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The Art of Change community

The Art of Change (AOC) community is a blog and podcast series. The blog highlights stories to arm people to change their own lives and communities.The podcast is of interviews with game changers, and uncovers the story behind their work. AOC gives people tools to create change in their own lives, communities, and industries.

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The following is the back story, explaining why I got into this...

It's an intense story. Right now it's on the AOC website. I'm not sure whether to keep it and include it as the back story or not.

I can take any and all feedback, so please feel free!

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As a teenager, I spent long nights and weekends drinking, doing drugs, and wandering through each day as it came. I was lucky to have parents who supported me through that dark period.

It got darker in January, 2006. My best friend Rishi and I drove home to play video games. The class I should've been in was not as important. Light rain coated the roads that Wednesday afternoon. I sped along, with Rishi following close behind.

I kept close track of Rishi's BMW. I glanced in my rearview mirror. My mouth dropped as he lost control of his car. It skid sideways on the road. It crossed into the oncoming lanes. Rishi's car smashed into two oncoming cars.

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That afternoon I sat alone in a jail cell. One thought repeated itself.

You killed your best friend.

Other thoughts floated in and out. You don't deserve to wear a turban. You don't deserve the love and support of your parents. You don't deserve the support of the Sikh community. You look like a Sikh. But you're nothing. Is this how you repay the people who believed in you?

Those 28 hours in jail sunk me into a dark pit. I convinced myself I killed my best friend. A kid competely my opposite. The gem of everyone's hearts. And I stole him from them.

Images of his mother's face flashed before my eyes.

I played out the scene from earlier that day...

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The officer led me out the hospital doors. His handcuffs scraped againt my wrists. I glanced up to see Rishi's mom approach me.

"Sukhneet, where's Rishi?" She asked. I looked down.

"Sukhneet, son, where's Rishi?" Tears streamed down my face. I shook my head.

She turned to the officer. "Where's my son?" He said nothing.

She pointed to me. "Why do you have him in handcuffs? What happened to my son? Where are you taking Sukhneet?"

The officer gave nothing. The law prevented him from consoling her. I saw sadness soften his face. He put me in the back of the car, got in the driver's seat, and drove off.

I turned to see Rishi's mom wander by herself. "Oh God, oh my God... Oh God..." Her voice trailed off. I cried.

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Two members from the community posted the $100,000 bail. I collapsed into my family's arms when I got out. I cried for hours.

The only words I could manage were "I killed Rishi..." and "I'm so sorry."

Needless to say I blamed myself for his death. I still do, sometimes. 

In the years that followed, support from his family and the community allowed me to pick myself back up.

Since then I got admission into the University of Washington, got into a top-20 law school, and tutored dozens of people to do the same. The journey took me from Seattle, through the foothills of the Himalayas, to Minneapolis and Fargo, and then back to Seattle. It led me to put law school on pause last March to start a business. It failed.

The last stop was the Patterns school in Wilmington, NC. Through intens sessions, Josh Long and other students helped me realize what I needed to do.

Thus, the Art of Change community was born. 

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