Tell me about your mom.
My mom is great. Her name is Nancy, and an endearing nickname we have for her is Nervous Nancy. She likes to worry. She always imagines the worst case scenario, and assumes that is what is going to happen. Both my sister and I are much more adventurous and like to take risks. Whenever we are going on an adventure, anything from the smallest thing to international travel, my mom will think of every scenario that could go wrong, and ask us what if this happens?
What is an example of her worrying?
When I was in high school, we were on a road trip coming back from Thanksgiving. The sliding door to our van fell off. It just came off it’s hinges when we tried to close it at the parking lot. So, we’re sitting in the restaurant trying to figure out how to get home.
This sounds like Little Miss Sunshine.
Yeah, it was totally like that! We’re trying to get home, and the only thing we can think of is for my dad and I do sit back there and hold on to it while my mom drives. My mom is horrified, but she can’t think of anything else. We convinced her to do a test drive in the parking lot of the Arby’s, but she wouldn’t let my grandma sit in the car while she’s going five miles an hour. We eventually convinced my mom that we can get on the highway, but she refused to go faster than 30 miles an hour. My sister and I found this situation hilarious, and were cracking jokes about it. That just made my mom more upset, and she said, “Ryan, Lindsay, this is not funny! We’re going to hit a bump, and then it’s going to take the door off, and it’s going to take Phil with it, and then we’re going to run over Phil, and then we’re going to cause an accident!” This of course made my sister and I laugh more, which caused my mom to get more upset. So that’s an example of how my mom worries, but we find it endearing.
Has she had a lot to be worried about during her lifetime?
My mom got sick a few years ago. I found out that something was wrong with her because my cousin posted something on facebook asking for prayer for his aunt. I was calling everyone trying to get through to anyone, and eventually I got a hold of my dad. He told me that my mom was in the hospital because she was acting weird. The way she was speaking wasn’t making sense. My mom had been sick and they thought it was the flu, but on the second day, she started sounding kind of funny. When she was at the hospital, nothing seemed wrong with her, and the doctor gave the discharge orders for her. But then my mom had a hard time recognizing my dad, and they decided to keep her overnight for tests. She continued to get worse and she wasn’t completely in touch with reality. Her job was in patient financial services in a hospital, and she worked with patient bills. While she was sick, she kept inserting the words “health insurance” into conversations where it didn’t make sense. They tested for many things, but it ended up that it was the herpes simplex virus, which is the same virus that gives you cold sores. In this case, the virus went to her brain, and she developed encephalitis. Fortunately she was treated early. Some people permanently lose their short term memory, but she isn’t like that. If she had gone home that first night, things would have turned out a lot worse. All of this made it clear to us how much we value her. She does have some permanent effects. Her memory isn’t as good as it used to be. She’s always been a worrier, but she worries even more.
About you or herself?
About everything. She was worried about her job, and keeping her job. She was on short term disability and came back after six months, but she struggled when she came back, and so ultimately she went on long term disability. Her job was always stressful, so in a way, it has been good for her. It’s definitely been a blessing that she hasn’t had to work, because her brother has had bladder cancer, and before she got sick, she had done a lot to take care of him. He’s single, never married. But after she didn’t go back to work, his health deteriorated, and he needed more day to day care. He once even fell asleep at the wheel because of his medication, and he had to move in with my parents temporarily. If she wasn’t around then, I don’t know how the family would have managed. Essentially she retired early, and she’s been able to be there for more people.
How does all this affect your mindset?
As someone who works in international development, it makes me think about the consequences of getting a job abroad. With my parents getting older, it’s definitely something to keep in mind. In high school I travelled a lot doing missions trips, and that is when I started falling in love with the world. I didn’t want to be a missionary, but in college I became interested in international development.
Are you more interested in policy making, or are you more interested in being out there?
I’m more interested in field work. I’m on the very last steps of applying to business schools. I’ve gotten decisions from schools, and now need to make a decision of where. I’m interested in developing business in Africa. It could be in so many things - technology, energy, agriculture, consumer goods.
Which area of Africa?
East Africa is my area of expertise. I would like to utilize my experience and knowledge of Africa, since many companies are interested in entering african markets, but don’t have an idea of how to. I can see myself working for a multinational or consulting company that helps other companies. Development is trying to get countries to a point where they can engage in trade, and there is a lot of critique within Africa that says development can be paternalistic. There is so much potential - it’s the last untapped market, and Africans want to trade and work, not be a charity case.
Any last thoughts on your mom?
She's made a ton of sacrifices day-to-day to serve her family and has enabled my sister and I to pursue our passions around the world, even though our adventures may worry her at times. Her sickness only magnified to us how important she is to us, and it taught us the importance of community, as we had lots of friends and family help us out and support us during that time. She's changed since she got sick- she's now even more sincere. And without needing to fill her day with a day job - that stressed her out - she now can focus her time and energy even more so on serving and encouraging others.