To Peak in From the Outside

Personal reflection from SEALnet’s Project Vietnam 2014

I have surely done a lot in term of self discovery from the project and my solo traveling experience afterward. I’m terrible with words. However, I do know that I have changed and learned tremendously from the project.

The most important lesson I learnt is that nothing is more valuable and powerful than human connection.

I learnt to finally come to understand my strengths and weaknesses. I do know how to work with someone who is the exact opposite of me. Like I told my dear co-leader, Tran, in the farewell letter I heartachingly wrote her, we complete each other perfectly well like missing puzzle pieces. We create the perfect yin and yang energy. When I’m strict, she is chilled. When she is stressed, I’m calm. When I’m down, she’s at her most cheerful self. When she’s tired, I’m filled with energy to pick up her roles. When I show no emotions, she shows her best empathetic self to the group. She is a type A person, while I’m such a type B person. She is an idealist when I’m a realist. She likes to plan and I like to go with the flow. She likes details, I like the overall view. We just happen to have this thing that always bring the balance to the group.

I learnt that sometimes even when I felt so left out and I would just go around the corner and hid myself with my own thoughts about the conflicts that arose during the days. Even though, I was perceived as mean, harsh, strict and self-isolated from the team, I learnt to take it all in and not express my frustration and disappoitment to the team.

I learnt at that time to keep doing what I was doing as I have a reason to be doing what I was doing. I kept telling myself that this project is not about ME, about how I need to prove to people that they are wrong about me. [It is] about fulfilling my role. And my role is to create a space for my members and everyone in the project to bond and learn as much as they could from one another, even if it means I have to step outside the circle hiding and observing behind the curtain so that I can leave just enough space for their fire of passion and network to breath and glow lighter and stronger. It is really frustrating when you can do nothing but to trust your team members to let the magic of their connection fly off. I’m fine being called detached considering my personality is introverism from nature. I would trade that for the team and allow them to have the experience of their life and the connections they could find nowhere outside SEALNet family.

I also learn that when you have a diverse, yet amazing and talented group of people that comes from different backgrounds bringing along different stories and expectations to the project,  you realize that anything can be made happen. You don’t even need to do much work to get the team together they would just come into places with one another and find each other. Although, I gotta say gather them up to go for meal might be the only one pain in the b*tt to do every day. You definitely gotta be loud and harsh sometimes just to get them to go to eat. 😀

I also remember what I have written in the project proposal from the start of the planning process that my ultimate goal is not too ambitious or tangible. It is something very abstract, and that it is to build the strongest human connection (among this very diverse group of approximately 40 people from more than 8 countries all over the world) in SEALNet’s history. And, PV14 succeeded just that.

My exact quote from the proposal is: “I want to SEALNet to become a platform for people who share the same passion and purpose of serving the people in need and to be the place to grow and spread inspiration to all the people around the globe to care and give back more to their community.”

I addressed my only and biggest concern regarding the project to one  of the leaders from a SEALNet’s project. My concern has nothing to do with the planning, the fund, the outcome of the project. My concern is my relationship with my dearest co-leader- if this project would break our friendship or strengthen it more. I was so scared that I would need to trade off my friendship with Tran just to make the project succeed, because if so, even the actual project succeeded, I would still fail as a SEALNet project leader. The true mission of SEALNet is bringing people together, not tearing them apart. I have never been too idealistic nor ambitious when it comes to my personal expectation of the project. I do value and treasure any relationship of mine with anybody that I have come in contact with. Friendship might be the only thing I’m scared of losing the most. I am not scared of sacrificing my time, effort and other responsibilities to make pv14 happened. But, it would kill me if I have to sacrifice some of the best friendships to make it work.

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