Having my Cake, and Eating it Too…

For those of you who know me well, you will not find it particularly surprising that I cried today as I was walking to the grocery store, nor that I cried on December 10th when we reached the amount to support 60 girls, or when we raised enough to help my original goal of 30 girls in November, or on various other days when the response to this project was just overwhelming and warm and inspiring and so much more than I ever imagined.

Whenever I think of how many people have shown interest and support, how many girls we have enabled to follow their dreams, and how a small idea transformed into a community in action, I am brought to tears of awe. I feel more surrounded by love this birthday than on any of the 29 preceding ones, despite being oceans away from friends and family in the US, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, China, Korea, Brazil, and Vietnam. Thank you for spreading love, not just to me, but to over 63 girls in the Mekong Delta. We have equipped them with the power and tools to keep this reaction going, to keep spreading goodness.

When I first framed this project, part of the inspiration came from the fact that I already have so much goodness in my life that I should share it rather than ask for more. Still, this project brought even more goodness into my life – connections, reconnections, tech skills, laughter and dancing, collaboration and confidence, and renewed purpose.


In my daily life, I often get caught up chatting with the same people because it’s comfortable, but this project broadened my comfort zone and opened new relationships. It opened conversations with new people from around the world – old, young, colleagues, friends, students, family. It then opened up connections with those connections, the circle expanding to others’ friends and families. I learned more about these people, they learned a bit more about me and girls’ education, and they reminded me that the world is not content to be oblivious or bench warmers. These new relationships have inspired me, opened my mind, and reminded me that people are essentially good at heart. One colleague this project has brought me closer too even sent me a dance video birthday card!

Some of my most cherished relationships that have come from this are those with students. Most people associate adolescents with terror and rebellion, but what I love about adolescents, and why I choose to be around them on a daily basis, is that wonder and curiosity and optimism and desire to make a difference that all of them have – some at the surface and others packed a few layers below the fear of rejection. Several students who I did not know well as they are not enrolled in my classes got involved. Every time a student group was involved – organizing the showing of Girl Rising, organizing the flash mob, guest dancing in dance thank yous, even donating, I was humbled by them in so many ways. By their interest and concern, their initiative and sense of responsibility, and yes, even their efficiency and competence.

One day, a particularly hard to read student turned to me to say something, changed her mind and turned to leave, then about faced again, marched over to my desk, handed me a donation, turned on her heels, and marched out without a word. I, of course, cried, and then later found her to thank her.


With this project, checking my email became exciting again. Would there be an email from Room to Read or Pay Pal telling me of another donor? It was always exciting to find “Congratulations! You’ve Received a Donation” email, but it was especially exciting when the donor was “unexpected,” not just someone who had not talked to me about it beforehand, but some people who had not talked to me about anything in years.

One of the most amazing parts of this projects has been that it reconnected me to people I maybe used to see on the Facebook news feed. Catching up with these lovely people was phenomenal, and seeing them volunteer their support when they could have easily slinked away or virtually clicked away was inspiring and reaffirmed my faith in the goodness of people.

Tech Skills:

In September, when I first got my blog off the ground, I actually thought to myself, “even if I don’t raise the money, I’ve at least created a snazzy webpage, and that’s been on my to-do list. The entries at the top even flash!” Creating a logo was also a first, using a video editor (which didn’t happen until around video six, the Bike for Bikes video, as I’m sure you can tell) and all the micro-skills of video editing, plus making business cards and flyers and pamphlets and posters and donation buckets and you-name-it.

P.S. While I’m proud and grateful for these skills, this also might be why I’m heading to the mountains to a Wi-Fi and tech free zone for a few days to “celebrate” having these skills. Signing off until 2014.

Laughter and Dancing:

Do I even need to elaborate? Kid President and Ellen have it right. Not to mention the science of endorphins or music’s effect on mood.

Collaboration and Confidence:

Just as growing me to 30 was not a solo effort, neither was this project. So many businesses and colleagues and friends volunteered their services, many unsolicited, and some solicited. The Bike for Bikes wouldn’t have been possible without our guides, Dave and Elaine; Gratitude Yoga wouldn’t have been possible without Daphne; the flash mob wouldn’t have been possible without Linus and the Zumba club, and Girl Rising wouldn’t have been possible without Andrew Gilford and Lisa Featherstone, and I am still impressed that Michael at Deutsches Eck and I got the benefit happy hour off without injury, because it was a first for both of us. Thank you all for your help, confidence in 30 by 30, and teachings about both logistics and working with people.

Though I’ve done it before, I’ve never enjoyed promoting myself or my causes to get others to give me materials or services or money or trust or responsibility – even when I believe strongly in the cause and somewhat in my capability, I can never shake the worry that after a bit of time the other people or business is going to turn around and change their mind or feel duped or misled or unsatisfied or like I’m clueless and inept or…well, just about any other negative feeling. Those worries did not disappear during this project, nor do I think they will in the next few weeks as I wrap up all the loose ends. However, I have allowed myself to accept that 30 by 30 ended up being a pretty massive undertaking, larger than what I thought I was signing up for, and so far no one has asked for a refund. Not too shabby.

Renewed Purpose:

I don’t quite have it figured out yet, but 30 by 30 will continue in some form. Considering the fact that just 4 months ago 30 by 30 didn’t have a form, I’m not too stressed about the details yet. I do know that advocacy, dancing, and writing will continue to play large roles in my life.

Dancing will continue because I’ve only made video dance thank yous for people who donated before mid-December. Sorry, only donors who get their donations in before December 30 get VDTYs. Guest dancers and filmers in HCMC will breathe a sigh of relief at this news, as soon they can go out in public with me again without fear of being asked to film or dance, or go out to coffee with me and actually see my face, not the back of my laptop screen.

Writing will definitely still play a role, largely, but not entirely, because I fell hopelessly short on my Reflecting Back goal of thanking 30 people (Considering that I more than doubled my Pay-it-Forward goal, I have agreed to be lenient on myself and extend the deadline).

Still, once these stories are written and the dances are danced, this project has ignited a spark, and I’m excited to see where it grows.

I will not be blowing out candles or eating cake this birthday, nor opening presents, but I won’t be missing a thing. I am already filled with goodness. Thank you for being a part of it.

In this corner of the world, there are only 3 hours left until the big 3-0.

Bring it on.


2 thoughts on “Having my Cake, and Eating it Too…

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