"I called my mom and told her I wasn't coming home," said Anna Stehle. She shared with me one of the great paradigm shifts of her life. Anna, a student at the University of Washington, wanted more time immersed in Argentina to improve her Spanish skills. So instead of returning to the United States, she postponed her flight for five months, moved out of her host family's home, rented an apartment with a couple of students from Buenos Aires and washed dishes at a local café to pay rent. Eventually she picked up a second job teaching English to locals.
When I heard her describe that moment - that once-in-a-lifetime recognition, that no-going-back place - I felt a shift of my own. I was working a bad 9-5 job, but hearing her describe that moment with her mom - not asking permission, not feeling guilty, and full-tilt going for what she wanted - made me realize I needed to do the same. Life is short, do what you need to do for yourself right now, even if that means washing dishes and sounding crazy.
That's what Anna taught me.
Anna was somewhat of a chosen one at the Noble Foundation. I heard about her before I was ever assigned her personal profile for Legacy magazine. She was a star, they said. Interviewing her allowed me to hear all about her academic accomplishments and personal life - rising out of a national scholarship selection process, being chosen as a Scholar in Agriculture, generally kicking all kinds of ass. In the end, the thing that impressed me most about her was that phone call she made as an undergrad. She was so unapologetic about it. Imagine calling your parents and not asking permission to continue your stay in a foreign country. Not "can I stay, mom?" but instead "I'll see ya in five months."
The best part? Her bravest moments weren't anything special to her. She didn't think twice about it all. She recalled her journey as surely as if she was explaining the color of the sky, or a scientific certainty.
Right after our conversation, she left to spend a year in Brazil with other Noble employees.
I think about Anna often, and her brave phone call. She was sharp, no doubt, but I think it was her bravery that separated her from everyone else.
Read Anna's personal profile.
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