Advice from Paris on the last day of a quarter of a century

I could’ve never imagined the fullness of the beauty of Paris, the strength of the architecture & the unpredictability of its streets. The divine taste of the French overflows in the logic of the way of life: wine is cheaper than coke; “convenience” stores don’t exist; and being diverse is standard. 

Almost six months ago, a group of graduate students from University 8 of Paris contacted us with hopes of inventing a new way to interlace cultures by creating a dialogue between kids in Yaxhachen & kids from a suburb of Paris, called La Plaine. These students value art, language, and equal opportunity for all children like they value artisanal bread—there is no other way of eating. 

Allie, Oscar and I have spent the past week finally getting to know Imane, Clémence, & Nikita in person, and swimming through a whirlwind of new contacts. We are refining the details of our collaboration, as well as reflectively discussing the work of Ko’ox Boon on an analytical level. 

Their questions and interest in Ko’ox Boon has enlightened my own perspective of our work. They linger on the importance of the formation of Ko’ox Boon: that we knew the community before we developed our first projects. They emphasize that this is why they think that our model is more effective than traditional NGOs. They ask their questions and make comments with wide-eyes, cold beers in hand, clothed in impeccable style. 

In Paris, We move from academic contexts to making dream catchers with kids to hip-hop dancing, soaking in every moment like a new opportunity to plant seeds in French soil. At the end of the day, Clémence & Imane compliment us on our adaptability. This is the element which is most impressive to them, and which, to me, is a characteristic closely associated with emotional intelligence and mined through my favorite life experiences: travel, language-learning & listening. 

Many folks in our generation are interested in being change makers and working in arts and culture, but little opportunity for this type of work exists. The post-grad jolt is brutal. We finish masters programs where we are encouraged to be creative & invent ambitious projects, but when we graduate there are no jobs. The competition prevents us from being collaborative, so we work against one another, unraveling the complex net of open-minded ideas, which we so tenderly built during our University years. We are forced into restaurant jobs or nine-to-fives with little vacation time and no creative freedom. We are normalized, & this is our greatest nightmare, which we slowly learn to justify until we are completely reintegrated into the old system. 

Clémence tells me very seriously that Ko’ox Boon gives her hope in the face of this crisis. I’m turning 26 tomorrow, and, to her, the three years that separate us are the most difficult that she’s ever had to imagine. She feels like she’s walking through traffic blindfolded. I hardly feel sage, but realize the value of my own struggle through the past two years (the two most rewarding & difficult years of my life, the age of Ko’ox Boon & how long it's been since I finished my M.A.). So I thank her & think of something to tell her that doesn’t seem overwhelmingly cliché, and this is something that I want to tell all frightened Millennials fighting against normalization due to the pressure of the job market.  

The job that you want doesn’t exist yet. The career that perfectly harnesses your talents, forces you to grow intellectually & emotionally, and makes you so tired that you sleep soundly until the vibration of your alarm each morning isn’t out there. This job will be invented by you, and this job requires that you be brave; take risks; & consume the generous support of your friends & family like a melting ice-cream cone. Accept that failure will be annotated in your agenda on a daily basis, & you should recognize it, but don’t dwell, because that’s where fear comes from. Fear is your biggest enemy—not the person next to you who is trying out for the same job as you. And finally, you must live by one rule only: never give up. This is how you become the change you want to see in the world. 

Also, you can listen to the album Evil Friends by my favorite band Portugal. The Man any time you like for inspiration. It has always worked for me. Start with this one