WHEREVER YOU ARE, BE THERE WITH ALL YOUR HEART

chicago flag.olenka
chicago flag.olenka

Twenty days later and they’re family. Twenty days later and I’ve found another city to call home. Twenty days later and we’re still in takeoff mode. I don’t think we’re going to reach cruising altitude this year. Being a student at Ei is living life at the edge.

I knew going into this program that I would be pushed past my boundaries. That was part of the thrill of starting an unconventional journey, but also part of the terror not really knowing what I would make of this new path.

My past decisions to start again in Dublin, and then back again in Austin, didn’t turn out as expected. A growing mistrust in myself lingered whenever I thought of next steps. In order to start again, I knew I would need guts and grit. If I still wanted to believe in anything good, true, and beautiful in this world, then I knew I'd have to get my hands dirty deep down in it.

Discovering Ei was providential. It said ‘Yes’ to me and I said ‘Yes’ right back. Ei has given me a framework to explore and cultivate my strengths alongside masters of their craft and fellow warriors forging their place in this world. As we encounter obstacles intrinsic to pioneering new paths, we understand the value of our connection. From hostel room brainstorming and coworking space proposal writing to late night shout-outs of celebration and early morning coffees for encouragement, we are all in for one another. There may be solo journeys and individual pursuits, but our shared commitment has tied us together.

Meeting face-to-face for our preparatory meetup of intense training has been golden. Only by experiencing this leap together could disparate strangers sit around a table to banter and celebrate as comrades. We’re still learning about one another, but we’re committed to taking care of each other. (And committed to sharing the chocolate ganache—one bowl and 10 spoons. We made it work.)

This city has taken care of us, too: shared its love, carrying us affectionately into its neighborhoods and pot-holed streets. Chicago knows how to do community. We’ve been stealing away moments of refreshment in the parks and touring along the lake on bikes, the paths filled with people and dogs. A real ‘salt of the earth’ goodness gives a sense of grounding to the steel and glass and concrete. I knew I was home when a neighborhood restaurant put 10 of us up unplanned with such ease and energy—like we were their own hardworking crew coming in after a long day. They treated us to platters of handmade tacos (hibiscus tortillas, anyone?!) and never let the glasses run dry. Taken care of. Like family.

It’s not easy to tear myself away from this clan, forged in just 20 calendar days. It seems amazing that such a connection could be made in such an inconsequential time span. But it has. Each of us came here intent on participating. This community is a testament to what can be built by people both humble and audacious: humble enough to understand the power of uniting with their fellow man and audacious enough to own their place in this world and take a leap.

Student BlogsOlenka Hand