In honor of The Her Initiative’s birthday, I asked Kayla Fruchtman to tell us a little bit about all the incredible things that have happened through The Her Initiative over the last year. Needless to say, her response was both unexpected and extremely insightful! I hope you enjoy it just as much as I did!
I’ll start here: I’m having a bit of a hard time wrapping my mind around all that has happened in the past year. When Libbie asked me to write this post, it felt overwhelming. How do I begin to tell you about the incredible things and people and events and conversations that have happened in the last year? How do I scratch the surface in telling you stories about the strong women and children we have the privilege of working with? How do I boil down in 1000 words or less how the community that The Her Initiative has been a part of has truly changed my life?
So I’ve decided to tell you just one story. The story of how I almost burnt out.
Last fall was a bit insane to say the least. I was hustling like crazy to build the community of The Her Initiative, was hiring a team (Yay Libbie and Brooke!) and was traveling all around the US and the world! The holidays started sneaking up and the week before Thanksgiving I wasn’t planning just one, but two trips in December. It was all really good but it was a lot. And then just add on that “year-end” is the craziest time ever for non-profits in general and you have a great recipe for major burn out.
So the weekend after Thanksgiving I hopped on a plane with our amazing friends at 1040 and photographer Taylor Simshauser to take them around the Dominican Republic seeing many of our holistic WASH solutions. It was such a fun and whirlwind trip. I could slowly feel the burn out creeping in so in order to not let my emotions get the best of me, I just turned off all my feelings and was operating like a robot.
I came back for five days on the ground and then left again for Guatemala with Libbie, Sarah, Jenna and Des. Again, amazing trip, but I could feel myself losing it. I was exhausted, running on fumes, missing my dog way too much (yes, that’s a real thing), and wondering how in the world everything was going to get done before Christmas. I was in “go-mode” because I knew if I stopped I would crash and burn. But then something really interesting happened.
We drove 5 hours to get to Jocotan, Guatemala, the incredibly poor community that houses the Gethsamane Children’s Feeding Center- where 30 of the most beautiful Guatemalan children get meals each day because their families can’t provide for them. We showed up and I had no other choice than to be present. I couldn’t check email, I couldn’t post on Instagram, I couldn’t check up on how things were going back at the office. I just had to be fully present and for the first time in a long time, just rest.
The sun started setting and the candles were lit. There is no electricity at Gethsamane Children’s Feeding Center and yet we were going to be sitting down for a meal with 30 children. Simplicity at its finest. And yet something so grand and magical was happening. We sat around plastic folding tables with candles lit and sandwiches on white bread and it hit me: I was sitting at a table fit for kings and queens. These children were royalty. This was a banquet that I was lucky enough to attend.
I sat there in silence watching what was unfolding. The older children were making sure the younger ones had food first. I watched them giggling. I watched an older sister only eat half of her sandwich so that she could save the rest for later when she was home with her siblings, with no food. All of their faces were lit up by the candles on the tables and I made a decision at that moment. As those candles continued to burn I was going to choose to take the burnt out feeling that I was fighting with and let it be replaced by the ambiance of that evening. I was going to sit still and take it all in, instead of running around making sure everything was going according to plan. I was going to relish this royal banquet and choose to let it change me.
And it did. All the hustle I had been doing for the past 4 months suddenly felt obsolete. These were the faces and people who I needed to focus on, not the number of Instagram followers we had. Not the number of fun giveaways or collaborations we could do. These kiddos were the heartbeat of our mission. And trust me friends, when you can realize your mission again, the burn out leaves so quickly.
I came back the week before Christmas much more changed than any trip before. I had finally let myself feel again. I wasn’t consumed by the hustle and bustle of everything else. I was refreshed and ready for a new year.
When January came around with all of its resolutions I decided to make this one for Her: Say yes to only the right things, and no to everything else. Because so much of the stress and burn out came from saying yes to too much, to too many wrong things. So the past 8 months we may have not been as active on Instagram with giveaways or trips or other things, but we’ve said yes to so many right things. It’s been the biggest gift because by saying yes to the right things, I’m saying yes to those 30 beautiful children in Jocotan.
So why am I choosing to tell you this story now? Because it’s been a year since The Her Initiative started and part of me wonders if we would be celebrating one year like this if I had burned out? Because I meet so many amazing women who have also dove in hard after their passions and have really burned out. Because I want you to know that you can also do hard things but do them wisely and don’t say yes to everything. Because by saying no to things, you can say yes to the right things. The things that truly matter. The things that can change your life and the lives of so many around you.
And because you can’t change the world in one year. That takes a lifetime.