I have always been inclined towards reading, discovering deepest secrets of human behavior and how we construct a world with in world. I remember the day when I started application for Atlas Corps. I was unhappy; strange it may sound for people who know me. But I clearly and distinctly remember being unhappy that day. I picked up my copy of The Alchemist from side table and read words vibrating under eye-pop yellow highlight “When someone sees the same people every day, as had happened with him at the seminary, they wind up becoming a part of that person’s life. And then they want the person to change. If someone isn’t what others want them to be, the others become angry. Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about his or her own.” Admiring Coelho, in a way, as if he wrote it after consulting with me and my opinion of some BRILLIANT people around me, I started filing online application. Four hours later I clicked on “submit” tab and instantly felt like a buyer of Power Ball Lottery ticket—What happens will happen! If it’s a win cooool, magnifique! otherwise DO NOT expect anything and DO NOT go all obsessed checking mail crazy!!! and stuff.
Months later, on a weekend when I was one happy person full of loon-like poise, humming over plan to host lunch at new office, I see an email from Atlas Corps, “Congratulations we are pleased to inform you that Concern Worldwide has short listed you……” Wow! I remember reading it couple of times, enjoying short episode of personal dyslexia. What reaction could be expected of me with something started in state of dismay and popping back up when life seemed just fine? It was like having a perfect Santa moment, and finding a wonderful gift wrapped in golden and silver paper under a tree….. but only trouble is, it’s not a Christmas day!! I scratched my head even on day of flight to US. I gotta tell you, our little cheerful Julie Sherbill and executive toned Kelly Reid are some serious fast committed people from Atlas Corps Team. Thanks God they have some Visa People to deal with which helps slowing them down. But once you have a call letter by host, they will make sure to get you on the flight asap, whether you match up pace or not.
It was a tough choice to make between two equally good and promising scenarios. On one hand there was a well-spelled life in Pakistan, a mid-level professional career, well placed in financial eco-system, a bit rustic in creativity but well! Ok. On other hand Atlas Corps, a sea of opportunity, opportunity to develop as leader, opportunity to pause and re-think philosophy of non-profit, opportunity to work in one of leading philanthropist society, opportunity to be at fundraising work place but this opportunity-combo-deal came with cautionary disclaimer of MAY BE!
I remember surge of anxiety when I gave resignation notice, since my position could not
wait for me to come back followed by 45 minute prep-talk by my organization’s deputy country head to make me feel JUST little better about decision to join fellowship. Later on, 19 hours long flight like an endless tragic love song of Italian Opera, landing in US to be greeted by most cheerful person that Atlas Corps got hold of in whole DC, having jet-lagged sleepless night in a bunk bed and finally next day crashing at first Global Leadership Lab after 15 minutes Google-guided-walk amidst 31 anonymous faces from 17 countries around the world, all overwhelming to be least.
During this period, I felt very quiet, observant and like some one who stands in lane of recreational ride for very first time and couldn’t decide if s/he is ready for this emotional experience or not… till finally steps in the ride and puts safety belt on. Now, four months in to it and I got to say that this ride is not only ALL safe but is worth of every minute. After GLL I like many other fellows headed to my host organization among wonderful concerned people that I will talk about later.
In last four months I have met four inspiring women capturing my imagination; Kiristie Kenny, Judith Heumann, Aine Fay and Muniba Mazari, and have set goals to improve four professional skills with help of my incredible host organization Concern Worldwide US; networking, fundraising, social enterprise and writing. Thanks to December, I experienced New Year in one of most happening city of the world, New York and penned down four new year resolutions; learning, exploring, reading and taking-it-easy.
“Was it easy to come here?” “Is it easy to be here?” “Will it get easy?” Definitely NOT!! This fellowship is a challenge at every stage in every way. It is leadership development training program so What do you expect? and who said being a leader is an easy thing to do! It is tough.
Living in very modest stipend (my least favorite part) will squeeze some serious budget and wish-list managing frenzy comic character out of you. Memories of mom’s snuggle or dad’s silent pat on shoulder or warmth of your bed back home and even an urge to speak in your native language will, at times, get you so bad that you would see acting in Turkish soaps as your next and rightful employment opportunity. We are no Supergirl or Superman, even though I won’t mind flying without wings but key is to manage your expectation, focus on projection of yourself 5 years down the road and play on strengths which every one of us in Atlas Corps surely has.
Atlas Corps team is made of great people, who will always help and will always understand. Fellow community of future leaders is an incredible constellation which has power to make you brightest of star. US as country is pretty cool in providing unique personal experience. This training program is, let;s say, like Build-A-Bear Workshop (my personal favorite!!), where you enter with imagination of building a fluffy buddy for yourself.. to have joy. This workshop, however, gives you an awesome setting to play around with your imagination, pick n choose, decorate and come up with a fluffy friend which is personal, unique and is an experience. Atlas Corps fellowship program is such fun workshop (kill me for saying that), from where you can walk out of door even empty handed if you chose to do so, or you can shape up your imagination in unique fashion to walk out with life-long, personalized and leader like experience that can and will. to your joy, transform your life for rest of your life.