NATHAN WILLIAM MEYER
I never went to an ivy league school, but I’ve been around the world a few times and the fifty or so countries I’ve known were, as Melville once said of whale ships, my Yale College and my Harvard. Growing up on the highways of the American West and a semester in London led to learning languages in Europe and Latin America, then a handful of madcap adventures around six continents. I read histories and saw where it happened and what happened after. I learned to rely on myself, hone my instincts, trust my gut. I got to see Everest and Machu Picchu, rode a motorcycle from the Pacific Coast to the Mississippi River, and once jumped on a midnight train without knowing if it was heading to Delhi or Calcutta and knew either way was the right direction. It was rough and tumble adventuring full of street food, mosquito nets, squat toilets and saltwater showers, frozen Himalayan camps and lost coastlines. It was living in the dog-eared pages of the National Geographics I’d read as a kid.
Cameras connected me to the world. For three years I crossed hemispheres with a beat-up dSLR and a couple lenses as a photojournalist and international affairs writer. I shared stories on ethnic minorities and humanitarian issues in Asia, but I also covered resource development and camel wrestling. I've a tendency to run towards loud noises and found my share of protests, violent crackdowns, and peddled a rickshaw through kilometers of burning tire barricades. I won a few awards, my work was featured in a lot of international publications, but that doesn't matter much in the big scheme. I saw the world with purpose, appreciated lives of strangers, shared their faces and stories the best I could.
Most lives have event horizons; mine came in China lecturing at an American university outside a city that made shoes and things that are not shoes. Returning to the classroom was a homecoming and a beginning. China led to lecturing at universities in the Balkans and Eastern Europe as a US State Dept. English Language Fellow. I gave keynotes, presented at conferences from Budapest to Tbilisi, and trained hundreds of teachers. I developed and ran media literacy programs for US embassies in Slovakia and Ukraine and in the Balkans I founded an EFL organization promoting peace through literary arts. Education bridges hereditary conflicts even if the abstract identities of religions and nationalities can seem more immovable than Pristina, Tiraspol, and other concrete places. Nights working in cafes, frozen classrooms, overnight buses and airports leading to auditoriums, slides, and a microphone. It pulls you forward with a self-perpetuating gravity.
Somewhere along the way I found out the strenuous life isn’t found in ruts of the well-worn road where the appearance of accomplishment is accepted in lieu of the same. Instead, it holds the unexamined life isn’t worth living and the unlived life isn’t worth examining. There’s something to be said for hard work and hardship that builds a personal philosophy that isn’t prescribed for the applause of social media where the easy life is synonymous with the good life and movement with action. The strenuous life shows mind and body there’s no virtue in comfort and considers failure a more honest teacher than success. It adapts, grows, welcomes challenge, accepts the world as it is and works hard to make it a bit better.