I could say that I am a teacher, a conflict worker, an and an activist. A partner, a friend, a son, and a brother. Above all, I am a student...
I am currently living in Albuquerque, NM with my partner, Wendy. Arriving here after four intense years of traveling, studying, and teaching principles and skills for nonviolence has offered me an opportunity to reflect on what is important to me in my life, how I've gotten to where I am today, and what drives me to continue doing this work in the world...
My relationships with my parents and my sister have always been important to me. I feel incredibly blessed to have been surrounded by this small group of people who are always ready to offer me care, love, and support when I need it most. These are the people that have always been there to laugh with me, or to hear my pain, always striving to convey a sense that I am cherished and that I matter. It is this fuel that drives me to bring that same sense to all others that I encounter in this life.
My family has grown to include an incredible community of friends over the years. These are my constant companions, even when we are far apart, and my tireless teachers, offering me reflections of myself in the moments of deepest celebration or mourning.
Seeing the World
Since I was very young, travel has been a part of my life. At the age of 12, my parents took my sister and me out of school for a year, we strapped backpacks on, and circumnavigated the globe in just over 10 months. We visited 15 countries, doing our best to submerge ourselves in the local cultures by living in apartments or hostels, eating local food, making friends, and learning as much as we could about local languages. Spending three months in Western Europe, three months in Southeast Asia, and 4 months in the South Pacific, my eyes were opened to the incredible diversity of human expression, and human suffering. The experiences I gained on this "trip" have been an invaluable contribution to my life and my worldview.
I arrived at Brown University in the summer of 2000 after thriving throughout my first years of school. I had developed deep friendships and a strong community, finding a lot of meaning in both my academic work and through athletics. And Brown certainly tested me, pulling me away from the family and community that had been so prevalent in everything I had done. While the first couple of years were difficult, and I considered leaving school, midway through my sophomore year I rediscovered the joy of learning, and engrossed myself in sociology and social theory. I had found a lens that not only inspired me to look more deeply at the world, but also to look for ways of acting to change it.
Writing my thesis on restorative justice, I found that much of what I was looking for in academia--namely, searching for positive projects aimed at transforming the situations I was reading about in my classes--was not as available as I would have liked. Luckily, just over a year after graduating, I received an email telling me about the European University Center for Peace Studies in Austria, which offers a Master's degree program in peace and conflict studies. Intrigued, I filled out the application, and waited for a response.
Just 6 months later, I arrived in Stadtschlaining, a small town south of Vienna on the Hungarian border. There, I shared living spaces and classes with people from over thirty countries. Combining all of those things that had driven me in my life down this path--family, community, diversity, and learning--EPU offered enormous opportunities for growth and learning in every moment. Whether sharing a conversation with a friend from half-way across the world, attending a class led by an experienced conflict worker, or diving into a book I found at the 25,000 volume peace library, I was constantly inspired and intrigued. Although I left Stadtschlaining in January of 2006, those connections that I made have continued to enrich my life, and the projects that I began there remain ongoing.
I'm hoping that it's clear from what I've written above that most of my heroes are people in my own life. My mother, my father, my sister, my partner. My friends around the world doing extraordinary things to build cultures of peace with every step that they take. These relationships have shaped my work more than any historical figure.
Still, I stand on the shoulders of others whose work has been of enormous influence to me. A few who have had the biggest impact on my life, and in whose footsteps I dream of walking are...
Paulo Freire, Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela, Jane Adams, bell hooks, Johan Galtung, Marshall Rosenberg, Joanna Macy, Ken Wilber, Erich Fromm, Martin Buber, John Paul Lederach, Anderson Sa, and countless others...