Tuesday, one of the last weeks in January.
A few friends and I were having quick stop of ramen in the city after building up a craving over the day's work at the Engineers Without Borders' (EWB) office. Over steaming bowls of noodles and delicious broth, a conversation developed on how everyone has a quirky side, some things that other "normal people" do not do.
I remember asking, "Won't it be weird though, if you self declared as a 'normal person'?"
A few approving "Yeah, that's so weird." and nods circulated around the table, then the conversation moved on to something more normal, I suppose.
At this time of the year, my time in Melbourne and being a part of the EWB team is coming to a premature end. The last 2 months I have spent in this wonderful city has sometimes been slow but mostly very fast. Every single day spent at the office has been an opportunity to learn something new and there has yet to be one that bored me.
The various projects I have been involved in stress me out but also fully engage me intellectually, the other volunteers in the office make me laugh but also support me seriously in our work together and the staff members expect a lot but also inspire the whole lot of us every single day.
“By meaningful connections, what I am talking about is above and beyond just getting along with another person because you share some common interests and enjoy each other's company.”
On a personal level, a highlight from my EWB experience from 2 years ago all the way up to today would be the ease of making meaningful connections with other individuals on a level that I had rarely experienced before, even when the time we spend together is relatively short. This was a surprise to me because these were the sort of connections I expected to develop really easily with my closest family members, best friends and the people I grew up around in school and university.
By meaningful connections, what I am talking about is above and beyond just getting along with another person becase you share some common interests and enjoy each other's company. For me, it meant all of this and also an intense feeling of understanding, respect and inspiration from hearing another share their personal stories, the challenges they faced, the successes they experienced and where they would like to go in the future. And what is surprising is that not much time is required for this tangible sense of connection to be made, for conversations to float into topics you would never have the chance to talk about otherwise and for laughing uncontrollably at nothing at all.
“It might come through a sport you enjoy doing, a hobby that you do in your spare time or even at work. You will know it when it happens.”
An analogy would be an avid cyclist joining a local club for the first time to find that, hey, there are other people who are really into bicycles as well. This is the buy in. The real connections are made when you are comfortable enough to share with others a bit of who you really are which might be an inner passion for talking about the kinds of coffee you love to drink or your knack for photography or that incredibly stubborn travelbug you caught all those years ago - the types of deeper conversations and ideas that really stick simply because of their honesty.
For me, EWB has allowed me to be part of a community where interesting conversations are rampant and big ideas flow freely. Almost everyone I meet has inspired me to do more, be more and not only become a better engineer but also a better person. It has never really mattered how old or young, male or female, Australian or from the other side of the world they are, the same feeling of understanding, respect and inspiration has been a consistent theme throughout the past 2 years.
I would like to think that the key behind this 'EWB magic' is that the type of people that EWB attracts genuinely buy into the organisation's objective of developing a better future through engineering but takes it to the next step by making a personal connection and truly owning it within the EWB ecosystem but also in other areas of their lives. Couple that with problem solving mindsets and a millenial age group, you end up with a bunch of like-minded, empowered and incredibly passionate people who strongly believe in all of the work they do and the potential they have in making the world a better place.
As I type this out, it is really difficult for me to express all of this in words. But I hope that everyone at some point will get to experience this intense and almost tribal sense of belonging and the ease of connecting deeply with other people just like I have, which will probably manifest very differently for you. It might come through a sport you enjoy doing, a hobby that you do in your spare time or even at work. You will know it when it happens.