing, right? To create a unifying movement in the name of complete individual rights and freedoms? How can we fight in the name of not naming? How do we gather under a blank banner? How do we form a radically inclusive community?                                                                                                                           This, of course, could also be another way of discussing the American experiment. The USA, as most of us millennials have been told, is the land of the free, a melting pot where everyone is welcome and everyone can succeed. That definition dissolves pretty quickly when you grow up and realize “everyone” doesn’t mean “everyone.” But I’m a millennial who believes in success without work, because I got participation trophies as a kid.

  8. If there’s a positive side to the unequivocal disaster that is the Trump presidency, it is that we have a clear figure against which we can resist. Donald Trump is a wrinkled orange avatar, an amalgam of the worst in politics and privilege that have long existed in America. His toupee is woven with the strands of power and hatred as intrinsic to our country as freedom and diversity and being good at sports.
  9. This is all to say that there is an opportunity here. Fighting for radical freedom and compassion is something worth fighting for all the time, but can become easier when done in resistance to such an obvious enemy.

  10. It is also extremely important to recognize the privilege in discussing the Trump presidency as an opportunity. For many people targeted by Trump’s policies and rhetoric (Muslims, Jews, black people, the LGBTQ community, Mexicans, etc.) this is less an opportunity than a direct threat on their safety and humanity. I hope that any sort of “Millennial movement” will be less about seizing the opportunity afforded to each generation, and more about protecting and empowering oppressed people, not that those two ideas are necessarily separate.

  11. In every country and city I’ve visited, people have asked me about Donald Trump. Donald Trump is not only about our generation, nor is it only about our country. The world is affected, the world is watching.

  12. I traveled through Indonesia, and got to interact with hundreds of teachers and students. Literally everyone I met was Muslim. I’ve never been met with so much generosity and kindness. That seems relevant to this discussion.

  13. I never thought I would grow up to be politically active. I’ve never been very confrontational or radical in any respect, mostly because I’ve had the luxury of most institutions working in my favor. I’m a financially secure half-white man. I can get away with a lot of stuff. Lucky me.

  14. I remember my sister voted for Obama his first time around. My mom, who never really discusses politics, said to me that people generally are Democrats when they’re young and become Republicans when they’re old.

  15. I wonder if liberalism and/or political activism are cyclical things? That you age in and out? And if so, I wonder why older generations are not more sympathetic to the political efforts of the younger generation, if they themselves once held similar beliefs and motivations?

  16. Regardless of how successful millennials may be in enacting meaningful change in the coming years, I hope we’ll be supportive when the next generation attempts to do the same.

  17. I also hope the next generation doesn’t inherit a half-molten, hate-filled hellscape as a planet. But it’s sort of a toss-up at this juncture.

  18. I remember my dad getting mad at the minimum wage in Washington state being raised. He was irritated because this proved people could just “vote things for themselves.” I didn’t really know what to say at the time because what he just described sounded like a pretty good thing.

  19. Another time he sadly noted that this is “the era of outrage.” And as much as I felt that this was a very wrong way to read this era’s protests from Occupy Wall Street to Black Lives Matter to the Women’s March, I confess that I often feel uncomfortable watching protests, even when I agree with its aims. Perhaps I’m too passive, perhaps I was told too often that change can come without conflict, perhaps I get scared and ashamed that I don’t really know the amount of pain and anger some people feel in this country. It’s probably a combination of those things, but mostly the third.

  20. Millennials sure do like to talk about themselves, huh.

  21. I live in China right now, near Hong Kong, where I teach English. One of the reasons I took this job was to be near the Philippines. My mom’s family moved to the US from the Philippines when she was 9, and while my grandma goes back regularly, my mom has never gone back. I was hoping that my being so close would give her and my family the chance to visit.

  22. That was before Duterte’s drug campaign blossomed fully into a reign of terror. I asked my mom a couple weeks ago if it was safe enough for me to go, and she said no. “It’s just not safe. I know how quickly things can get out of hand there.”

  23. I don’t know exactly why my mom’s family immigrated. Something to do with an uncle, who was a judge, being assassinated.

  24. Things can get out of hand quickly in a country led by a dictator. Take it from an immigrant.

  25. “But it makes an immigrant laugh to hear the fears of the nationalist, scared of infection, of penetration, of miscegenation, when this is small fry to what the immigrant fears—dissolution, disappearance.” –Zadie Smith, White Teeth

  26. “I used to rebel by destroying myself,but realized that’s awfully convenient to the world.for some of us our best revolt is self-preservation. –Mistki, @mistkileaks

  27. “We are in this together, this accumulation of scars, this world of objects, this physical and temporary heaven that so often takes on the countenance of hell. What matters is kindness; what matters is solidarity. What matters is staying alert, staying open because if we know anything from what has gone before us, it is that the time for feeling will not last.” –Olivia Laing, The Lonely City

  28.  
  29. The revolution will not be televised, but, Lord willing, it will be on Vine.

 -Q. Scott


 

Letter From R. Freeman

Here is a beautifully phrased call to action from R. Freeman. Have you ever watched Mister Rogers' Neighborhood?

 

Message to Millennials, “Won’t you be my Neighbor?”

 

For many us, childhood in the 1990’s was resplendent with faded jeans and scrunchies, box office hits of Disney animation, and the swift current of technology shifting from boxy desktops to swiping phones with fingertips. But perhaps the most endearing treasure of development came ripe from the decade just before with the v-necked, be-sneakered neighbor who brought us to the land of make-believe, but also helped us to confront the realities of how we as children experienced the ups and downs of our world.  Most of all, Fred Rogers taught community values through simplicity and authentic hospitality. While challenging issues were discussed, the neighborhood in which Mr. Rogers conversed with us, was a place of safety, peace, and sanctuary, not with artificiality and neon fantasy, but a street that could resemble our own.  

In 2017, we have come of age. We are confronted with a multitude of challenges and deep issues that shake the very core of not only our identity as Americans but as our very humanity. We are facing the epoch of an era that has the potential to bring about the greatest hopes and developments of the modern age but also teeters on the brink of destruction and disillusionment.  As we advance, and build, and boom into the century with high-speed, high-tech are we truly connected to the high-stakes at hand?  And can authentic connection bridge that deeper fusion of solidarity and empathy?  As we confront the brink of change, of despair, and perhaps even shock in the events and traumas faced on the headlines...how does this generation cope and comfort, build and create, mourn and heal?  How do we move within a decisive partisanship and an administration built on distrust, bullying, and further polarization from each other? What do we do now?

Though it might be difficult to fathom in the last few months, there is still time to do good and ultimately, to serve...And it starts at home.  As with so many great movements, the grassroots get to the deep spiritual marrow of social ills and violent plagues that grip us---the community is weathered and strengthened when all lend a hand and overcome together. So here and now, in 2017, are the top 5 ways we can be a neighbor...

  1. Be Aware-- issues go beyond pulpits and platforms into our own streets. We have an inordinate amount of human trafficking seeping through shadows where media and public eye don’t always view.  Being mindful of the environments and people around you is beyond a courtesy, and could actually be life-altering.  Trusting intuition and speaking up is critical to engaging in our world rather than a virtual reality.  Dignity begins with acknowledgment. 
  2. Be Attentive-- What do ballot measures actually mean?  How does your vote and your phone call or letter make an impact?  Far too many cities neglect to go beyond basic recycling services and continue to use plastic bags and packaging. While there are certainly global and national issues of the AZ pipeline and fracking that threaten our common home, it is worth being attentive to your own use of resources from water to gasoline. Start recognizing the interconnectedness of global and statewide issues in your community.
  3. Be Ambitious-- not for yourself, but for others.  In a society which values getting ahead, who gets left behind?  The Dream Act has allowed countless young people to attend college, regardless of their immigration status.  When we strive to better ourselves, do we protect the opportunities for others to do the same? What is our purpose for achievement and fulfillment?  Continuing in advancement of your education can be the biggest catalyst for change---learn a language, acquire a skill, pioneer a new idea and challenge an old one---all for the sake of compassionate progress.
  4. Be Active-- Civic engagement is a keystone to our national makeup, but it doesn’t end with voting.  Volunteerism and activism are the forces which drive change to happen...they are powerful tools that have shattered the silence from the hallowed halls of Montgomery, Alabama to the candle-lit streets of Chicago so that all lives, especially those of people of color, might matter and be cherished by country which reflects this in laws and attitudes. Dialogue takes worth that is worthwhile.
  5. Be-- we are often pegged as not a particularly religious generation...perhaps there are real hurts and wounds from institutions which have made hypocrisy from truth.  But faith, if not in a traditional sense, can move mountains.  We have witnessed the human family bond together when holy texts were burnt in Florida and when we mourned those grace-filled souls on that less than ordinary Sunday in Charleston.  Divinely inspired innovation and the spiritually crafted image in which we are created speaks to the most basic, intrinsic gift of our humanity. Pausing with intention through prayer or meditation, can move us from a reactionary stance to one of rekindled hope.  In our own limitations, joys, hopes, and sorrows, perhaps we find peace at last with ourselves and our neighbor.

As Fred Rogers expressed, “If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never dream of.  There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.” And so my fellow millennials, let us rise and rise again---to meet what lies ahead, to get to know our neighbor, and exist in that value of solidarity which radiates through the most imminent darkness----Love.

 

-R. Freeman, California

Letter From K. Frazier

Here is a letter that challenges you to write down your best ideas, and to adventure forth in pursuit of better tomorrows.

 

“Our answer is the world's hope; it is to rely on youth. The cruelties and obstacles of this swiftly changing planet will not yield to obsolete dogmas and outworn slogans. It cannot be moved by those who cling to a present which is already dying, who prefer the illusion of security to the excitement and danger which comes with even the most peaceful progress. This world demands the qualities of youth; not a time of life but a state of mind, a temper of the will, a quality of the imagination, a predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over the love of ease.” – Robert F. Kennedy, “Day of Affirmation” speech, University of Cape Town, 1966.

 

Dear Millennial,

 

Since Kennedy delivered this speech much has improved around the world. Experts from Stephen Pinker to Matt Ridley will tell you that poverty is declining, famine is subsiding, and those that were oppressed are finally thriving. They have stats and figures to back them up, too. Their books and speeches make it seem as though we’ve been too hard on ourselves, that we deserve a pat on the back. Too many people, they say, are pessimistic. They say things really are better.

I’m not so ready to adopt that view or pat any backs. I think we can do better. I think we have to do better. I think we still have a long way to go.

Has progress been made? Yes. Have we fully used the tools at our disposal? No.

Globally, Pinker and Ridley show we are more connected, wealthy, and educated than ever before. How, then, have we not made so many more improvements? Making today better than yesterday is a victory, yes. But, we ought to focus instead on how much better we are capable of improving today and tomorrow and whether or not we match that potential. Progress alone is not enough when we are capable of so much more.

I agree that we should be optimistic. Optimism is contagious and a can-do attitude is necessary to our ability to change the world. Our optimism, though, should not come from what we have done but, instead, from our potential to do so much more.

I’m asking us all to be insatiable optimists. I want us to challenge every gain and ask, “How could we have done more?” I want us to celebrate victories in one community but then quickly analyze why those gains haven’t been achieved elsewhere. I want us to refute any argument that we’ve done good enough and to always look for a way to raise more boats and train more sailors.

We must channel our imagination, demonstrate our courage, and possess an unquenchable appetite for adventure.

 

Pause here, reader, and imagine one thing that would make your community more vibrant, inclusive, cohesive, or collaborative.

 

Write this idea down.

 

Next, show us your courage, and start talking to others about this bright future. Gather supporters and embark on an adventure to make tomorrow a better place for more people. Never tire. Never be satisfied.

I imagined an Oregon where every kid could explore our state’s natural wonders. It’s a future in which access to the outdoors is regarded as a birthright. In this world, every kid is an adventurer that knows the diverse faces and places that make Oregon home to all.

I refused to be timid and launched a nonprofit. After conversations with community leaders across the state and having convinced my roommate and brother to help me out, Passport Oregon became an official 501c3 with a simple mission – make exploration of all a reality for all. Ever since, we have been taking young explorers on adventures around the state.  

But, we’re not done. And we won’t be until the Nature Gap doesn’t exist. Yes, we are glad that we’ve broadened horizons and reduced the number of hours kids spend in front of screens. Each trip is a win, but I know we can do better.


Our world needs your imagination, courage, and insatiable optimism. Think of a better future and make it happen. Let's change the world.

 

-K. Frazier