After Afghanistan, I came home again.
Home to Wellington, where I wrote a book about my experiences in Afghanistan, opened a restaurant and eventually, launched a thing that I really think just might help us all change the world.
First, the restaurant.
I didn’t want to be a restauranteur. Lucas wanted to be a restauranteur, but I took some convincing. I’ve travelled my whole life and restaurant isn’t easy to pack up and travel with. So I was quite resistant to the idea.
But Lucas had always wanted to do this and I think at some point, if you really want to do something, it’s probably a good idea to do it. Assuming it’s not a crime. Please don’t use me as your excuse if you want to do something terrible.
We do actually have a world-saving theory behind La Boca Loca – Lucas’ vision was to build a restaurant that produced delicious food, in a fun environment, in a way that is fundamentally nourishing. Nourishing to our customers, to our team, to our suppliers, to the people who grow and harvest the food, to the planet, to our local community. There was a time when food was expected to be nourishing. Today we have a food system which is fundamentally un-nourishing on so many levels. La Boca Loca is an experiment in restoring nourishment to the heart of a food business.
And what I’m learning that this specific way of making change is both incredibly hard and deeply rewarding. I don’t have to lobby a government to make changes in policy. We get to set the policies that we think are right for us, for our team, for our mission.
But we can’t make those policies into reality without our team, our suppliers, our friends, our families and – of course – our customers. La Boca Loca has been a lesson for me in the collective and collaborative effort required to make real change.
Which leads me to ActionStation. Our mission is to serve people who have a sense that they’d like New Zealand and the world to be kinder, fairer and more nourishing, and who’d like to do something useful to create that change.
ActionStation is also ultimately an experiment. Are there meaningful ways for large groups of concerned people to act together to have a meaningful impact? So far the answer seems to be yes.
We are still building, we don’t have the ability to win every fight that we take on. We have won some small victories. And we’ve played a small part in some big victories.
And that’s how change works, right? We have to work hand in hand with each other. No single effort can create change entirely by itself, but each of us plays an essential and critical role in the whole, the collective force for change.
But even in this work – where our growth, and impact have far outstripped our expectations for this first year, there have been fallings apart, and moments of despair.
In December last year I was ready to give up. I was beyond broke, I was in so much debt that I couldn’t find anywhere else to borrow from. My health was tanking, my love – for people and for life – was flat-lining, and my relationship was in crisis.
There was nothing victorious about it.
But this time I had the lessons of my previous falling-aparts to draw on.
I knew I needed to ask for, and accept help.
I knew I needed to reach out to, and pull towards me, the people I loved.
I knew I needed to turn in to the quietness of my meditation and yoga practice.
I knew I needed to get outside for a long walk on the beach.
But most importantly of all, I knew even though I had no idea what was coming next, it was okay.
Because I had been there before. And the things that came next had always been more marvelous than I could have predicted.
It could seem trite, this story of mine – a cliche even: that the darkest hour is before the dawn.
But it’s not trite, is it? As some, maybe all, of us know: It’s deadly serious.
Because when I’m in the bottom of that U. When I can no longer see where all ‘this’ is leading me. And I can no longer tell if I have anything worth adding to the noise, the cacophony, of modern life. When I lose faith in my path, in my choices, in my self. When I’m at danger of giving it all up, for good. I need to be reminded that this is how change happens.
Change happens in the ‘I give up’
In the ‘I don’t know what happens next’
and in the ‘I can’t go on like this any longer’
Change happens in the ‘I can’t do this by myself’
and in the ‘I need help’
Change happens in the ‘We’re here too’
and in the ‘We’re in this together’
If you have a story you need to tell, and could use some help to tell it – consider joining Laurie Wagner and I in Alameda October 3-4 for: Forbidden Territory: Telling stories that could change the world