By Michelle Zube
Remember when you were in school and the teacher would say your name during roll call and
you would have to respond, “Present”? Well, was he just taking attendance or did he want to
know if you were actually “present”? As in here. In the now. Living in this very moment.
Joining SkillCorps was a conscious decision that involved thoughtful planning and execution.
Fundraising, trip preparation, working two jobs while conducting thesis coupled with daily life
and all of its nuances times applying for doctoral programs divided by the square root of a
nervous breakdown was my life leading up to SkillCorps Indonesia. I wasn’t living – Hell, I was
barely breathing. I felt like I was suffocating every day. My body was an empty shell on
autopilot. Something had to give. I was ready to change – change the world, myself, and my
current situation. Despite the logistics calls and detailed emails, I had no idea what I was about to
I arrived at orientation looking for answers that I didn’t even have the questions for. This was
supposed to be the experience of a lifetime and I am perseverating on packing two suitcases
when everyone else has backpacks, who will I room with and what we were going to order for
lunch. Stop. Breathe.
Once I was able to take a step back and let go, I found myself surrounded by people who
shockingly enough were just like me. When I took the time to be mindful of where I was, who I
was with and why we had all come together, I transcended to a place of inner peace. Things felt
like they were starting to take shape. From that point forward I made a concerted effort not to
lose myself in worry or doubt and to capture each moment as it happened. I quickly began to
bond with my team mates over coffee, dinner and an early morning boot camp class. As
orientation came to a close, I felt confident and at ease despite my excitement and anticipation
for was still to come.
Our first day at Hi 5 was an amazing experience. Meeting the staff was inspiring. Realizing how
much of an impact our SkillCorps team was going to make on their center is beyond words.
While all of this is life changing in and of itself, I found the most interesting aspect of the day to
be about me. I was not distracted by the do this and data collection that’s and run to the store we
are out of whatevers…I was focused. I was available. I was present. For the first time in a long
time, I could breathe. It’s was feeling I never want to lose.
I realized in my mission to help others, I also need to be able to help myself – to listen to my
needs in order to be able to be present. If I am not present, I am not available to help others and
be the agent of change I have spent so many years studying and working to be.
That same night at dinner, Cassie’s (now infamous) “feelings talk” was about being present. We
discussed being aware of who we are and what we need for ourselves in order to make a
difference in the lives of others. It was so early in the trip to learn such a powerful lesson but it is
one that I will need for the remainder of SkillCorps and in my life after this two weeks.
“When you are motivated by the desire to transcend suffering, to get out of a difficult situation,
and to help others do the same, you get a powerful source of energy that helps you to do what
you want to do to transform yourself and to help other people.”
~ Thich Nhat Hanh