In Japan, “kintsugi” is an art form and method of mending. When a piece of pottery develops cracks, those cracks are filled with gold. The flaws aren’t hidden; they’re highlighted. We try so hard to give the illusion of perfection—in photos, in words, in life. What if we not only let our imperfections and flaws and mistakes and scars show, but we actually brought attention to them? What if we shouted them from the rooftops and claimed them as sources of strength and resilience and courage? What if we could celebrate them, in ourselves and in others? Imagine how much kinder and more productive we could be if we stopped being so afraid to try, and just decided to go for it without any concern of failure and success, only to embrace doing our best and learning every step of the way. What would you try first?
A Year of Yes: Science and art – two worlds not so far apart
Science and art are not mutually exclusive. There’s so much cross-over, so much cross-inspiration. Be a scientific artist, or an artistic scientist. They are languages, forms of communication about the experience of the world and our place in it. They are dialogues. They are stories of discovery and chance and change. Find them, write them, and share them as clearly as you can. It’s all beautiful.
What I learned in the pause of 2017
2017 started on a difficult note for many of us, and so it ends that way for many people, too. 2017 has been a series of near constant ups and downs. Month-to-month, day-to-day, and sometimes hour-to-hour. A lot of unexpected change came my way—I moved back to New York from D.C., I started a new job, and I published my book. I said a tearful goodbye to several people whom I dearly loved as their souls crossed over to continue onto the next leg of their journey. I kept many friends close, reconnected with people whom I haven’t seen in years, and welcomed brand new people into my life. I tried to be mindful and grateful every day, and to make the best of the good and the bad.
I thought long and hard about my life—what I love and what needs to change. Explored new ideas, passions, and interests. I’m most proud of the fact that I didn’t give up, even in the face of extreme difficulty and adversity, and that I continued to stand up and speak out for myself and for others. I kept showing up, listening, and doing my best, and in 2017 that often felt like a vertical climb. I found that if I could pause and breathe, then I could steady myself and continue.
There were absolutely times that I wanted to crawl under the covers and hide, and for a few days out of the year I did just that. But never being one to rest easy, I found a way to quickly get my feet under me again so that I could keep inching forward even if I didn’t always know where I was going nor what I was doing. I continued to tell my story, and that in and of itself is often the bravest thing we can do. To not be silenced, to not let someone else shape our narrative, to take our days in our own hands and mold them as best we can. That is a win, even if it doesn’t always feel like one.
Some days I created what felt like strong, solid work, and some days I just crashed and burned. Those crashes were painful, and necessary. And in all those days, I learned something. It wasn’t always the lesson I wanted; it was always the one I needed.
So now as we round the corner to 2018, I feel a sense of urgency, a sense that I have licked my wounds and healed and grown in leaps and bounds in 2017 so that 2018 could be the turning point it needs to be. I can’t think of a year when I’ve felt this much anticipation and excitement, this much responsibility to keep reaching and climbing and helping and appreciating and giving. I’m under no illusion that 2018 will be easy; I do know in my gut that it will be far different from any of my previous years. I’m prepared to be surprised, and to meet those surprises with openness, grace, and courage.
I wish you a monumental year in 2018, a year in which you live exactly the life you want on your own terms. I’ll see you there. Happy new year.
In the pause: The beauty of winter
“Let us love winter, for it is the spring of genius.” ~Pietro Aretino
All light is born from the darkness. What if we could think of the start of winter as the beginning of everything? A time of planting and incubation that leads to future growth. While the cold and wind may drive us inside, let’s see it as a time of rest and recuperation. The starkness of nature now has its own kind of beauty. We can see the bones of the trees and the shape of the land. Everything will be dressed up in green again before we know it. Let’s make the most of this time we have now to build a strong base that the rest of the year will make use of.
In the pause: Running the 2018 NYC Marathon
I’ve decided to register for the lottery to get into the 2018 NYC Marathon. Anyone want to join me on this adventure? In 2001 I ran the Chicago marathon a month after 9/11. It was one of the most life-affirming experiences I’ve ever had. 16 years later, I need to have that feeling again about our country and our world. I’ll try that path, and if it doesn’t work out then I’ll see what other avenues I might take into the race. Either way, it’s time to get moving, to feel hopeful about our future despite the ugliness of the world right now. And I figured the moving starts with me, right where I am, in this city that I love with these people who are my neighbors and friends.
In the pause: Why we must take the time to study science history
If there is any lesson we can take from science history it’s this: the odds were never in our favor. It took an infinite number of circumstances to line up in a very specific way to make our existence possible. Pull out one of those evolutionary Jenga blocks and the very idea of humans comes crashing down. We survived by living in the now and adapting to constant change.
So how does this apply to our lives at this very moment? Somewhere deep within you there may be a dream you’re not pursuing for one simple reason: fear that the odds are against you. Stop thinking about the odds of success or failure, and just forge ahead. You’re already a true miracle; we all are. Don’t squander that gift. Give your very best in this and every moment. Stop trying to understand now and predict tomorrow. We can’t do either. We’re only able to understand life by looking backward.
History is and will always be our best teacher. Use its lessons. The sense in all of it will come later, with time and perspective. Your only job now is to live as well as you can. Stop trying to get it right, and just get it done.
In the pause: Welcome, Autumn
“Autumn is my time. I am most radiant and full of energy when the leaves are falling and there is a ghost of change in the air.” – Ladymadsen (The Iris Diaries)
I try to enjoy every day but I have to admit that truly I wait all year for the sweetness of autumn: the crisp and cool air, the gorgeous colors in the trees, toasty drinks, and delicious and rich fall foods. Give me my boots, jeans, and sweaters, and you give me instant happiness. Autumn is my spring, when my soul comes to life and celebrates change in all of its glorious forms. This is my time. For me, this is the season of possibility when I wake up to my own potential and the potential of everything around me to reach its peak.
In the pause: Mike Bloomberg and Carl Pope give cities, business, and citizens hope
“Call me a cynic, but I’m not basing Verizon’s strategy on anything happening in Washington.” ~ Lowell McAdam, Verizon CEO, and the Bloomberg Live event Sooner Than You Think
Between reading the book Climate of Hope by Mike Bloomberg and Carl Pope and attending Cornell Tech’s opening on Roosevelt Island, it’s becoming clear to me that even though Washington seems unable to get out of its own way, individuals, cities, and businesses can and will make all the difference in this world. Washington will continue to spin for the foreseeable future, and while that’s incredibly unfortunate, it’s largely unimportant. With the exception of military action and international relations, cities, businesses, and each of us are the ones who will really make a difference for each other, not the federal government.
We’re already seeing so much evidence of this here in New York in our education system, infrastructure, and local economy. Cornell Tech, our tuition-free college program, and the reconstruction of LaGuardia airport and Penn Station are all examples of a city, a state, and individuals implementing solutions that improve quality of life. I feel very fortunate and proud to live here, and I’m excited to be a part of it. Rather than continuing to wring my hands about the fiasco in our federal government, I’m going to double down on doing the best I can with what I’ve got right where I am—through my city, my company, and my writing.
In the pause: How do we build empathy and unity
What unites us and divides us?
As women and men, as adults and children, as different races and creeds and colors, as the haves and the have-nots, as humans.
How can we cross to the other side of the chasm between us, to a new perspective, a new point of view? Is it even possible to generate real understanding? Can we walk in someone else’s shoes and leave ours behind, find and use all their filters and lenses of experience that cannot help but alter the plain truth of seeing and hearing?
I would like to believe it’s possible. I would like to believe that our imaginations can take us anywhere we truly wish to go. I am trying. I am trying.
This is the hardest, most necessary work we ever do. We have to let the rivers of reality and fantasy wash over us in equal amounts. We have to accept where we are if we are to chart the course to where we want to go.
To make the climb. To take the journey. To walk and walk and walk until finally, mercifully, we sink down to the ground of compassion and empathy, letting it cradle and support us, until we find the strength to rise and say, “Now, I understand.”
In the pause: My promise to Team Human
If fascist, racist, homophobic, misogynistic, sexist extremists think for one second that I’m going to be intimidated by their displays of hate, especially in a town like Charlottesville that has served such an important part in my life, they have another thing coming. I am not ceding a single inch of my country that my ancestors, family members, and friends have fought to secure so that all people can freely and passionately pursue their dreams.
If the events in Charlottesville have done anything, they’ve strengthened my resolve to continue to stand up and fight for justice. I am sick and saddened that people can be so hate-filled and I flat-out refuse to allow anyone to make me feel helpless or hopeless. What happened in Charlottesville can happen anywhere. There are constant intimidations, micro aggressions, and open displays of intolerance across our country and the world every single day in every community.
This is my promise: I will not retreat and I will not be silent. I will continue to rise and speak up with every breath and every ounce of energy I have, in all circumstances, for all people who wish to be a part of Team Human. That’s the side I’m on, the side of goodness.