on my bday which was yesterday, our Ribalon Facebook page turned over 1,000 likes. A milestone to celebrate and a great gift! While I’m really pleased and honoured, that’s not the story I want to share with you today.
A week ago I attended an international Training for Trainers in youth field that was taking place in Estonia. We were 4 trainers sent there by Slovenian National Agency among a group of 26 people from all over Europe. The aim of the training was to strengthen our international dimension and deepen our skills through participative peer to peer learning. My expectations towards the training were rather high, because it was a training course organized by several European National Agencies and because I do strive towards working internationally and am curious to work in a team on a topic I haven’t worked before. But on this training I didn’t learn any new skills, nor did I strengthen my practice. Something else happened and I did not see it coming at all.
I trained some Estonian participants in the past and some of them have later on grown to become my friends. I told them I was coming and though our venue was far from Tallinn, though it was in the middle of the week and though I was only free for a couple of hours (but even then not alone), it was enough for one girl to come to visit me. It took her 6 hours one way to come. And yet there she was, like I remember her the last time I saw her. Her beautiful eyes and smile, a gentle and kind soul and such a warm personality. She’d recently been to India and brought me a scarf and some shells from the Indian Ocean for my birthday. She made extra efforts (she calls it pleasure) to call me yesterday and sing happy bday song for me over the phone. She says my blog posts are inspiring, but it is her who is a true inspiration. I know right now she’s blushing while reading this, so I won’t expose her any further but to say a huge thank you for having you in my life and I appreciate dearly your&our friendship.
Describing her visit has a deeper purpose. It is an essential part of my learning journey as an international trainer. During our training I’ve got to know people in our group and connect with them. With some you click more, with some less. I had two amazing roomies. With S. I learned how to make my own wallet. With P. I created new french words. With J. I played chess in the airport. With K. I designed new projects and made up a crime story. With M. and S. I had meaningful coaching conversations. On the last day, we were doing one simple nonverbal exercise. As we were moving along the room, I got an idea that I’ll say goodbye to everyone individually, because some of us were leaving earlier and might not have the chance to do it later. I looked into the first person’s eyes. Then the second one. Then a third one. Someone was wiping their eyes and I thought “oh come on, why so sensitive?” and moved on. And at some point something broke inside of me. As I was progressing to meet more and more eyes and people looking back in such a warm and supportive manner, I couldn’t proceed. I stopped and began to cry. Tears were pouring out and my roommate gave me a hug because she saw I broke. I thought I’ll calm down, but it only got more intense, these feelings of being deeply touched and a sense of joy, belonging and genuine happiness. So I withdrew and stepped aside in the corner not to disturb others. But then something beautiful happened. People I felt most connected to somehow sensed what was going on and they came to me and created a row. Shoulder by shoulder we were just standing there in silence and enjoyed our presence. There was a moment that the whole group embraced my emotion and collectivized it. We were a community. We belonged to each other. It was a community of support, love, patience, empathy, compassion. I felt so connected and close to them and was so happy to be a part of this and this was the moment I realized I don’t need 1,000 Facebook likes or any professional recommendations. Because I have so many people in my life who constitute my community or tribe, if you prefer to call it that.
Later that evening, as we got to Tallinn, we met a friend from K. and stayed with him, his girlfriend and friends in a bar. At 2 o’clock in the morning as we were getting really tired, we decided it’s time to go to this friends place. He didn’t know us, yet he invited us to come under his roof. As we arrived there, he offered us some food he cooked before and prepared us improvised beds. His appartment was very modest, yet he gave his best efforts to make us feel welcomed and comfortable. Although he was working in the morning, he took half an hour to prepare us simple, yet comfortable beds. When we said it’s not necessary to have a blanket and a pillow for only 2 hours, he said that he wants us to feel good and he’ll give his best to make it happen. I felt really important and appreciated his efforts to make our stay pleasant, despite he didn’t invite us, we just met and will probably never meet again. Then I realized this is what life is all about. To make other people feel accepted, appreciated and happy. All that really matters are other people. And I know I could do much better than I did until now. This was my learning outcome of this incredible learning journey.
I am vulnerable. I am only a human being. I don’t have superpowers. I’m not always in a good mood. I make mistakes. But I have people in my life who are completely fine with this. And I will try to give what I have to make a difference. My best efforts and intention.
This is my professional identity as an international trainer.