The Peace Corps Volunteer Inspired by Angelina Jolie
Travel Blog • Jim Benning • 01.19.11 | 2:01 PM ET
Sean Smith is leaving his job as a writer at Entertainment Weekly to join the Peace Corps. Why?
As he writes in The Daily Beast, he was tiring of his job covering the entertainment industry when he traveled to India to interview Angelina Jolie.
A reported 43 percent of Mumbai’s 18 million people live in slums, and the depth of poverty is soul-sickening. By the time I met with Jolie, I felt raw and rattled, and I was eager to learn how she coped with this kind of suffering in her role as a U.N. ambassador. She said it was painful, yes, but it wasn’t debilitating because she was active. Her work was bringing attention to crises in the world. “If I couldn’t do that, I don’t know how I’d be around it, because I’d feel helpless,” she told me as we drove through the city. “You know, we all go through stages in our life where we feel lost, and I think it all comes down to having a sense of purpose. When I was famous for just being an actress, my life felt very shallow. Then when I became a mom and started working with the U.N., I was happy. I could die and feel that I’d done the right things with my life. It’s as simple as that.”
As a rule, I don’t ask celebrities for advice about anything, save hotels and restaurants, and I didn’t exactly race home and quit my job. But Jolie’s insight stuck with me, and over the next few years, as my ambivalence about my career deepened, I realized that she had provided me with an answer. I had absolute freedom. If I was willing to make a few sacrifices, I could find my sense of purpose and engage myself in work that would feel meaningful to me and be helpful to others.