Been feeing a little inadequate. The culprit? The Pullitzer Prize winning “Mountains beyond Mountains” – which recounts the tale of Paul Farmer, a somewhat superhuman physician to the poor in Haiti and beyond. (He now has a job with Clinton here.) If you want to feel good about yourself, don’t read it.
Within one week of his arrival in Haiti, the 22-year-old Paul Farmer was already well on track to finding his life’s selfless calling, and had all but mastered Creole. I have a gnawing sensation that any journalist worth his salt would already be au fait with half the country’s political, intellectual and activist establishment, have unearthed three earth-shaking scoops, and redefined the way first worlders view third world deprivation for a decade.
Hmm. I have a blog, and have only just managed to organize travel outside my house. My Creole consists of decoding the eponymous banner ads slung across Petionville’s streets. (It’s actually quite a fun game. Speak the clipped words phonetically, and meaning emerges in quasi-French).
Adding to my disillusionment, our first serious excursion – beyond house-hunting – is to the seaside. And I am currently at the rather charming Petionville Club. So much for dedicating my life to telling the stories of the disenfranchised.
Still, all comes with time, and let’s face it, as Anna reminds me, Paul Farmer didn’t have kids with him – those delightful, life-affirming, energy-sapping, career-destroying, paralysis-inducing exhaustatrons. Scant comfort, but it helps a little.
This leads me to contemplate a little how I shall measure myself here. I have a sense of wanting to make a difference – although I have grown more realistic (less ambitious?) about how much difference one person can make. Little things.
A history of journalism for the FT has spoiled me. Almost daily reports garner almost daily reaction – of one form or another. One’s life is constantly validated in a public sphere. It is hard to wean oneself off that drip of quasi-relevance.
I am also taunted by the increasing success of past acquaintances. A couple of bestselling authors. Friends emerging as ‘thought leaders’. Entrepreneurs who have made a fortune by spotting an amazing opportunity. Documentarists. Scientists. Doctors. etc etc.
I wonder whether I should instead seek my current validation through the happiness of my children. Hmm. I mean, I love them to bits and all, but it doesn’t quite do the job.
From previous positions of employment I often advised others: just do one really cool thing every couple of months, and the rest doesn’t matter. That’s as good as it gets.
Perhaps I should take my own advice. One and a half months to go!