aaron gayah

just a personal photo blog and journal.

Filtering by Category: purpose

The Conference

He had arrived on time but it turned out that he was early. On-time is early in the Caribbean, but he was hoping that maybe the term would have meant something given the nature of the event. But it was already after 19:15 hours and the scene was, for the most part, void of people. He had to admit that the ambiance was classy - and was hopeful that maybe, just maybe, that would be a sign of things to come.

The elevated walkway was repurposed as a stage that stood three feet above the stretch of rough-textured sand, facing an absent audience flanked by the sea rendered invisible by the darkness of the moonless night. The area was illuminated by a series of elevated strobes on tripods indirectly focusing white lights upon the stage and seating for the expected crowd. The lighting to the left and right had cast alternating soft neon hues of blue, pink, white, and green along the seating perimeter which enclosed two sets of folding chairs arranged in ten rows of eight, each shrouded in a form-fitted white sleeve that added an element of sophistication. It looked like a bit too many, but then too, he was early, after all.

If asked one month ago about his plans for the upcoming weeks, he wouldn't have thought they would be anything impressive. But now, only a few days later, here he was, in Jamaica. A newspaper advertisement was brought to his attention two Sundays back, and he looked it over before promptly dismissing it. Too costly. No time. It was only after being pressed did he ask himself how badly he wanted to attend, if he needed to attend and he still wasn't sure. But when asked if he'd regret not attending, well, the answer was immediately apparent. He was able to shift some funds around and somehow the days opened up. He booked the flight.

People gradually started to arrive, and this allowed the kickoff to start only an hour later than advertised. After the typical boring slew of introductions and sappy words of thanks and appreciation, the main event finally got underway. The featured speaker that night was an open book, laying out his past struggles and present successes for all to see, using language at times that some would have scolded him for in private. But cuss words are sometimes the right words to describe the trials and frustrations of an ordeal. Doing something meaningful is usually as difficult as fuck, more so if few people get you, and downplaying that for the mere sake of being proper is to perform a disservice to oneself.

The schedule for the next day was full, and again he made the mistake of arriving early for the day's proceedings. And yet again, he was the first one there, although he wasn't sure that he was in the right place. There were neither signage nor directions, and the hotel staff seemed even more clueless than he when asked. The conference organizers arrived in their own time and fumbled with the keys to the auditorium - an ample, dark, musty, split-level arena with high ceilings and poor lighting outfitted with worn cushioned seats, cheap side tables, and a stage in dire need of overhauling. The setting was in stark contrast to the nature of what would be discussed over the next two days.

In all fairness, although initially chaotic, he found the agenda to be well-structured, and he was thankful for that. The sessions had been arranged as a series of fireside chats - groups of four or five discussing key topics. These, for the most part, were facilitated by moderators with the intellect, knowledge, and experience to manage the Q&A in a meaningful way. In essence, he had a second-row seat to the latest news and developments in the industry. But, sometimes, it was more than that. Several speakers shared personal stories - of doing brilliant work that no one would notice if done correctly; of using the tools at hand to create scalable solutions; of bringing people together; of pioneering new industries; of being scared and unsure of themselves; of changing direction and starting anew; of doing what was necessary; of patience and sacrifice; of failure, and ultimately, of success. And he appreciated that because these were the issues he had been struggling with as of late.

So he listened carefully. He took notes. And he studied the speakers and audience. The misgivings held and inconveniences endured till this point were momentarily put aside, for there was something to be gained in the here and now. Did he regret attending? At first, yes, but now, less so. The potential was there, he concluded, for this experience to constitute an important milestone in the times to come. And it was up to him to make the most of it.

Ten Weeks

She always found it curious how she could spend hours perfecting a document on screen only to find the printed version riddled with errors. In this instance, her agony was due to the carefully-chosen scarlet-colored theme being reproduced as an inelegant dull red on paper, rendering the embedded white modern Sans-Serif font illegible. She frowned. This could not pass. She began again.

At one point, the whole situation felt strange to her. Past aspirations had never amounted to anything because she was always too busy, preoccupied, or something else. So although she was fully captivated by those ideas once upon a time, they would inevitably fade into nothingness, victims of inaction. But this time was different - in fact, she had started off with a burst of energy and inspiration she hadn’t felt in years. However, only a few weeks later, her doubts had managed to catch up to her when her momentum stymied. But slowing down didn’t mean stopping altogether. She had already charted the workflows and derived the organizational structure necessary to manage it all, with everything thus far supported by the requisite analyses and stated assumptions. But there were new challenges now.

Financial strategizing would have to go beyond fundraising - it had to also navigate the obstacles identified from the onset and those that would crop up along the way. As naïve as she was, she was adamant that the figures and projections be realistic. There’s a world of difference between concept and reality, and her plans had to incorporate the essences of both for success. So she researched numerous online courses and decided to spend the bare minimum to gain the necessary insight. For eleven dollars she was able to register for a five-hour, four-star Udemy course on the ins and out of the subject which she completed in just over six days. The content wasn’t impressive by any measure, but it was succinctly packaged in a manner that helped her craft her way.

As the days passed by, the reality slowly sank in that she needed to take up iOS app development for herself. It wasn't only about cost management, no. Rather, it had become increasingly evident that she had to take ownership of her vision, and not relegate that responsibility to a dispassionate third party. She hadn’t actively coded in almost eighteen years, and the thought of learning something that technical from scratch was a bit daunting. But that wasn’t a valid excuse. She was smart, good with design, had experience with C++ and VBA, and was ever-so-structured in her approach to new undertakings. In this instance the Udemy course was 55 hours long. She sighed. And logged on.

Next, she leaned on her friends, now professionals in their respective fields, to form the team to help create and administer the solution. One of them didn’t seem particularly interested and though she was a bit soured by that, she realized it was because the idea wasn’t tangible as yet. But this was no time to be discouraged. Her target customers would have similar apprehensions and here was a chance to dissipate these in the early stages of development. If she could convince him, a frugal, methodological project manager that this made sense to pursue, then she was on the right track. Another friend was more supportive, offering guidance regarding the aesthetics and branding of the concept. There were less than five people she knew that were as asinine as she when it came to such matters, and she was thankful to have her on board. Then there was the engineer who relished the technical side of problem solving, a brilliant mind eager to start tinkering. She had known him to be like that since he was a teen - which was perhaps twenty years back. And finally, there was the believer who immediately saw the underlying purpose and the potential for scaling. He pledged to assist as and when needed, any which way he could.

She had been at it for about ten weeks in all, a short time in the grand scheme of things and there would be no escaping the long hours, frustrations, disappointments and doubts inherent in the undertaking. But now, at this point in her life, time and experience had already refined her thresholds of patience and tolerance. And while she would no longer tolerate shit, she would be gentle with herself and her failings because she understood that her life would unfold in the ways it was destined to. There was certain joy to be found in the mundane, fueled by this recently-acquired sense of purpose. And so she pressed on. Because it made sense on so many levels to do so.