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.

4 Comments for The Peace Corps Volunteer Inspired by Angelina Jolie

Terry Ward 01.19.11 | 8:20 PM ET

This made me happy. Thanks.

John at ALB 01.20.11 | 5:33 AM ET

I don’t know but Jolie is one of the few people who inspires me every time they opened their mouth. I remember when she wrote that “if we all do small thinks, we can do big!” And she’s right, sometimes, you need to learn and do things the hard way to gain what you really want. And it’s not just about money or fame, it’s about how you made a difference.

Emme 01.20.11 | 10:43 PM ET

Angelina is the only person in Hollywood I can relate to. She travels to places most people would refuse to set foot, she engages with and listens to some of the poorest people on the planet, she’s smart, interested in world politics, and does something meaningful with her outrageously inflated salary. Well done, AJ!

Colleen Friesen 02.24.11 | 1:50 AM ET

What an inspiring story. Thank you for sharing this story. There is always so much hype and spin around celebrities and it’s refreshing to read something ‘real’. Thanks.

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