Dear Kate

“The effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts.” – George Eliot, “Middlemarch” (book)

I met Kate in 2011 a year after I moved back to Boston for a new job. I was still looking for new friends and activities in Boston, so I started revamping the windsurfing community at MIT. Kate showed up to one of the events at the MIT Sailing Pavilion with her contagious bundle of energy as usual and I instantly wanted to be her friend. She was one of the few experienced windsurfers, which meant that we could go on advanced trips together outside of MIT. After meeting her that first time, I realized that her name sounded very familiar. The next day at work, as I flipped through my notes from a recent energy conference (NESEA), there was Kate’s picture front and center. She was featured as one of the standout Women in Energy. I was starstruck–I had become friends with one of the most influential women in the industry!

Over the next few months, Kate and I hung out often. We went on a couple of windsurfing trips and we met up with other folks to party, to gossip, to play basketball, to talk about life, and to help others with their life troubles. She invited me to work out with her, sometimes at the MIT gym and sometimes at South Boston Yoga. One night coming back from yoga, she told us about a women’s conference that she had gone to the year before. It wasn’t a feminist movement or anything; it was simply a bunch of women from all walks of life telling stories. The experience deeply inspired her and she wished to share that sense of empowerment with people in her daily life.

That was when she started a group called Powerhouse Women. She emailed all the women she knew from all her circles and set up a monthly get together where she would cook dinner for us. Not only was Kate’s cooking always amazing, Powerhouse was a space to tell stories and chat about anything–relationships, career, family, success, or just pure gossip.

Kate was best at bringing people together. Last year, just before I set off on my big adventure, she helped prepare board games and dinner for my going away party, and she and her mother insisted that they would pay for the food. Even though I was intensely nervous about the trip, she was so excited for me and often expressed her support for what I was doing.

A week later, I had set off into rural Turkey when the Boston bombings happened. It was April 19; Sean had lost his life and night had fallen around me. I stopped in the village of Incir, knowing that I needed to be around people even if they didn’t speak the same language. The locals allowed me to set up camp under a small tin roof. Teenage boys kicked around a deflated soccerball. The villagers were kind and invited me for tea. But when the moment came to crawl back into the tent alone, there was nothing left to distract me from reality; I couldn’t fall asleep, haunted by the bombings and the details of Sean’s death. At a loss for what to do, I texted Kate, but did not expect to hear back from her because international texts are always unreliable. To my surprise, Kate responded within seconds and Skype-called my cell phone. Our chat was brief, but she gave me an update about things in Boston, and suddenly I didn’t seem so far away anymore.

Kate wasn’t the kind of person that you would have long conversations with since she could never sit still, but Kate had this uncanny ability to talk to anyone and everyone. She could befriend a homeless guy and a CEO in the same breath, and make them feel at ease in the presence of each other. Her comments were always smart, funny, and well-spoken. That was the quality that I most admired about her. Yet, she always assured me that I was just as good as talking to people as she was. Sometimes, she came off as an intense person with her busy schedule, loud voice, and steadfast opinions. But if you got to know her, you realized that she always used her abundance of energy to check up on everyone she knew and make sure they were OK–an amazing feat, given she was so well-connected that she practically knew everyone.

While I was still in Boston from January to April earlier this year, Kate and I had study dates together. I went back to Providence with her to see her family and get away from the stress of MIT. Everyday, I would send resumes and look for jobs, while she tried desperately to make headway in her research. She was deeply struggling with her PhD to the point of breakdowns everyday, but whenever she looked over, she would smile, ask me how the job search was going and whether she could help. She would email her connections to see if they could provide leads for me; when I had my phone interviews, she would talk about it with me, always cheering me on that I would find the best job ever. Though I would often feel a lack of confidence, she would always tell me that I was smart and capable, especially in moments when I felt most inadequate.

In our youth, our ability to remain carefree is held together by some basic beliefs–the belief that we and our friends won’t die young, that our daughters will outlive our mothers. We set off on our adventures with wide eyes and free spirits knowing that we will come back safe. How, then can we be young and carefree anymore? How can we believe anymore when our very faith in humanity, in justice, in living is violently torn apart?

Some might feel our loss is proof that the world is unfair and unsafe to venture out into. But I think that would be entirely missing the point. If there is anything Kate has taught us, it is to brave the world. To be fierce, the way Kate played basketball surrounded by guys that were six feet tall. To attack life with energy, vivacity, kindness, and purpose. We live–and believe–so that we may carry on her dreams.

In loving memory of Kate Goldstein: http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2014/06/23/kaitlin-goldstein-brilliant-scholar-and-authority-renewable-energy/DuNua374HZvePOLFLJi7gK/story.html

Carry on Kate’s legacy: Bring about acts of kindness everyday with #kindnessforkate or contribute to Kate’s fund in the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association

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