How to date a change-maker*

The sun was setting down over the dunes in Papamoa in New Zealand´s Bay of Plenty. It had been romantic evening – one of the evenings you have to pinch yourself to realize it was real. After a walk on the beach, we were having a picnic in the sand, hidden away from the curious eyes of the other beach bums. The guy I had just met a few days before kissed and cuddled me. All worries in the world did not matter in that very moment…. You get the picture.

“Do you want to change the world with me?”, he suddenly asked, looking into my eyes. What?!

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Dunes in the twillight of beautiful New Zealand.

I should have run. Well, I did not. Instead, I blinked twice, closed my eyes and stuttered … attention, the following sentence might sound pathetic, but it´s nothing but the truth: “That´s exactly what I´ve always wanted to hear”, I said and added, “but I don´t know if I am strong enough.”

Almost twelve months later, I still don´t know if I am.

All the numerous girlfriends, wives, boyfriends, husbands and partners of change-makers – in Hindsight, they were witnesses of amazing times in the past. They were right there when history was shaped. The names of their partners and their achievements are taught all over the world and known by everyone. But what about their names and their stories? Have you ever thought of how they have experienced these times? Were they aware of the importance of what went on and what their partner would achieve?

These are the questions that come to my mind more often recently. Even though, I´ve written about change-makers all the way through my journalistic career, I was not prepared for having a change-maker as a partner. (And potentially becoming one myself I suppose). Writing about change-makers and inspiring others through articles is one thing, dating and loving one is complete different story, that much I can say.

Chantal van Kempen found 16 common characteristics in interviews with several change-makers. My particular change-maker (aka T.A.) wasn´t among them, but well could have been as he fits in all the boxes. As fascinating, inspiring and great these characteristics might be from the distance, and as much I fell in love with them, some of them provide for challenges in a relationship.

Here are a couple of them you might want to know before dating a change-maker:

Self-knowledge and confidence: Change-makers know themselves and the goal they work towards.” You want to have your own goals, maybe goals that are not consistent with the one of the change-maker? Well, better step back because with their higher vision, their drive to do something for the good of others and their mission to achieve their goals, one has to step back – and it will not be them. This said, it was quite fortunate, that T.A. and I shared a set of values and decided very early on that we wanted to work together on our project Nomad Ocean.

“Flexible & open-minded: They don’t fight change but embrace it.”
Sounds great but it also means that planning is not an option: Our days are spontaneous and you hardly ever know what will happen. Go with the flow, my change-maker calls it and most of the time, it feels like living in line with nature (something, a sailor has to learn anyway). As exciting this approach is, it really freaks me out at times: Initially, we had planned to start Nomad Ocean in October. The time for preparation though was consumed by working on court cases about marine restoration and marine protection areas my change-maker has been involved for years. And if there was no preparation for the cases, there were invitations to workshops, talks, conferences… great opportunities to share the vision about marine protection and change the world. Opportunities you cannot miss. As a consequence, we had to postpone the starting date of the trip countless times. No problem if there were not partners and media involved which I had eagerly promised to deliver material to: “Hey guys, we´re starting in 10 days”. A couple of hours later: “Oops, sorry, something came up. It will be … I-don´t-know-when.” Not the most professional approach. The final court case is supposed to be over in two weeks. Then, Kahu is finally coming out of the water for her antifouling. The new starting date is the 12th of December. At least, this is the plan. For now.

“Paradigm shifters & good people skills: The things change-makers do are often means to achieve their goal. This goals is to change the mindset of other people. by changing peoples view of the world they change their reality.” There are several characteristics combined that lead to one thing: When your change-maker and you meet others, you might as well just hide in a corner and observe from the distance. When we´re at a business meeting or party, T.A. literally talks to anyone, gives them all his attention and focus to share his idea and get input from them. Who knows, it could be the next follower, the next enabler of change. They hang on his lips (okay, he´s rather tall, so they have to look up automatically) and probably fall in love with him with every word he says. Jealous? Better not. You cannot really blame them for it anyways… it happened to you too.

Change is coming - indicates the Barometer.
Change is coming – indicates the barometer on Kahu.

“Passionately: Change-makers work with passion and pleasure.” As a freelancer and independent journalist, I know the lack of boundaries between private and professional life quite well. With change-makers it´s different though. They live their passion and pleasure. Work is their life. Life is their work. Therefor, the amount of work they are willing to put into it, is incredible. If you expect to be their number one passion or to have their full attention, you are bound to be disappointed: They will turn around in the blink of an eye, drop you and everything else for that matter, if something comes up that they believe help them change the world.

*So how to date a change-maker (without losing your mind)? 

  • Fully believe and share their dreams
  • Be willing to give up your own aspirations – at least for a while
  • Don´t expect to be number one in their lives but be their rock 
  • And, maybe most of all, enjoy the opportunity to explore how strong you really are.

It is a hell of a ride but I do not regret being a part of it.
It certainly keeps on changing my world. 

PS: There´s another characteristic of change-makers according to Chantal van Kempens interviews: “Modest: Most change-makers do not see themselves as change-makers but as people who just do their thing.” – another one, that describes my partner perfectly.

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