A month ago today I packed my rental car and moved back to New York City. Yesterday while I walked Phin in Central Park, a man I didn’t know stopped me and said, “You’re the happiest person I’ve ever seen in New York.” I think he’s right; I was smiling wide for no reason at all.
Being away from New York for almost three years made me even more grateful for what this city has to offer. Every day I wake up and think anything can happen. Possibility is everywhere. Part of making things happen has to do with my energy and efforts and part of it has to do with the energy of this city. Put them together and something is bound to happen. It always does.
I spent the weekend happily disconnected from devices and reunited with my Darden MBA class to celebrate our 10-year graduation milestone. I went to reunion to be with friends far and near, and to revisit a place where I learned that anything is possible when we combine passion, purpose, and persistence. At Darden, I learned how to stand strong in my beliefs while balancing conviction and openness to new ideas and perspectives. It remains the greatest investment of my life, not only for the skills I gained and the knowledge I attained from my brilliant classmates and professors, but even more so for the deep friendships I found there. It’s the gift that keeps on giving, and only grows more valuable with time. I loved seeing and hugging all of you, and am already looking forward to the next time we’re all together again. Until then, know that I’m rooting for all of you to live your happiest, most beautiful lives. The best is yet to come.
“I don’t pay attention to the world ending. It’s ended for me many times and began again in the morning.” ~Anonymous
I’ve learned to embrace endings, not because they are fun or comforting but because they make space for something new. I’ve learned that nothing lasts forever, that life in all its forms is full of cycles and changes. Changes and challenges, no matter how much they are welcomed, are difficult because for some amount of time there is a void. I used to be very quick to fill up that void as fast as possible. Now at the ripe old age of 41, I purposely slow it down. I spend a good amount of time reflecting, processing, and deciding how best to move forward after any major change. I’ve learned how to ask for and receive help with grace and gratitude. And then I pay forward that help, as many times as I possibly can.
One of the great benefits of growing older is that it’s easier to pinpoint what really matters and why. When something ends now, I’m grateful for the lessons it teaches me and the strength it gives me. In time, new possibilities and opportunities always present themselves and often in the most unlikely ways. The world begins again, and we’re off on new adventures that pave the path ahead. I can’t wait to see what’s next!
“Enlightenment is that moment when a wave realizes it is the ocean.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh
We have more options than we think we do. I had two great back-to-back conversations yesterday that helped me realize just how many possibilities are open to me and how to bring them to fruition. It was one of the most empowering and hopeful afternoons I’ve had in a long time. Those conversations didn’t change any of my circumstances; they just helped me see things in a different way. They changed my mind and my perspective; in other words, they changed everything.
“I don’t consider myself an optimist or a pessimist, but rather a possibilist.” ~Hans Rosling, edutainer, data scientist, and inspiration
I like Hans’s outlook. It helps us make the most of good times, and keep tough times in perspective. It keeps us looking forward instead of looking back. It keeps us from getting stuck in a job, or a city, or a relationship that doesn’t work for us. It keeps hope alive, and makes us grateful for what we have while preventing us from getting bitter about what we don’t have. And that is a very good thing to be.
We lost Han Rosling a few weeks ago. His belief that our best days are ahead of us played out every day in his work and in his life. That’s a goal worth striving for.
“When nothing is sure, everything is possible.” ~Margaret Drabble
Right now, the ground feels a little unsteady. We are heading into uncharted waters that from here look turbulent and dangerous. And they very well may be. In an effort to keep moving forward and making a positive impact in the world around me, this quote from Margaret Drabble is really helping me. In this moment, right now, everything is possible. The good and the bad. The joyful and the difficult. The triumph and the struggle. There is much that is out of our control but here are the things we can hang onto—how we think, what we feel, and what we do. My mind, heart, and hands are engaged in building a better world, even if it is against all odds.
In the blink of an eye, things can change in ways we never expected. We fall in love with a friend, a neighborhood, a home, a city, a job, a pet. We find ourselves drawn to something that maybe we liked (or not) on the surface and then as we spend more time (sometimes by force) we find our outlook changes.
That’s what happened to me and my neighborhood. Even as little as a month ago I just wasn’t sure about the east side of the city. And then something even strange happened—I actually started to see the people and buildings around me with brand new eyes. I said hello to 23 people this morning: construction workers, neighbors, store managers, and even just people passing by. There was almost a lightness to it.
I was walking little Phineas, and he’s got a little trot that could make even the grumpiest person smile. Still I felt some kind of shift as I saw the new construction rising up and beginning to shape what this collection of buildings and streets will eventually look like.
Being open to possibility is a wonderful thing.
Travels helps me count my blessings. After a full night of sleep, I woke up this morning feeling so grateful. Grateful for the chance to travel and learn about different cultures, and grateful to live in the U.S. and call it home. Sarajevo is a sad city, plagued by geographic isolation, the legacy of the war and communism, poor health of the people (70% of them smoke), and a true lack of opportunity. Budapest is bustling, thriving, and full of life. The two are in such stark contrast to one another and couldn’t have been more different.
And then I landed at Washington National airport, and my eyes opened up even wider. We are so lucky here. We have everything we need to build a good life for ourselves. Certainly our country has problems and challenges and its own wounds that need tending and healing. What we do have is possibility and potential. And while potential alone can’t get things done, it does provide the fuel we can use to build something beautiful and meaningful.
Travel is a gift that keeps on giving. It gives us empathy and understanding for cultures not our own, and then it also helps us appreciate what we have at home in our everyday lives. It’s a realization I hope I never lose.