Ups and downs of starting up

I haven’t been doing much traveling recently. I’m pretty much staying still in my modest, rented apartment in Paramaribo, Suriname.  Having placed myself on a tight weekly budget, and with lots of work to do, I figure as little movement as possible is my best option.  Now you’re probably picturing me locked in a room, trying to turn straw into gold.  If so, you’re not far off. It’s just…where’s Rumpelstiltskin when you need him?

So I’m here working on the nonprofit startup, Ancestors unKnown.  Maybe you’ve heard about it?  Introducing young people to family history research and the commonly overlooked history of the African Diaspora.  That’s the vision.  And it’s definitely becoming a reality, beginning here in Suriname and Charleston, S.C.

comic reflections

(from facebook)

It’s undeniably exciting.  But in the interest of being honest, the situation that’s full of highs  is not without some lows.  Then, just when I’m feeling way down low, a positive turn of events picks me way up.  Have you heard the roller coaster analogy?  It’s a good one.

Maybe I can give you a sense:

Obvious Up: Fulfilling a life’s purpose. I believe everyone has a too-short lifetime to pursue one or several key missions.  And some of us are lucky enough not only to figure out life’s purpose(s), but we also get to turn it into a career.

Up: Referring to myself in the first person plural. I’m not saying I have multiple personalities (but, c’mon, don’t we all, kind of?). But I enjoy giving credit to the multiple hats I wear while I spreading whatever messages. “We think you’ll enjoy this article…”; “Let us know what you think…” Maybe I had you fooled on facebook.  But it’s just me…getting a kick out of it.

Down: My purpose is not everyone else’s purpose. Funny how I can be so passionate about something that others could not care any less about.  That is, if they even know what I’m talking about at all.  “Genealogy, what?  Diaspora, who?  Do you want fries with that, or not?”  How am I supposed to inspire rainbows under these circumstances?

Up: Connecting with the like-minded.  Maybe lots of people don’t care about what I’m doing.  But plenty of people do.  And now that I’m introducing myself as a professional in the field, I get to share, network, and learn from those who have similar commitments and goals. It’s like meeting a new family.  I’m just hoping for an invite to the next reunion.

Down: Uncertainty can be terrifying. Working for an established organization comes with some guarantees that it will exist 6 months from now. Here, not so much. I mean, I think so. But I really can’t say for sure.

Down: Social media intimidation, consumption, and distraction. Why are there so many?!

Up & Down: Creating my own schedule.  I’ve always been a night person.  I can easily stay up until 4 or 5  in the morning, then sleep till a grumpy afternoon. It would be good if other humans existed on this schedule. But let’s face it, they don’t.  So left to my own authority, while I enjoy working on my own time, it’s difficult to function among the living.

Up: Asking for help. I’m pretending that this is an up. But really, it’s a downer for me.  I’m not a fan of asking for help.  I don’t like asking for directions. I don’t like asking someone to fix something for me (unless it’s out of reach and I’m really tired). And I don’t like giving the impression that I can’t turn straw into gold on my own.  So this is a major growth area.  But it’s such a good one. Because when I do work up the courage to let people know I can’t do this on my own, my fictional “we” becomes a reality.  Ancestors unKnown isn’t about me.  So when I ask for help, more and more the work lives on it’s own.  And that’s a remarkable feeling – challenging as it may be.

Speaking of which, WE could use your HELP.  Ancestors unKnown is establishing its foundation.  And we (I) can’t do it alone.  So once you’ve taken a look at our website (and reached out to me with any questions), I hope you’ll contribute to our fundraising campaign


Every bit helps to make the organization’s impact a reality.  We’ve already accomplished so much with no budget.  Imagine what we can do with your support.

So there it is.  Up and down.  Down and up. Best ride I’ve ever been on.

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