I recently had a birthday. 40. It was almost as awesome as my 38th birthday, with mostly the same people in between. My 39th birthday was probably the worst in my adult life as I had been unexpectedly served divorce papers 36 hours before.

A huge group of friends from my various incarnations in life (work, high school, grad school, non-profit land, expat-land) gathered at a really phenomenal restaurant and converged like the center of a Venn diagram. Many of them had never met before – or had only met briefly in the past. It was magical and extraordinary. Afterward, every one said about the other “your friends are absolutely amazing!!”

My sister (who flew in to surprise me) was even a little star-struck by one of my friends who runs one of her favorite podcasts. That never happens; she’s not the star-struck type.

I don’t know many of my gifts but I do know this one: I have amazing friends. They are extraordinary men and women who are brilliant, intense, complex, thoughtful, beautiful, funny, whole-hearted, rock stars. They are my heroes.

My new job is intense. It is complicated. It’s a juxtaposition of extreme poverty and international development with some measure of gentrification and capitalism. I’m struggling to overcome my doubts and concerns about the programmatic aspect of it and accept that it’s a thoughtful and well-designed intervention. It’s not in my nature to do either of those things …accept the status quo or overcome concerns.

I’ve been in the Dominican Republic for the last few days working with a group of people who are now my colleagues. We’re all wrapping our head around this role. It’s never been done before and it’s uncomfortable for many of them who like clear delineations and who’ve never been part of launching a start-up. And it is a start-up. Half this shit we are making up as we go along. Some roll with it better than others. Everyone questions something. It’s a group of critical thinkers who challenge assumptions and the rules.

We come from all over the world. We are all ages. We are all colors. We are all mostly former ex-pats or Peace Corps. We are all in this together. We are a tribe. They are my heroes.

We are also spending time with some really extraordinary people here in the Dominican. I’ve spent the last few days at local co-operatives and NGOs working alongside some of the most beautiful people in the world in ways that at minimum will have a ripple effect for change. The poverty is palpable, but dignified. Their pain and grief is the same as my pain and grief (loss, divorce, death, change) but amplified by lack of access to potable water and economic development. Or even a cement floor. My new friends here in the DR are my heroes.

One of my favorite Bowie songs is “Heroes” …and I love the line that “we can be heroes, just for one day”…this job has that element to it: heroes just for a day. I don’t mean that in a paternal way, but I do mean it in the sense that I get to live and work with my heroes every day. Which is really fucking amazing.

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