I admit, I have been thinking about my new annual blog post with some trepidation since I could not think of one word that may sum up the year well. My past two years have been change and opportunity. So, coming into this New Year’s Eve, I have been thinking hard how to best represent this year and up until about 45 minutes ago, I was pretty stumped. There was a lot of good about the year that I will discuss later, but there were also some things about the year that were tough. Both of my sons now live away. As a parent, and as a single parent, that is tough not having my children anywhere in the vicinity. But as a parent, you want your children to follow their own paths, and that they have and I am proud of them both for their choices. After a grueling 29 months of doctoral work, that lack of “focus” has left me a little unhinged, which is what I guess can be referred to as post-doctoral blues. Pursuing and obtaining my doctorate gave my life purpose and structure in a time of great transition (and I also greatly enjoyed my research topic), so at times, I struggle to get done simple tasks whereas a year ago, I was keeping a million balls up in the air. And I admit, I am tired of being a single person and would love to have a new special person in my life. 18 months ago, I saw a psychic in Santa Monica who predicted that by the end of 2016, there would be a new light in my life. With 2016 coming quickly to an end, that was not the case and I admit, it was kind of bumming me out heading into New Year’s Eve. Yesterday, I started a book that was recommended by a dear friend called “The Book of Joy” by the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. I thought I may find some nugget of advice there. But as I read the table of contents, I wondered if I was truly at the “Joy” stage quite yet. And there was a section called the “Eight Pillars of Joy” that spoke to me. I don’t have all eight pillars yet, but I think I can speak to a few of them starting with gratitude.
Gratitude: Tonight, as I sat in my living room, with a flute of Israeli sparkling wine with my dear friends Nancy and Gregg, I thought about how grateful I am to have such wonderful people in my life. We had just seen Lala Land (a must see). While not giving away too much, it is about hopes and dreams. Sometimes all your dreams come true, some time they partially come true. Not everything in my life has gone according to what I had hoped, but I have to say, I am so grateful to have my people always in my corner. The Dalai Lama said, “I am fortunate to be alive. I have a precious human life. I am not going to waste it.” At the end of this year, I am extremely grateful for my sons who have grown into wonderful caring adults, the friends whom I have laughed and cried with over the past year, the support of my family, the incredible colleagues and friends that I have had from Natick Labs, The Discovery Museum, from the Concord Public Schools, and now in Weston. I am grateful to have a wonderful home, kind and caring neighbors, and the beauty of our natural resources. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to pursue a doctoral degree and was even grateful for having suffered so much in the 2014 Boston Marathon as that suffering provided me with good perseverance that I would need during the dissertation defense phase. Looking at Nancy and Gregg tonight reminded me that perhaps like Lou Gehrig said in his goodbye speech, I am the luckiest person on Earth. I have people that I love and who love me, I have a job that stimulates me intellectually and colleagues who are incredible, I have a home that I adore and a dog who greets me every day with great enthusiasm. I have much to be grateful for on this now new year.
Perspective: Another pillar of joy is perspective in that there are many different angles. One needs to look at an event from a wider view. I like to equate this with my photography. As most folks know that follow me on Facebook, one of my favorite places to walk and do some photography is on the Battle Road Trail This year, for some reason, I noticed a little shed that I had walked by hundreds of time. But for some reason, it caught my eye this year and I spent a lot of time taking pictures of it from different angles, in different colors, in different times of the day. All of these various snapshots contribute to this one place, but it is important to look at not just this shed, but many events and people with a wider lens. I think going through the dissertation process was an example of having to look at the different perspectives of your dissertation committee. One person would want one thing, another would question another thing, the third would want a focus on another point, and the fourth would have another slant to take. I needed to consider all of those perspectives and by doing so, it created a stronger end product. So, in the year ahead, we all need to look at events and people with a wider lens in order to look at all different angles that make up an event or a person.
Humility: Some of you know I was selected to be the student reading at the Hooding Ceremony for Master’s and Doctoral students. Here is a copy of my reading that I think symbolizes the need to be learners, to be kind to one another, and to keep your eye on what matters:
Bring your purpose. Find you path. Now that we are finished with our degrees, we need to find a new purpose that incorporates our learning that we have acquired along this path. To help us form a new purpose, I turn to Martin Luther King Jr., Albert Einstein, Fr. Pedro Arrupe, the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Psalm 118, and Ralph Waldo Emerson for words of wisdom.
- Persist in striving for excellence, but as the Sisters of St. Joseph suggest, “temper that excellence with peace, joy, and gentleness”
- Fall in love with your new path. Arrupe tells us that “What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything”
- Continue to ask questions about the world around you. As Einstein stated, “Be passionately curious.”
- Use your knowledge to help others. King would assert, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, what are you doing for others?”
- Define success in the words of Emerson as “laughing often and much, appreciating beauty, and finding the best in others” rather than defining success as the amount of your paycheck, your job title, or the size of your home.
- Enjoy each and every day. Life is a gift. “This is the day the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.”
Humor: Laughter and Joking is Much Better. This year, I started to feel like my old self when I had a few episodes of just laughing and laughing. Boy does that feel great! The first time was when at friends, three of us were trying to light 50 candles on her brother’s birthday cake. You can take a look at this movie of that moment here. What you can see is that clearly you would never accuse any of us as being pyromaniacs, but you would clearly see that we can laugh at ourselves. Another moment was up at a friend’s New Hampshire lake house, two of us took out a paddle boat. But unbeknown to us, a cable was disconnected and we ended up just going in circles. I was laughing so hard I was of no use but boy again, did that feel great. I hope 2017 holds many moments of laughter for us all.
So, as we are now in another year, I wish you all joy in the coming year.