It’s going to be an exciting month.
I’m going to be a bit off the grid for a bit, spending some time with family. My book will be released at the end of the month, culminating a year long project that taught me more than I can probably ever fully articulate. Another project is in the works, and if it gets accepted, will mean another year of work like this past one. But probably most intriguing, is an opportunity I have to bring a community of people together, to talk about what matters most to them.
I love having something to look forward to. I love dreams and plans and projects. But sometimes, it makes just as much sense to look behind ourselves and look at how we got to this point in our lives.
For me, my present life is the integral of everything I’ve done to date. Choices I’ve made and things I’ve been involved in before all add to my experience and world view. Disparate parts of my past, whether it’s spending time in a biology lab, learning to sequence DNA the old fashioned way, volunteering in an electron microscopy lab, going to law school and learning the rules of the game and how to articulate positions as well and precisely as you have to do in science, or learning that everything needs a little marketing from time to time, all of these things integrate and inform what I do every day.
From time to time, I worry my resume looks more like a potpourri than a linear planned sequence of events. I used to feel defensive of this, but now, I am proud that I have all of these diverse experiences to draw from, to inform my world view, and the perspective I bring to new problems and challenges. Instead of being a negative, this background means I understand many more people, and can help them with the knowledge I’ve accumulated along the way, sometimes like a lint brush, not really sure what I have in my bag of facts, but knowing it will all be useful someday.
Our lives are like artwork. What we’ve chosen to do and to work with is reflected in our lives and the canvasses or other memorabilia we leave behind. It’s another form of communication of who we are, beyond words or recordings or even writing- it’s like a movie, or a picture- another language for communicating what and whom we value most. And to make that artwork special, sometimes we have to not talk about it for a while, or even a really long time, so we can process and make meaning out of the pathways and choices we’ve made.
In the rush for the instantaneous online, we often forget that time and reflection will bring perspective, clarity, and maybe even a renewed sense of purpose. I think we spend so much time churning, spinning our wheels, thinking we’re moving forward, or even trying to run away from our pasts, only to find that they are still with us, always informing and changing us. Taking those moments to turn off the noise, to spend time in silence and really get in touch with ourselves can be as difficult as anything else.
I’ve learned from all the teachers I know that reflection is a key aspect of learning. Taking the facts and incorporating them into who you are, thinking and applying them when necessary, but also analyzing what you’ve learned and how you feel about it, is critical to learning and knowing. It’s this reflective time that helps us figure out who we are and who we want to be.
Don’t cheat yourself of this time. We all need it, and I promise you, quiet with yourself, living in the moment, will do you more good than any game of Angry Birds ever will.