Hey, everybody, welcome to another episode of the YouSchool podcast. I'm Scott Schimmel the host, I'm the only host so far until I die or get fired. And as we're having these conversations with friends of mine, friends who are doing interesting things in the world, there's a few things we're trying to do. And some of this is also for you to get to know what we're all about. Number one, we're trying to give a demonstration of what it's like to do some self reflection, to think about your life and to do it in a way that's productive. Because self reflection can sometimes turn into neurosis or anxiety or paranoia or rumination on the past. But good self reflection helps us to actually get clear. So that's one we're trying to help you see what it looks like. And then to, I'm bringing people on the show who I think are cool, and I think you'd want to get to know. So today a friend of mine, Sanam, Charlton, Sanam, I think, just to get a little context, we met four or five years ago, when you were, and here's the drumroll I don't want I don't want to lose anybody, but I'm gonna say you were an accountant. And that's what we're gonna try to unpack, because you were maybe one of the least accountants that I know, in terms of like, whatever mental image, you have an accountant. And there's so much more to your story, which is why this is so fascinating. And the big story, the big theme of today is really, it's it's about self reflection, it's how do you and we're going to ask you this, what are the things that you do to continuously learn about yourself? Because since I've known you, you've done some drastic changes in your career, and how you think about yourself, and so we're gonna we're gonna get into that. But maybe, maybe, can we start with your backstory a little bit born and raised? Because I think it's actually fascinating.
Yeah, of course. So I was born and raised up until the age of, I would say, nine or 10, I can't exactly remember. But I was born and raised in Karachi, Pakistan, and my family and I moved to the States, obviously, for the same reason everybody else does, you know, or many other people do. So for us, it was just a finding a better life, we had a few family members here in the States. And so we decided this was, this was the way to go for us. We moved around a lot because my parents were they, they didn't have anything more than a bit of high school education. So we moved around a lot. We kind of they, they always had their own business or did something that was entrepreneur, entrepreneurship minded. So we just did that. And we moved around a lot. So I moved around from Texas, to St. Louis, back to Texas, then to Atlanta. And then I landed in Florida, which is where I spent four of my high school years. And then from there, I went to Washington, DC, where I was an accounting intern. And then I that's kind of where my, where my journey started really doing doing something that was expected of me, which was, you know, either become a doctor, lawyer or an accountant, something that was respectable, something that would keep me financially stable, and something that would allow me to have a, you know, more of a nine to five sort of position. Because one thing, one of the things my parents always said, don't, don't be like us, you know, do something that's more stable, so you have less stress. And I definitely agreed with them with that. And, and so that's, that's what I chose, because it was something that made sense to me in high school. And it was really the best direction, I just had to suppress all of my actual interest in what I really wanted to do, because I didn't get a chance to really think about them. So that's where my accounting journey started. Really.
Well hold there, because I know you took a detour and then got back into accounting. But I'm curious and I want to get too deep to start but did you so you, you went past your parents in terms of education, you went and got this career and so many ways you embody your story if your family story and bodies, it's like American dream, idea, immigrants doing well. I'm just I'm curious. Was there ever a moment where your parents let off the pressure a little bit? Did they ever stop and say, Look at what you've done? And I don't know I'm not that you necessarily needed that. But I'm just curious, was there a moment or they always kind of like, keep going On some don't, don't let your foot off the gas.
I think that with my parents, really the biggest thing, the biggest point that they made constantly was that you're doing what we never could you have this great opportunity to be educated and go farther than all of us. So education is the most important thing. So continue down that path, or are they happy that I was doing as well as I was doing? Yes. But I think it was very expected, right? The culture that I'm from, you know, education is so important that that it's not necessarily something that needs to be said often enough, like, you have to do this, you have to do that it was just kind of drilled into our minds. So yes, they were supportive. But did they, you know, go further out than that. No, I think it was more of a education is my pathway to really independence and freedom. So it became more of a motivation for myself where, you know, outside of what my family wanted. And I think that's because it was a personal dream, to to sort of leave a Florida, which is where I was and kind of do my own thing. And beyond my own two feet. I think it was more of a personal choice and a personal motivate motivation and factor for me.
What what did you carry on into adulthood? Obviously, this respect, responsibility. But you mentioned something, I also kind of stuff or hide the other parts of you, I guess, I don't know if you can summarize that. Like what the big message you got being sent out into life on your own.
You know, I didn't exactly fit in with everyone in high school, I couldn't really fit in with my classmates, because, you know, we've lived such different lives. And I couldn't really fit in with my community members that were that were part of the community that I was raised in, because I just didn't feel as connected to the community as I could have. So I always felt like, what was going on? What was what, what was wrong? Why couldn't I fit in? And I think as soon as I, you know, decided to change things and go to college and meet new people, that's when I realized that there's an entire world out there, and there's so much more I can do. I just didn't really get to take advantage of it until my senior year of college when I said, Okay, this is my chance. Do I stay where I am? Do I stay in Florida? Or do I venture out? I think even my study abroad experience, which, you know, thankfully, my parents did help with, to get me to that point was when I realized there's so much more out there, there's so much you can do. There's travel, there's different people to meet. And when I started doing things like that, it's when I started finding people that were more like me, that were different, that thought differently. And I think that opened up a whole new, you know, space for me to start thinking about what do I really want to do. And although I wasn't ready to make that leap just yet, because, again, it had been drilled in me financial security, financial safety, I didn't really consider that I just wanted to branch out first and foremost, like, let's pick a new city, and start there and see how that looks like. And when I went to DC, that's, that's what I experienced. I you know, I got to live super close to my first job as a as an intern at the Aga Khan foundation, I was able to, you know, take the bus everywhere I was able to walk to work, I was able to walk different places and meet different people and really explore alone independently. And that forceful experience of me having to be somewhere alone, I think really helped push me in that direction.
And you You ended up going into teaching for a while talking about that did
I did so. You know, I was I had gone from the Agha Khan foundation where I was an intern. I ended up getting a full time position there as an accountant, and then I moved on to another nonprofit called the environmental integrity project where again, I had a great experience and I got to do not just accounting but grants work too. And it started because it started opening, opening up my mind to what else is out there. And I realized that I preferred the work that I did with my team members, I enjoyed the collaboration, I enjoyed working together to create something. And I have been volunteering within the community by helping to teach, you know, night school and summer school. And doing that was just so fun for me, and so enjoyable working with the young children and, and that's where I realized that maybe I would like to teach, maybe that's something I want to do. And at that point, I was looking to move to Atlanta, and it just so happened to collide, both those ideas collide in, I found a master's program at Mercer University in Atlanta, which, you know, my work was graciously will willing to let me work remotely from Atlanta and still, and still take part in our master's program. So I worked, you know, a full 40 hours while also getting my masters done in two years. Just because it was so exciting for me, I started going to those classes, and I took a writing class. And I realized I actually enjoyed doing that. And it was so different from, you know, math. So I think that's where I really realized it was the direction I wanted to go. What did my practicum
Yeah, what did you teach? What did you end up doing in the classroom?
So my first practicum was with fifth graders. And I worked with a teacher at a school was like KIPP Academy. And I worked with the youth there, and I did a lot of observing. And then my other practicum was with first grade group of students. And that was extremely enjoyable, too. And that ended up becoming my full time position and a practicum. So I was able to do both at the same time, while also going to school and working at my other position. So it was a lot, but it definitely put me in the place of a teacher and I had to sort of do it all on my own. I had so many observations and different recordings that I had to do to prove that I could, you know, curriculum, whatever it was that came through how, how I managed, you know, the classroom? How did I individualize work for our students, and, and that was really important to me, because I was never going to be a student that was going to speak out loud in class. So I knew being who I was, there were others like me, in that classroom, I really tried to individualize things for the students. And, and I think that practicum that I did made me realize that was in the right place. And so yeah, I taught first grade for a little bit, and then I moved on to fourth grade. And I taught that for two and a half years,
you don't do anything, seemingly halfway. So I'm trying to imagine you now you're going from like four jobs down to one. What, what did you as you look back, what kind of teacher were you? What did you bring to the classroom?
You know, I would like to say that, as a teacher, I was, there was a lot of chaos, in my mind, because I had so many ideas. I wanted to do something different. I would, I would search the internet for a million different ways to do something. And and I just had trouble settling on one. So I would just constantly experiment with, with my students. And my favorite thing, I think that I that I really did was bring in technology into into my the lives of my students. And I really allowed them to go at their own pace. And that this way, I was able to individualize and this is why I mentioned this again, because I would say that that's the kind of teacher I was I really wanted to see each student for who they were. And I wanted to create something and support them in a way that they wanted to be supportive. And so of course, that took a lot of time. A lot of brainpower. Sometimes I would wake up at four or 5am run over to school and I wouldn't come home until eight or 9pm. And so that's what I was doing. And did I need to be spending all that time? No, could I have done it more efficiently? Yes, but I was just so excited. I had I had so many ideas that I it was hard to choose what I wanted to do and I think that's why I spent so assignments and you know The other teachers like what are you like to type A personality or D personality with T as a teacher, and I said, I don't really know what I am, I think I'm just so unique because I knew everything was but nobody else could tell where it was. It was always a hard, hard experience. But I did always leaves like really detailed notes for anyone else that had to come and support me. So I think that's, that's how I would like to describe myself. But I definitely can tell you that I was. I have this, this document that my students created for me where they wrote me notes after I left, and then half of the half of the document, it talks about doing the floss, thank you for doing the floss with five feet tall. So I, you know, go right in, and I fit right in with them. And my Co Co teacher would say things like, Oh, well, I can't tell you, I can't tell that you're there in the group, because you're the same height as everyone. So I could really fit in and I had a lot of fun with that we would do the class together, they would teach me their little dances. So I was really focused, when the time came for it. But when the time came for fun, I love doing that, too.
So I didn't know you and you're teaching and I've met you for a few years. And I don't you see, you look like you're 21 years old. So I don't know how you fit all this into your career so far. And as you're as you're listening or watching some talk about your life, you'll notice I've just noticed there's these chapters, you've you've lived life and these really significant chapters, and they're not like little throwaway chapters, they're significant deep, you're all in. So talk about leaving teaching, and then what you did next.
Yeah, um, you know, I think that the amount of effort and work that I was putting in really caught up to me, and I ended up getting really sick. You know, it was the New Year was starting, and I had just returned from my honeymoon, I just gotten married, returned from my honeymoon, and I got extremely sick. And I, you know, Friday night, had a terrible, terrible headache, migraine, and I drove home and I was just laying in bed, and my husband was like, What's wrong with you, and I explained what was going on, and you had to take me to the emergency room. And spending that time in the hospital for six to seven days, you know, watching, watching my husband as worried as he was sitting in that chair, you know, day in day night. And realizing that I'd spent all that time and I prioritized work. And I had lost out on a little bit of that personal time with someone I just married. And I had a lot of time to reflect. And during the time of reflection, I didn't just reflect internally, I reflected with my husband as well. And we ended up coming to the decision that I had to start doing something that was a better fit for me, that would allow me to still give my 100% or my 1,000%, as I like to say it, but also give me that time to take care of myself. And it was also again, around the time when we were thinking of making a new move, and, and my husband had gotten a job in San Diego. And so I decided that it was it was the end of my teaching career and I had to find something else. But when we moved to San Diego, of course, I can't help myself, I I love to work and I didn't want to, I didn't want to be a burden. So I wanted to do something for myself. And I thought, well, let's just get back into accounting. Maybe there's a nonprofit that, you know, will really fit with who I am and what I what I'm looking for. And, and I went back into accounting. So again, I you know, I think this is something that we told our fellows at the Honor Foundation, you don't get a chance to really sit there and spend so much time self reflecting without doing anything else. And it's so important to do that. And I never gave myself that chance. And I never gave myself that time. And even during this one month that I was transitioning, I didn't really give myself that time. And I moved back into accounting from teaching. And although I was thankful that I was trying to find a balance, it's still it was still a decision I had to make because I wasn't ready to give myself that time to really reflect on myself. And that's where my new chapter started in San Diego.
Was that I just curious where you think about that day Did you not have the tools to do it? Did you not have the time? And you had the time you said that? Did you not have the courage? Not? No, it was important, like what what do you think looking back? Was it that you didn't take the time to do the inner reflection?
I think I was fearful to be to be completely honest, I did have the time. I did have, you know, financially, we were fine. We could have taken the time, I could have taken a few months to really think about what it is that I wanted to do. But I feel like I didn't have the community that I wanted to really ask those questions. And I didn't feel like just having my husband to speak about this was enough. And so I didn't give myself that time. Because I didn't know where it would take me. I didn't want to do that type of hard work. Just yeah. Yeah. And really, that's that's the best answer. And it's not. It's not a great answer, but it is the truth.
It's a normal experience to us. You're saying that I'm thinking that taking the path of least resistance? I mean, who doesn't? Isn't that? Well, we all do. Exact resistance, no, thanks. less resistance, yes. Especially if it's income, it's secure, it's stable, it kind of checks the boxes of these other things that are important. And I don't know the other path. And you but you I think one part of your story that's so fascinating is you had a whatever you call it a physical breakdown from being in the wrong path. Absolutely. And that's a warning sign, both obviously to you again, but to anyone listening, there's gonna be these moments, the invitations to shift and to find out who you are and your own path with your real self. And, and it could be, you have to go to hospital, if you don't make the shift. Or it could be there's like, you're actually feeling the signs right now. Like this isn't working right now. And even if you don't know how to do it, there are people that can guide you there. And you can talk to people about it. So anyways, continue. Now you're back counting, you're working for the Honor Foundation, which summary is it's it's a veteran transition program for special operators, folks like Navy SEALs, and that's where you and I met, because we've had a partnership with them. And you're in the back of the classroom as the accounting writing checks, and you're kind of listening. That's right.
I can't remember which workshop it was Scott, that you were presenting at, but you shared your story. And I was, you know, sitting there that day, in the back, just listening. And you shared an anecdote of when you were in the office, getting your offer letter, and you talked about that feeling in your stomach. And you talked about your life sort of you said you it flashed before you what are we going to look like? Yep. And it wasn't what you were looking for. And I in that moment, I felt like I was having a panic attack. Because I was feeling those same feelings. And it just so happened, it was around the same time, I was asked to take on a bigger role at the Honor Foundation. And I had to make a decision. And I could not see myself as much as I love the Honor Foundation as much as I respected the people there and respected that the fact that they wanted me to continue and be a part of Justin be a part of the Honor Foundation, I felt like I was about to you know, walk up into my wedding and I wanted to go the other direction. I had cold feet, runaway bride. Exactly. And I it was that moment that I realized if I don't change something, now I'm going to be back in a similar situation where even if work isn't like it was as a teacher, I'm going to either get physically sick, or I'm going to hurt myself mentally in some way. And I and I knew I had to make a change. And I think that's where it all started. That's that's where, you know, I really started to open up to Joe Lara as the honor foundation that I opened up to some of my other co workers and and I had to you know, I opened up with my supervisors and I shared what it is that was going on and I think that was the time I felt all of a sudden that you know I could I have to make the change and I could make the change. And I just did exactly what you all shared. I started with a cup of coffee. I had my cup of coffee with you, I had a cup of coffee with a few other people and it works. And that's something that I have to share with all of the young people I work with now. Just being truthful and honest with people that are, you know, wanting to hear from you about your story and wanting to share their story, it doesn't matter what it is that you're looking for, just be honest and share what you're looking to do. And that's exactly what I did.
It was interesting to see you do that because you went outside of your normal circle to do that, that's, that's embedded into that idea, go have cups of coffee, it's a metaphor. I mean, you can drink coffee, but go have a conversation with someone that has a different perspective than you can see something different than you. And I know if if you're listening to this, and you're a parent with a kid or your student in a classroom, listen to this. Your Your world is relatively restricted to it's small. And a lot of your close relationships are probably your peers, which their perspective is pretty limited to if you're honest, it's not that broad. And so a big part of what we're trying to help encourage is the value of what you're talking about some of having conversations that can start out a little uncomfortable or awkward. And you might not even know necessarily what the questions are to ask but to start, start the conversation. And I know in my life, that's the only way I've ever figured anything out about myself is talking about it, and then hearing someone else share and then realizing nope, that's not it, or yet, that's it. And then it's almost like triangulating until you get clearer and clearer. And I guess I'm I'm curious as you're going to wrap up in a minute, but I'm now that you're shifted back, you're not an account anymore, but you have this, you have this background, you're an educator, you're an accountant, you're a cause driven person, you have this incredible story of courage and resilience, like how do you now continue to do the work of self reflection? So you don't get into a place? And a year or two or five years and realize, Oh, I did it again? And what are you currently doing? Or what do you maybe in your best version of yourself? What are the tools or habits that you use?
You know, for me, my husband's always been that person that will call me out or tell me tell me the truth about what it is that I'm doing or not doing. And so I think instead of keeping things to myself, I've been more open about it, whether it's with people that are at work, or people that are outside of work, and, and even with myself, you know, as soon as I noticed that I'm going down a path that I know is going to get me in trouble, I have to I have to rein it back in. Especially because I think that all of my previous experiences, I would hope that I've learned from them, you know, I want I want to make better decisions. And so I think I have to really what I do on a daily basis is really think about, Am I doing the work that I love to do? Am I moving away from that work? If I'm moving away from that work, is it something that really allows me to utilize all of my talents, all of my skills? And if not, why am I doing this? Why am I going back in that direction. And if it is, I'm really starting to pinpoint those moments when I'm really enjoying myself or I really see that my passion and my motivation is at its highest. And and being aware of those moments. And just jotting them down or even sharing them has made such a huge difference for me. And I think that being someone who works with a young population, a population that I you know, was at that age, not too long ago. Yeah. And knowing that it's important that I have to make sure I am following my own advice. Because that's how I have to come up as a role model. Right? I have to make sure that when I make these decisions, I'm doing them because I want to not because anyone else is telling me to and and that's how I try to stay on the right path for myself the past that's good for me, and not something that someone else wants me on. Because that's my thing. That's what I learned. I love to make other people happy. But what do I want? Yes. Being a little more selfish. Yeah. And, and I think it's really made a difference. And I'm not I'm not afraid to share that with anyone and I think that's going to be The difference that is going to make a lasting impact for me. Yeah, so, yeah, that's that's what I was. That's what I would say is what I'm doing, you know, different to stay aware.
Well, ironically, you're choosing to be selfish continues to lead to more people being served and cared for. And as you work with foster youth, and who knows what the next chapter is going to look like, that's such I mean, it's it's such a kid thing. That's how that's how you're wired. So anyways, thank you for being on the show. Thanks for letting me be a cheerleader and watch your story unfold. I'm in your corner forever. So anything you need ever let me know and bless you and your work. And you continue to figure out who you are and how to align to it's a really, it's a wonderful thing to watch.
Thank you. Thank you for being that moment that totally altered my path. So
We're taking the mystery out of building a meaningful life with a step by step. In school, you're taught everything under the sun, algebra, its art history, to aerodynamics, but you're not taught how to understand yourself. Or given the tools to make sense of all the questions life throws your way. Without it, most people will take the path of least resistance, hoping it all just works out someday. That's why the use school is here. for over 10 years, we've been specializing in designing transformative curriculum and learning environments to guide people through life's transitions to find, define and unleash great stories with their lives. You only get one life. You only get one story. Make sure it's the right
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