Where are you needed the most?
By Brody Hannan
When hearing that question, what are your first thoughts? Perhaps your family need you, your sporting team, your workplace. There are some places where we, and our work, can make a bigger difference than others.
I was privileged to have met a passionate and brilliant man at a conference in my final week in London.
A proud gay man from Cyprus, he’d come to the UK for university and spent the last 4 years being a strong advocate for the queer community across campus. Nearing the end of his degree, he wanted to stay in the UK. He loved the country, and could easily secure a well-paid, meaningful job in London.
But part of him felt like he couldn’t stay to continue the fight for the queer community: “the Queer community in the UK has largely the same rights as the rest of the population. There’s less to fight for over here.”
“But in Cyprus there’s a lot to be fought for. Homosexuality was only de-criminalised 2 years ago. There’s a long way to go. In some parts of my country, I would be killed for being gay.”
Let that sink in for a sec.
Ignoring the fact that you can be killed for being gay in some parts of the world – how far would you go to make the biggest impact with your work? Do you choose to stay in a ‘safe’ environment, where you live a comfortable life, or do you sacrifice much and risk it all to put yourself in uncomfortable – and at times dangerous – situations to make the most impact?
I don’t have the answer here, nor can I blame my friend; should he decide to stay in London. But I think it demonstrates an important thought process we all must go through when choosing where, and to whom, we devote ourselves.
Ask yourself; is there somewhere or someone who needs me more than what I’m doing right now?
When faced with this question – moving from what I’m doing now (A), to something or somewhere else (B), I try to consider 3 different things:
1. What impact can I make in A compared to B?
2. What are the risks of leaving A for B?
3. Are these risks multiplied or mitigated over time?
While nowhere near as dangerous or critical as my friend’s situation, the example I think of when talking about these questions is what to do when I graduate. I’ll finish uni soon, and I need to decide whether I’ll stay in Canberra – a very good, but very ‘safe’ option. Or, do I move to another part of the world to pursue work and study opportunities in a global city?
According to point 1, the impact I could make by going overseas and studying at a big university in the UK, or landing a job in the US, would be a lot bigger than if I perhaps chose to stay in Canberra.
But, the risks are much greater, too. Staying in Canberra, I’d be almost guaranteed to make money, and could probably get a nice grad job somewhere in the Australian Public Service (APS). Moving overseas puts me at risk of running out of money, losing my amazing support network in Canberra, or finding it hard to restart my career, should I move back to Australia.
But the third question is the most important one. Will remaining in Canberra help me to develop the skills and experiences to help me succeed overseas? Well, I could potentially save up some money, so I’d be mitigating the risks of going broke whilst studying in the UK.
But, staying in Canberra puts me at a greater risk of something else – complacency. Stay long enough in one place and you’ll be more and more likely to acquire commitments that’ll prevent you from ever leaving. In that case, you’re probably better to leave sooner rather than later.
Meanwhile in Cyprus – there’s enormous impact to be made in moving there to fight for gay rights. Enormous risk as well. But this risk might be mitigated over time as the country gradually becomes more progressive with time, and my friend begins a career in the UK where he hones his advocacy skills.
Just because there’s other places and people that need our help more, doesn’t mean the biggest impact is to be made there – yet. However thinking about what footprint you leave upon a place, and what risks there are in doing so, can help you see where the biggest long-term impact is to be made.