03 December 2018

The problem with looking back and looking forward

I'm getting ready to leave North Carolina for California.  I started working for UC Davis last month.

The departure is bittersweet.  My daughter was born here. I benefitted immensely from a wife who was passionate about creating experiences for the whole family. I started a business. I worked on super-secret projects of geopolitical significance.  I helped parents get the facts they need to make better decisions for children's health. The past few years are filled with moments and memories I will cherish.

There are other moments I'd rather forget, even though the lessons learned from them will (hopefully) serve me well.  Time spent with lawyers and doctors.  Jobs that didn't turn out to be what I thought they would. Decisions I made, actions I took (or didn't take) that hurt people.  There's nothing I'd like more than to move on from those moments.

The upcoming arrival is a little scary but it offers so much promise.  My wife has a prestigious position at an elite institution and I couldn't be more happy for her.  I have a new job (thanks in no small part to said wife) with exciting challenges, interesting people, and even a brilliant colleague from a previous job.  The kids will have opportunities in California they wouldn't have elsewhere.

I have spent the majority of my time reviewing the past and considering the future - and that's exactly the problem.

I'm ignoring the present.

Even the most tumultuous times offer a present moment. A chance for mindfulness. An opportunity to have and share an experience.  Because once that specific moment passes, it's a memory - a memory subject to the whims of time, or faulty synapses, or emotional filters.  It's never what it was, and it will never be again.

Even today, when things feel uncertain, there is a chance to see the beauty in my wife's eyes and the passion and brilliance of what's behind them, or the joy felt by a young child choosing her dessert, or the wholesome pride a young boy feels when he relays his experience of success mastering a spelling test or catching a football.

And when I stop and choose to notice, I begin to realize how fortunate I am.