A recent experience changed my life and I want to share that with you fine folks. Let me also state that being an Atlas Corps Fellow is challenging professionally, socially and (most importantly) financially! We (Fellows) join this program knowing full well that we have to live on a challenging stipend but do we really accept the challenge intrinsically? I know that I did not. Naturally, I would complain about always feeling like a sub-human when I couldn’t join friends or colleagues for lunch because my budget for this month wouldn’t accommodate that meal or always thinking twice before incurring a minor expense. I’ve felt like this throughout, till recently, something changed my perspective.
So what happened?
I got selected to attend the StartingBloc institute in Boston. To attend I had to pay a tuition of $1000, minus travel and other costs. I was in a fix about attending but then I was recommended to use a crowdfunding platform to raise the funds. I was skeptical about the whole thing for 3 reasons;
1) Uncertainty: Coming from a society where asking people (outside your family) for money normally is frowned upon, if you come from a certain background. My mother freaked out when she heard I was asking people for donations. She called me asking “Are you in trouble in some kind of trouble? What happened to you?” I’ve been on fellowships and attended conferences before but I have never had to raise funds for myself so I was skeptical.
2) Self-doubt: I doubted my own ability to do it subconsciously. It happens to the best of us.
3) Behind on time: Two other Atlas Corps Fellows also got selected for the same class of StartingBloc Institute. They launched their campaigns before mine so I was behind on time and outreach to our common networks. I felt like I had lost out already.
Rising to the challenge
I was unsure about going ahead with this till a colleague of mine asked me this very important question “Do you think this experience is worthwhile for you?” Then another colleague asked me, “What makes you stand out? Why should people fund you? I had never considered any of these things but I just took their advice and considered these questions. Once I had the answer, I got to work on my campaign.
I had received a scholarship of $500 already so I had to make up the difference. Still unsure, I launched my campaign and to my surprise, within the first 4 hours, I had raised more than half of my target and over the next few days, people approached me asking how they could help out.
It was the most humbling experience I have ever had. I received help from friends, Atlas Corps Fellows and Alumni, colleagues and people I had recently interacted with during my brief time in the U.S. Their donations allowed me to meet my goal and I will go to the Startingbloc institute.
What their generosity conveyed to me above all else was that these people gave me money because they believed in me. It restored my faith in myself. I have woken up every day with a feeling of self-confidence and determination. I hope to make these individuals proud of their investment in me.
What about the living on a budget?
Sure, its tough and I will continue to calculate and think every expense twice but I will no longer resent it. Why? Because it placed me in a position where I was hungry enough to reach for a goal that I really wanted, even though I didn’t have the resources to do it. I could have simply paid for my tuition through my stipend (if it were enough) but this challenging experience has taught me so much more that the convenience of having the funds would never had taught me. So now I embrace this challenging lifestyle with a smile!