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Striving to Keep the Sun Shining Brightly

Friendship—Grace Martinez with her friends (l-r) Ayesha and Alea after supporting behind the scenes as Byakuren at the San Francisco Buddhist Center, November 2023.

This year, SGI-USA youth will hold chapter-level March Youth Peace Festivals with the determination to advance kosen-rufu in their local communities. The World Tribune is featuring chapter youth leaders and how they are applying Ikeda Sensei’s guidance to win where they are.

Ikeda Sensei’s Guidance: 

What’s important … is that you resolve to become the “sun.” … If you do so, all darkness will be dispelled. … No matter what happens, live confidently with the conviction that you are the sun.

Of course, in life there are sunny days and there are cloudy days. But even on cloudy days, the sun is still the sun. The same is true for people. Even if we are suffering, it is vital that we strive to keep the sun shining brightly in our hearts. (Discussions on Youth, p. 14)

by Grace Martinez
City Center Chapter Young Women’s Leader, San Francisco

A little over two years ago, I moved to San Francisco for my dream job at a prominent tech company. It felt like the peak of my career and an exciting launching point for my life.

But last year, after the company concluded a round of layoffs, rumors spread that it would continue to downsize. The anxiety and paranoia in the office was palpable—even more so when our team’s workload started to decrease noticeably.

Growing up, I saw my mom, a single mother, overcome many obstacles with her Buddhist practice. And through the years of developing my own practice and participating in SGI activities, I knew this was the time I needed to put up a fight and resolve to be the “sun” for everyone around me.

I believed this much: Challenging myself through SGI activities is the way to expand my life and advance toward victory. If I stayed passive, I could easily grow discouraged, too. So, I asked myself, What action could I take? I knew it came down to supporting behind the scenes as a member of the Byakuren, planting seeds of the Mystic Law and supporting other young women in their Buddhist practice.

Whatever fears Ikeda Sensei may have had as a youth, he always faced them head-on. I wanted to embody that same spirit. Although I didn’t feel fully capable of leading movements for the Byakuren, I took it on. And although I sometimes hesitated when it came to visiting other young women, I reached out anyway. I opened up about my struggles and brought Sensei’s guidance with me to share.

In May 2023, I was laid off with the entire team. But with the life condition I had sustained to that point, I found myself unfazed by the news. This layoff didn’t define me. Instead, I saw it as a benefit: I received a severance package, health insurance and a break from work as I embarked on my next chapter in life.

But, of course, reality caught up. With droves of people in the industry being laid off, it was a tough job market. Receiving rejection after rejection in my job hunt began taking its toll on my confidence. Here I was, going from a prominent company to getting rejected 100 times. Still, I kept my goal in sight and continued to chant abundant daimoku and make causes, this time toward the young women’s gathering in July 2023. 

Two months later, I received an out-of-the-blue email about a position I applied for a while back. It was a long interview process, but I stood my ground and negotiated for the position I’d set out for. I’m proud to say that I got the job with the compensation, title and role that I chanted for! While I may be the newest and youngest person on the team, I can substitute resilience for my lack of experience, advancing one step at a time toward the future.

Coming together for a young women’s division friendship gathering, San Francisco, July 2023.

Toward my chapter’s March Youth Peace Festival, I’m determined to bring five of my friends. With Sensei’s passing, I feel it’s up to us; it’s our responsibility, our pride, to show what the future can be. As a young women’s leader, I want to show what we’re made of and keep the SGI-USA fresh. 

On cloudy days, I keep in mind that the sun still shines. And I keep shining with the kind of optimism that confronts obstacles and fears head on. 

January 19, 2024, World Tribune, p. 9

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