I was sitting on the back porch at my friend Mark’s house, and I had all this money stuffed in my shirt from waiting tables the week before. Other than that, I didn’t have much more than a suitcase, my skateboard, and my dog. I was 23 years old, and I was sitting there staring up in to the night sky, quietly swinging on the bench while my dog circled the spot next to my feet. In my lap was a stack of paper.
You know those times in your life when you feel that you are staring out into a large empty space that contains many doors? It might only be 5 doors, but maybe it’s 10, or even a hundred doors. If you can look at all the doors and say that you are pretty sure that they will all take you somewhere good, or at least that you and God will make it good, and you can say to yourself that the worst case scenario would still be a success, to whatever degree and by any definition, then you have to pick. There cannot be any more procrastinating; it will do no good. Lack of action may very well be the real root of all evil, and I was in no mood for sitting on the fence of complacency and apathy. I began scribbling down some thoughts. I was asking myself which open door I wanted to jump through, and I needed a way to make the decision that I could make sense of.
As the top of the page, I began writing all of my talents. My talents are my birthright. They are part of what makes me different than the guy sitting in the booth next to me at the restaurant, or standing in front of me in line at the grocery store. These particular talents were given to me for a reason, and part of my purpose throughout the course of my life is to utilize them. Have you ever noticed how fulfilled you feel when you exercise the muscle of skill and talent? When an artist paints, when a musician plays, when a cook makes a delicious meal… These are the days that we go to bed happy, and there is a divine reason for this. It is in these acts that we grow closer to God and God’s potential for our lives.
I began my list of gifts, or my birthrights, and they went something like this: photography, journalism, editing, networking and communication, marketing, empathy, perception, dedication, graphic design, public speaking, teaching, managing, adapting, and creating.
On the bottom half of the page I began writing brief objectives for my life. These were things that I pulled from the ambitious dreams that I’ve been writing down since childhood, and they are part of a massive to-do list that most people will tell me won’t ever get done. I don’t listen to most people though, and I wrote these things on the second half of the page. I wrote down ideas that I wished to incorporate into my life’s path, as well as finite objectives. The list went something like this: philanthropy, sociology, book, non-profit, volunteerism, family, Zuzu, friends, transportation, travel, exploration, documentation, anthropology, impact, education, experience, financial stability, satisfaction, miracles, flight, and faith.
In the center of the page I drew a big fat line to separate the two groupings of words and drew a circle in the middle of it that was about same size as the bottom of a soda can. In that circle I wrote the word “idea” with a question mark beneath it. I leaned my head back, and breathed deeply. There had to be an idea that would encompass all of these things. Something short enough to do before I get too much older than 25, (so a 2 year maximum) that would utilize and incorporate all of these things, (or as many as possible) and that would be unique to me. I knew that if I used everything God gave me, Shayann Kelley, it would inevitably be unique because I’m the only me.
I stared up at the sky and concentrated for what seemed like hours. Finally, a smile broke across my face. For just that one instant, when the idea first arrived, I felt the powerful presence of God in a way that I never had before. In those moments, Project 50/50 was born. It was my own little miracle. The creation of something that God intended just for me, a journey that only I would understand, and that would encompass almost everything I had written on that paper. Our ability to create, to take an idea, (something that is not tangible and is completely and truly original in nature) and turn it into something physical, is one of the ways that mankind was created in God’s image. We are the only creatures on earth that can create to this degree, and I believe that this is part of His divine intentions for our race.
God arrives with a new idea every day. I bet this makes you wonder why everyone isn’t peeling off their suit jackets or why people are working the same job for more than 30 years when they hate it every day. The answer is simple: the failure to act. If we get this good idea and then close the door on it before we can take it from the intangible to the tangible, we will never reach our potential. Imagine what would have happened if Nicolai Tesla had believed everyone who told him he was crazy, and given up before he created the means by which we harness energy. We can’t see ions, but this man knew they were there.
That night I flipped over page after page of paper, making lists of supplies, ideas for projects, and an outline of what to start with. The top of my list was a pickup truck. I had no idea how all of this was going to happen, but I went to sleep at dawn with a smile on my face, knowing that I was about to work harder for this idea than I ever had for anything else in my life. Over the next 6 months the sequence of miracles necessary for this dream to become a reality could fill the pages of a book by themselves. But even when the means weren’t there, and I was just a homeless girl… just a dreamer on Mark’s back porch with a stack of paper and an idea, I believed.
I believed because I just knew, that I knew, that I knew…