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Closing Time

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My last two weeks in Boston have actually gone by far more smoothly than I had initially expected – especially before my placement with Navdanya had been finalized.

Something I have learned over the course of my higher education and during my Boston training placement is the importance of balancing expectations with the unanticipated. I certainly expected my training in negotiation and effective communication to be challenging – but I did not anticipate that my interactions with Insight President David Seibel would reveal some tendencies I instinctively relied on when engaging in a conversation or when teaching the negotiation material.

For example, I now understand that having been educated in a discipline that is highly structured and analytical, I can be very quick to respond to questions without stopping to clarify the intent or purpose behind them. Prima facie it would seem that this is a harmless practice, and while it is not necessary that giving so-called ‘stock responses’ always yield negative impacts, a lack of mindfulness of the intent or purpose behind a question limits how effective one can be in providing a response. In addition, we have a tendency to automatically advocate in our responses to questions. In conflict management, I learned that defaulting to advocacy perpetuates a mindset that prevents me from learning much about those with whom I am communicating, and ultimately limits the growth of our relationship. By inquiring and clarifying intents and purposes, we show the other side that we are not taking their questions for granted.

I was so comfortable going to the various ‘files’ in my head which corresponded to questions or conversations I had had before, that I was not consciously aware of my <a href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canadian_English “>behaviour</a>. Now I am grateful that I have become mindful of these tendencies. Sometimes, the more unexpected results of our interactions and experiences prove to be the most valuable. I have learned to embrace the role chance plays in my life.

Speaking of chance, what are the odds that my sister and I would have birthdays only two days apart, despite there being four years between us (she’s older even though you can’t really tell from the picture).

I traveled to New Haven, CT, where my sister Anila is completing her PhD at Yale University for a weekend of relaxation and the requisite birthday bash. With the prospect of not seeing her for a long while once I embarked on my nine-month journey around the world, it was a treat to be able to celebrate a special occasion together. And of course, how could I miss her amazing cooking?!

Over the past few years, I have adopted the philosophy of <a href=”http://lotr.wikia.com/wiki/Hobbits “>hobbits</a> from <a href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J._R._R._Tolkien “>J.R.R. Tolkien</a>’s fantasy world: on a hobbit’s birthday, everyone was invited to a grand party and they all received gifts. While I haven’t the means to give out gifts, I like to think of my birthday as a time when I can bring joy and happiness to all of my friends in attendance. In doing so I move further away from the convention of receiving gifts. My purpose in doing this is to help reinforce the importance of friendships and relationships over any material gift. In addition, I now realize there is no greater gift for me than seeing those I care about enjoying themselves as a result of my efforts.

_Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end_

How can I not muse about the events that have led up to this point? This entry has woven together seemingly unrelated events with a common theme of chance, and here it is: the impossible odds of an engineering student aspiring to study law and policy applying for a one-year fellowship in a field he had never heard of before.

My purpose is to understand accessibility to justice in the environmental context. As an aspiring lawyer, I appreciate that not all conflicts were resolved in the courtroom. Some of the most effective and equitable agreements are reached before litigation is necessary. In other cases, litigation is simply not an option. Litigation falls on one end of the spectrum of conflict resolution, and I believe that in applying for the Insight Fellowship I was making a purposeful decision to embrace the whole gamut.

My time in Boston has ended with one confirmed destination and two more that look very promising (you’ll have to wait for details on those, however!). I topped it all off with a very nice farewell lunch of sorts with Insight Collaborative’s President David Seibel and Operations Director Enid Cherenson. I will be spending a week with my family and then flying out to India on September 10th. Gather up your jackets, move on to the exits—closing time, time for me to go to the places I will be from.