It is 7:45AM on a Monday morning, and I am on my own waiting to board a train from Dublin to Cork with  my computer, a list of the places I had arranged to visit but had never even heard of before, a smartphone for navigation purposes, and this crazy idea that I can help coalesce a new multi-cultural network asking young writers across the country to envision an intercultural Ireland.  The only thing that is going through my head are a string of questions: what I am doing here? Why did ever think I could do this on my own?

The answers to these questions have come only slowly.  After taking the time to reflect, I have come to realize that what I was doing on the platform on my own was learning a ton of life and professional skills, most of which are intangible and hard to describe.  Traveling alone has helped me learn how to be more adaptable in unfamiliar and open ended situations, where there was no map or check list. I realized I was writing the manual for building a national network as I was going along.  This adaptability has help me to grow and mature in ways I didn’t know where possible or necessary. Now I know I can I can be placed in almost any environment and given virtually any task, figure out how get something done.

What I was doing on the platform, and in all the days that followed, was learning how to pitch a product, really an idea, in a way that would compel people to act and create new connections throughout Ireland.  My job was to pitch a writing competition to young people by going to every region in Ireland and by visiting virtually every library, refugee accommodation center, youth center, art center and writing club in the Republic.   The main challenge I faced in pitching the competition was finding a way to persuade the person in front of me that they could sit down and write a great story or poem.

Now, with every group I speak to, with every person I convince to write, and with every draft I read, I am answering the questions that nearly paralyzed me earlier on the platform. As the days pass I I find myself slowly persuaded that this crazy idea is going to work, and that I can do this on my own in a foreign county with no map.  I can’t say what the ultimate ripple effect of the writing competition will be, but I do know the effect it has already had on the people I have met, the young people who are now writing stories and poems, their parents, friends, and teachers who have been encouraging them and, of course, on me.

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