I’m going to tell you a story. I’ve told it before. And it’s not life changing to anyone else but me. But it is important. It is how I developed compassion and humility. It is how I became me.

The Moment That Made The Millennial | Part 1

I’m going to tell you a story. I’ve told it before. And it’s not life changing to anyone else but me. It’s how I became the me that I call myself today. The one I refer to that will do anything for something she believes in. The one that timidly shares her problems of anxiety with a group of friends she first met over the internet. The one that’s always churning in the background, regardless of what me is showing at the front. It’s the me that makes my eyes tear up to think about.


Fall of 2011 I moved into a dorm on the beautiful campus of Virginia Tech. I had gotten credit already for most required core classes, but I still needed something for Area 7: Critical Issues in Global Context. I signed up for a class called World Regions. Now, history and social studies have never been my strong point. How am I supposed to remember the leader of every major country in the world if I can’t even remember what I ate for dinner last night, and I forget the word “strainer” when trying to tell my mom what I need from the cupboard?


True story, I actually forgot that word tonight just a couple hours before I wrote this.


But I signed up for the course because I heard it was easy, had 3,000 students in it, and the professor was a baffling mix of humor and offensiveness that drove around in plaid Scion xB. This is the girl I was. Normal. I had my own problems and quirks like anyone else. I was introverted, quiet, a little nerdy, and took art classes outside of school. Even on the weekends. But I had a normal middle and high school experience.


Life changed me towards the beginning of the end of my first semester in college. It was a movie. (If that’s not of sign of the millennial age, I don’t know what is). Professor Boyer of that very World Regions class convinced me (and probably at least 1,000 more of us) with extra points to come see a screening of a movie. He did this thing where he showed screenings of movies about other cultures and countries for extra points in the class if we attended, probably in an efforts to try and “globalize us” or something. Funny I’d be looking back at that four years later, teary-eyed and eternally grateful that he ruined my life in the best way possible. And to think I almost didn’t go.


IC Screening with Jason Russell | "The Moment That Made Me | Part 1" | by South Ranch Creative | www.southranchcreative.beccagrogan.com


The film shown that night was called “Tony,” and it was shown by a group of weird looking things… err I mean, people… called “roadies” that drove all the way from California (one from Uganda) for a nonprofit called Invisible Children. Invisible Children is a millennial generation nonprofit that exists to stop a rebel group in central Africa called the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and their leader, Joseph Kony, from committing terrible atrocities and human rights abuses, which they have been doing now for over 20 years.


Please watch. If you’ve seen it before, watch. If you’ve never even heard of Invisible Children or Joseph Kony before, please. Watch. I can’t promise it won’t ruin you. And I can’t promise you’ll care. But I did and I did with such a fury and a passion that I can’t not use every opportunity I have to try and convince others to do the same.




After the movie, there was a presentation about what Invisible Children was and a discussion with a young Ugandan who had been directly affected by the conflict. I can’t say I remember the words they said. I can’t remember the ones that struck my heart with such force, I was shaken and lost of strength. But I remember standing back up. It’s funny, actually. That I just kept standing up. Tears in my eyes, gripping the seat in front of me for balance, I just kept standing up in the middle of the room, while the roadies were still presenting. Good thing I was in the back, because I’m sure people were staring at me. The film, the talk, the staggering realization that this was going on in today’s world, that people weren’t stopping them, that people my age and younger were facing the worst human rights abuses imaginable was just more than my mind could bear. It’s like my body knew that I needed to do something that instance to help the cause, but my mind, in its utter astonishment, just hadn’t caught up yet.


Once the presentation ended, and I figured out how to move my legs again, I started to act. I immediately joined the Frontline, a campaign to raise $2 million in four months for Invisible Children’s Protection Plan. I organized a team in my dorm to raise even though there were only a couple of weeks of the tour left. I was a leader for the first time in my life, it was terrifying and humbling and exhausting. But I did because I wanted to, I needed to. Me, the definition of “that quiet art kid”, wanted to be a leader so that I could share a story that was bigger and more important than myself.  That sort of feeling only comes around a few times in a lifetime.


Young millennial repping the new IC@VT shirt | "The Moment That Made Me | Part 1" | by South Ranch Creative | www.southranchcreative.beccagrogan.com


This was only the beginning. It was a seed and a spark. A moment. I happened to be there and it changed me forever. But this was only the beginning.


Stay tuned for The Moment That Made Me: Part 2 to see how this spark brought me to life. In the meantime, I’ll be back there reliving all my best and hardest and most inspiring memories since then and trying to pretend I’m not crying at something ridiculous.


Keep taking action and stay true to yourself.


Have you ever lost hope in and felt like quitting your business, individual, or volunteer endeavors? I have too. Here's what to do about it.

What to Do When You’ve Lost Hope

As a business, individual, or volunteer

One of my favorite things about forward-thinking, millennial age nonprofits is that they have this unyielding energy and positivity about their cause. Disappearing are the days of showing a sad dog to sad music on television to guilt viewers into donating. Disappearing are the endless charades of phone calls and letters and “free” calendars. We have learned that people react to positivity and passion over scare-tactics and guilt trips.


“People are tired of being asked to do the least they can do. They are hungry to do the most they can do.” -Dan Pallotta at Fourth Estate Leadership Summit 2013


I am so excited to be living on Earth during this time when people are excited to do good, get involved in global issues, and make change. Startups, crowdfunding campaigns, and small nonprofits are popping up across my news feed every day, and at first they made me feel like I could do anything I set my heart to. I saw the wild success of Invisible Children’s viral video, Kony 2012, and believed with all my heart that I could do that too. With my own passion, I could start a fire.

In the time since then, I’ve started, become a leader of, or become a part of many ventures. I became co-president of my college Invisible Children club. I started a campaign selling my arts and crafts to raise money for charities. I planned a cross-country road trip with my high school best friend. I joined a friend to help her start a nonprofit for kids in foster homes. I planned with another group an organization that would teach young people how to become active global citizens. I became head graphic designer as a volunteer for a digital magazine devoted to telling worthwhile and relevant stories while giving back to charities. I started an Etsy shop and blog about the creative lifestyle.

As a self-proclaimed introvert and a generally anxious human being, I was so proud of myself for these things that I did. They took courage. They took stepping outside my comfort zone. But let me tell you what happened. The Invisible Children club slowly lost interest during my term and ceased to exist by only one semester after I stepped down as co-president. I stopped selling my crafts because I didn’t know how to continue and grow it into a real, legal business. We had to cancel our cross country road trip for money and scheduling problems. My friend decided the nonprofit was something that we would have to hold off on. The educational organization started seeming “too far-fetched” and “not the right time” and “maybe not a good idea,” and slowly disappeared into the dust.

The magazine and my Etsy shop–my newest endeavors–are still active, but I can’t help but lose hope sometimes during the times we are struggling. And with a new business or venture of any kind, you probably know that struggles aren’t hard to come by. I think to myself, is it worth it? Am I cut out to do this? Doubt creeps into my mind. Am I doing this right? Can I make it out of the rut? I want to run back to a 9-5 job and some stability. Why is this not working? Why won’t anyone help me?


You may know these feelings. Whether for a business, individual endeavor, or volunteer/activist cause, you may be feeling your own creeping sense of doubt. Sometimes it’s hard to look back at your past failures and say, “This has helped me grow.This has taught me these lessons.” instead of “I can’t do this now because I have failed so many times before.” To me, saying this is so hard because although my past failures have helped me learn and grow, a big part of me still knows that my natural state is not that of a leader. It’s not 10 miles out of my comfort zone or knowledge range. I don’t feel comfortable there. The odds are against me in these new endeavors and positive thinking alone isn’t going to make me succeed.


So what then, do you do when you’ve lost hope? Ask yourself what you’re losing. If it’s a business venture, are you losing money? Are you losing valuable time? Are you losing yourself? Look deeply at these losses and weigh them against your initial reasons for starting your endeavor. Many times I find that my losses aren’t actually so bad after all. I was upset because I was not succeeding. If you are simply not succeeding yet, then there is no reason to give up. Without any or substantial loss, your endeavor still has great value to you. After all, you started at zero, right?


Recognizing that I am just not doing as well as I had envisioned is an incredibly powerful tool to bring back my energy, focus, and dedication to a cause. It is my habit (and I’m sure a lot of yours as well) to have way higher expectations and goals for myself than I would have for someone else. So cut yourself a break. Look back at your expectations and think, I may not have met my goals yet, but here is what I have done and here is what I’ve learned. Because if I continue to learn more about my cause, continue to produce quality content, and continue to push my boundaries, I know that I will be able to grow and succeed and get better. It may happen slowly. I may later evaluate that my losses have become too high. But they are not that way today, and that is why I can keep going.

Keep dreaming,