Visioning Your Future: How I Turned My Failure into a Passion Project

Three and a half years ago I left a PhD program that wasn’t a good fit. It came as a shock and it took every bit of strength to believe I could find my next path. I took a job teaching at a middle school and was then assigned to build an education partnership program in Haiti. That work grew into contract gigs on the ground, learning, listening, and trying to navigate a complex and frustrating system of dependency and volontourism.

I fell in love with my Haitian partner and interpreter, Fritz, and together we talked about our dreams for a better system and a better approach to building social enterprise and development programs in Haiti. I applied for jobs to live abroad and teach, and every time, that feeling crept up my spine-another white girl saving the world. It wasn’t right. Wasn’t what I wanted. Wasn’t what I wanted to be about. And yet there I was, I couldn’t escape it, had no path other than colonialist and imperialist models that made me—and my partner—angry.

When it was time to leave my teaching gig—it had run its course and I was restless for deeper, broader, more creative opportunities—so much of what I had been searching for came into focus. I wanted to continue to teach, but freely and outside the bounds of age and classroom size. I wanted to build and work with communities who were seeking the same alternative path to transnational partnership that I had sought and could never quite get right. I wanted to be able to be part of something I wasn’t ashamed of or would later regret.

So I started Zanmitay Collective. It’s not just a place where I see myself teaching and coaching and programming—it’s place where I can share my path to understanding my role in changemaking as a white, U.S. American woman. It’s a place where my husband and partner can share what we’re learning as we live a merged life from two very different experiences, and how we’re stripping away our learned behaviors day by day, and finding grace in our vulnerability.

And we think we have something to teach. Because, as Fritz says, this is life work—the stuff of daily struggles and debates and messy moments and dreaming and visioning. We want to be the bridge to social change that so many programs couldn’t be for us, because they weren’t willing to do the heart work that social impact requires if it’s going to be sustainable.

Because if you want to change the world you have to be willing to change your perspective. It starts with us. Come and listen with us.