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A personal story about a radical shift in perspective

Born in Tibet, Chime Dolma grew up in a nomadic herding family, with yaks, dris (female yaks), sheep, goats, and horses under her care. As a young child, she developed a deep connection to the animals. The natural world was her classroom, Mother Nature her teacher. “I spent my childhood on the mountains and had many mountains to myself. I could talk to the mountains and to the rivers. It gave me a deep sense of freedom and liberty.”

Chime loved nature, but when she was in her teens, she watched some of the kids from town walk to school and began to think, “Oh, I wish I could have their life.” Nomadic life gave her the ability to exist in a certain way, but it was also tough on a young person. She had to wake before sunrise and not get to sleep until nine or ten in the evening after a day of physically strenuous work. She never had the opportunity to attend school in Tibet; she first learned to read and write in India, after having to uproot her life and immerse herself in a different cultural, linguistic, and religious environment. “I think my imagination as a child was quite different. I followed that imagination and now live quite the opposite life that I had before.”

After a year in India, she moved with her family to New York, first settling in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, before attending Middlebury College in Vermont. It was a difficult but rewarding journey. “I believe I was drawn to education, and am an educator today, because of my deep connection to the Tibetan community,” Chime says. In graduate school, this connection to her Tibetan heritage made her question her place in the world because she felt a huge responsibility to do something about the plight of Tibetans. At the same time, she read books that discussed the danger of having a single story and clinging to one particular identity. These concurrent ideas propelled Chime “to think deeply about who I am and what it means to be part of a shared humanity.” She dedicated herself to helping Tibetans who are struggling or don’t have the same access to educational opportunities or even health care that she had.

Chime doesn’t have all the answers yet, but community and identity are ideas she continues to explore as she asks herself, “How can I best serve a larger purpose in the world?”

About the Contributors

Chime Dolma is the cofounder and president of YindaYin Coaching, a nonprofit organization that primarily serves immigrant communities in New York by focusing on community empowerment, education, and mentorship. She is an educator and currently works as the director of global studies and a history teacher at Riverdale Country School. Chime also serves on the advisory council of the Rubin Museum.

Howard Kaplan is an editor and writer who helped found Spiral magazine in 2017. He currently works at the Smithsonian and divides his time between Washington, DC, and New York City.

Image Credit 

IMAGINE (a.k.a. Sneha Shrestha) is a Nepali artist who incorporates her native language and the aesthetics of Sanskrit scriptures into her work. Her art has been featured in several exhibitions, and her public walls appear across the world from Kathmandu to Boston. The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, recently acquired her painting Home416, making her the first contemporary Nepali artist to be part of the museum’s collection. Sneha received her master’s from Harvard University.


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