I recently had the honor and privilege of being selected as a representative of the Greek-American diaspora this summer through the project “Greeks Gone West”. Produced by the US Embassy of Athens and distributed through Kathimerini newspaper and Mosaiko.gr, the videos showcase a wildly unique and diverse variety of Greek Americans who have made, or are in the process of making a difference in their respective fields.
After receiving an invitation shortly after Hello Anatolia premiered at the American College of Athens, Deree, I quickly organized my schedule to make time to do the interview because I knew it would hold great meaning for me as a Greek American. As luck would have it, I ended up being the very first interviewee of the project, beginning its production in no other place than Astoria, Queens; my other home.
And all I could think of was the great lesson I learned along the way: to take chances. As in the interview with George Kotsiopoulos states, “Say yes to everything, because you never know what great things may come.” The Pappas Post’s own Gregory Pappas continues intimately with his description of Pericles “What we leave behind is not etched in buildings, its embedded in the lives of others.”
After four years, I have people (often with either dumb-founded or grotesque faces) asking me why I took the risks I did, and I often think: If I had never said yes to the very first step back (moving to Izmir), I would never have discovered this wonderful city, never would have met the amazing community here, learned a new language, found my family’s villages, made a movie, traveled around Europe and the US, develop a teaching career, and eventually, become selected to represent my beloved Greek diaspora.
I write this with incredible humility because when I took the risks I took, I did it after being laid off from a “career job”, was two credit cards in the hole, and still paying off college debt. Incredibly dark times which still make me cringe. However, it was these times that shaped who I am today and who I will hopefully be tomorrow.
In essence, the metaphorical death of the old life in New York being reborn anew in Izmir has defined the meaning of being “Greek”. It’s an everlasting spirit that has been embedded in me by those who came before me. A deep heritage that seems to transcend time and space.
It’s my hope going forward to continue making my fellow Greeks and the diaspora, as well as my new Turkish–YES, TURKISH(!) family and community proud of the work we have collectively been accomplishing on both sides of the world.
So, to my fellow Greeks from wherever you come from. Think big, be different. Let the rest come as it may because the greatest thing that can come at the end of your life is that your memory will be made eternal through the work and vision you created.