(A corner in downtown Palo Alto that I've walked more times than I could count.)
"You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete." -R. Buckminster Fuller
The past two weeks have been difficult, to say the least. Somewhere between moving across the country and a relatively significant job setback, I emotionally crumbled. Now that I am on the other side of it, I realize I was in mourning. Wonderful things can happen when your life changes drastically and you're preparing for new opportunities. You gain new perspectives that challenge your worldview. You realize what you are and are not willing to give up. You grow and start to build new models for yourself. But the loss of what you knew can stay with you, lying dormant while you're running around piecing your life back together.
Then, like a bobcat on the loose, it can pounce when you least expect it and when your defenses are at their lowest.
The California college town of Palo Alto was a wonderful place to live and work, and I miss the weather, the wonderful people I met and the culture of wellness it promotes. I developed a solid, healthy, daily routine there, and I made wonderful friends -- many of whom I consider to be on par with family. I had a routine that was decorated with beautiful ideas, brightly-colored sticky notes and mornings spent in a perfectly heated and chlorinated pool on a world-class university campus. I learned how to live with drive and purpose there. I learned how to breathe through ambiguity. I am, without a doubt, a better person for the three years I lived there, and I will always be grateful for the opportunity and the investments people made in me to make it possible.
There were drawbacks, however.
Palo Alto, was not as diverse as my hometown of Washington, DC. My yoga classes in DC are not only attended by people of color, they are led by them. That wasn't the case in Palo Alto. I'd occasionally catch people staring at me during class as if I must be lost. Thanks to the international nature of business and the diplomat population here in DC, there are all kinds of people at all tiers of the socioeconomic ladder. I missed that living in Palo Alto.
The conversations I had in Palo Alto, and throughout the Bay area were almost always optimistic and energizing. I'd often end the day feeling like anything was possible. Interactions are as bright as the weather -- 75-degrees and sunny. The substance of policy details and discussions of problems facing those outside of the 1 percent were often missing, however. I loved the optimism, but I missed the reality checks. Where DC can sometimes feel a bit too slow and heavy, the Bay area could feel too fast and light.
Then there was the question of having a car. I didn't own one, which is completely unheard of in California. I subsisted on ride-sharing apps, my bike and, more often than not, my own two feet. I did not attend a number of events because the transportation equation was too complex or exhausting to solve without a car. So, my social life was not as robust as it had been in the more walkable confines of DC. I dislike driving, and I firmly believe cars are a scourge on our environment and detrimental to our health. I would be happiest if I never owned a car until the roads become a network of entirely autonomous vehicles. So, I'm proud of my three years living there without one.
Nevertheless, I finally found an opportunity to mourn losing the life I had there. I needed to do so before I settled into the life I have here now and faced its very real and mounting challenges. That doesn't mean I leave the wonderful things behind -- and there were some truly wonderful things and people (especially the people). In fact, given what I am up against, it is even more critical for me to hold on to what I've learned and put it to good use. Here are a few lessons I learned:
- Wherever you go, bring the fun. (thanks, Charlotte)
- Just go with it, and rock it while you do. (thanks, Olivia)
- Ambiguity is disguised opportunity. (thanks, Nihandrea)
- It's really not that complicated. (thanks, Tran)
- A notebook is a tool best used daily (thanks, Andrea)
- Practice what you teach. (thanks, Jeremy)
- Sketching is writing with a superhero cape. (thanks, Scott)
- There is always a different way to see a problem. (thanks, Perry).
- Don't think your way out of a problem, make your way out. (thanks, Seamus)
- Always be connecting people and connecting with people. (thanks, Justin)
- Always be learning. (thanks, Kathryn)
- Work hard and make beauty. (thanks, Sarah H.)
- Listen and let silence happen. (Thanks, Sarah S.G.)
- Make a path, don't follow one. (Thanks, Susie.)
- Lead from behind. (Thanks, Devon.)
- Your greatness is who you are; it's effortless. (Thanks, Mark)
- Nothing is set in stone, and that's what's so great about everything. (Thanks, Carissa)
That's just a slice of what I learned living in creativity's cradle.
This week's collection is all about moving through change. I'll also be writing about this in the coming days and weeks. I hope you enjoy it, and have a beautiful weekend.
Also, thanks to my loving parents, Josh and Veda, for hearing me out this week and helping me see the silver linings. They really are the best parents in the world.