The day I received my formal confirmation in the mail that told me The Smile Project was an official nonprofit organization, recognized by the state of New York, I stared at the letter for about ten minutes. I texted my usual accomplices and my family and then went out to eat fancy ice cream with my roommates and friends.
Later that week, when most everyone was either out or in their rooms, I sat on the covered radiator in our living room, leaning against the window. In the cold months, it was my favorite place to be as you could pad it with pillows and blankets and have a cozy spot for reading, writing, or just thinking—which is what I happened to be doing that night.
My roommate, a person I had known since middle school in Pennsylvania, walked in and we started talking about The Smile Project becoming a nonprofit and a recent huge professional success they had achieved.
In some ways, we were both recognizing the hugeness of accomplishing something we’d been working toward most of our lives.
Are you nervous? I asked them. It’s just. It seems like this is such a big deal and what if we let people down or what if we can’t keep up with it? This is a pivotal moment. From now on, you’re this person who has done this thing. And from now on, The Smile Project is a real nonprofit. And it’s just a lot to think about.
I wrote the first part (what you just read) one evening while I was waiting for a friend time zones away to video call me to catch up. They rang and I closed out of my blog document, unsure of how I was going to tie the above into a clean ending, realizing how, at the end of the above conversation, I still went to bed unsure and a little nervous. Then, as my friend and I were speaking, he handed me my conclusion:
While catching up about our lives and sharing celebration at professional and personal goals we’d both recently achieved, my friend looked at me and said, We did it.
They recounted to me that about a year ago, we had been talking about how we wanted something we both now had. I smiled while they spoke, perpetually filled with an overwhelming sense of gratitude.
Then it hit me. This time, I wasn’t afraid. Sure, I could still mess up. Absolutely, things can—and will—still fall apart sometimes. But overall, I was more prepared and confident and excited than anything else.
There was too much joy to allow room for fear.
The work begins. The work remains. There will always be projects to explore, programs to develop, and areas to grow. But there will also be little moments… like the one the other night where I sat criss-cross applesauce on my bed smiling at a friend an ocean away and feeling really proud of how far we’d come. No nerves in sight.