Finding My Ikigai While In Santa Monica.

There’s a Japanese concept that I love called ikigai that means “a reason for being” or “a reason to get up in the morning.” According to Japanese culture, everyone has an ikigai. Finding it often requires a deep and lengthy search of self, but it’s usually a sweet spot made from a combination of four things: what you love, what you’re good at, what you can be paid for, and what the world needs.

After 20+ long years of studying and searching (…and then more searching), I feel like I’ve finally landed in a dream job that could make me cry everyday with gratitude. I also recently became the Research Project Director for a project in El Salvador focused on improving caregiving environments for orphaned children by effecting changes within child care centers and group homes.

Sound familiar? That’s because that pesky, little dissertation I worked on for years was about this very same topic of improving the quality of care for orphaned children: “Factors Affecting the Psychosocial Well-Being of Orphan and Separated Children in Five Low- and Middle-Income Countries: Which is More Important, Quality or Form of Care?” (I know. What an ultimate synchronicity.)

Which brings me to this current work trip to Santa Monica, CA. I’m out here on my first work trip to attend a black-tie charity gala for the organization I work with in El Salvador. And to my surprise, within the first five minutes of the Founder’s speech at the gala, I was introduced to a crowd of some of the most influential people in the world: “We partner with some of the brightest scientists and researchers in the world, and this work couldn’t be done without them. Tonight, we’re joined by Dr. Huynh from the Duke Global Health Institute…”

I don’t often seek public praise or care about upgrades or need to feel overly-validated– that’s not what this is about. But at that very moment of being introduced that way, I realized that I was really proud of that introduction. I realized I was really in love with my current way of being in the world. And after all these years of searching, I think I’ve maybe (just maybe) found my ikigai.

[Travel Diaries from Santa Monica, CA | October, 2017]

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