For his fortieth birthday, Mike Iskandar ’97 gave himself a unique gift: time travel.
Instead of creating a time machine to traverse the years of his life, Mike spent the year leading up to his 40th birthday interviewing 40 Friends School community members from ages 1 to 40. This was his way of traveling back in time to the person he was at each phase of his past.
“I wanted to relive every age of my life so far by traveling back in time and exploring my own past,” says Mike. “I sat down with each participant—future CFS students, current students, and former students—and asked the question, ‘What is it like to be the age that you are?’”
This “magical” experience provided him with insight into the power of exploring who we were in our past and how that can help us understand who we are and who we want to be. Finding the process healing and powerful, he wanted to share the experience with middle schoolers.
The simple acts of settling-in, settling-out, and doing weekly Meeting for Worship in silence — having that time to reflect on yourself and your life — that's a huge building block for this type of work,” he said. “Wanting to serve and to throw myself into this journey to self-exploration and self-discovery and bring others along is something that Friends School shaped.
“I immediately gravitated back to Carolina Friends School, because of the support and the love that I got from this school and this community growing up, starting at age 12 all the way through graduation,” he says. “This school planted the seeds for me to know that I could always come back to them and always have a place to share my ideas and to be supported.”
He says it was powerful to reconnect with teachers, such as Ida Trisolini and Henry Walker, who had taught him more than 25 years ago and then welcomed him back with open arms.
After the initial project, Mike then created an elective class for the Middle School in which students looked back into the past and also explored the future. With a “cool” name to appeal to middle schoolers, Time Travel Journeys was born in the winter trimester of 2019-2020.
“It is a social-emotional learning program that guides kids on an exploration of the best qualities of their past and their future selves and how those qualities can uplift their present sense of self,” says Mike.
A resounding success, the elective led to other Carolina Friends offerings, including Summer Programs sessions, a workshop for 44 Upper School students, and a program to train five Middle School teachers to bring this program to all 150 middle school students. He also presented a TEDxNCState talk, My Other Car is a Time Machine: A Journey Back to Self-Compassion and has created Time Travel Journeys to work with other schools, businesses, and wellness and recovery groups.
“The source of strength, happiness, creativity and imagination comes from our past,” said Mike. “And there is so much power in our past and future selves—and the resources that we have within us—that are untapped.”
“As is true for many middle schoolers, Mike at that age had a lot of self-doubt working at him as he worked to define self," says Henry Walker. "His work now is culminating in adulthood with his Time Travel Journeys, seeking to help people connect all the sides of themselves: the hopeful early years, the challenges of adolescence, and the dreams of possibility that can open in the future. Mike is a gift to any who work with him.”
Mike says that his years at Carolina Friends School had a huge impact on his development of this project.
“The simple acts of settling-in, settling-out, and doing weekly Meeting for Worship in silence— having that time to reflect on yourself and your life—that's a huge building block for this type of work,” he said. “Wanting to serve and to throw myself into this journey to self-exploration and self-discovery and bring others along is something that Friends School shaped.”
For more information on Mike’s Time Travel Journeys program for schools, businesses, and individuals or to have him as a guest speaker, visit www.TimeTravelJourneys.com.