Living Up To My Own Standard

Daily Prompt for 10/24: What’s the one thing you hope other people never say about you?

Saw this in my email this morning and decided to jump in since blogging has, generally for me, taken a back seat over these past four or five months. I’ve been busy. I’ve had other things more pressing on my mind. I’ve been lazy. Take your pick. “Life trumps blogging”, and honestly, I’ve just been living life for the most part. But this question intrigued me – I hope there’s lots of good things folks DO say about me, but I’m not sure I’ve put as much into thinking about what I DON’T want them to be able to say.

The first word that popped into mind was UNPROFESSIONAL. I don’t ever want that to be a thought or a review of my work or of me in general. Ever. That means I’m on time, that I don’t forget appointments or action points, that I stay ahead of others folks who depend on me getting things done. And it means that when I don’t live up to it on my own part, that I bust it to make up for it, learn from the mistakes, and keep moving positively forward.

After that, I never want people to think I’m UNCARING. Sometimes I admit I really don’t care – but mostly, I feel like I do care about how something makes you feel, even if that thing itself holds nothing really compelling for me at the time. Did that make sense? Even when I don’t care, I do… yeah, that makes no sense at all.

I don’t want anyone to think I’m a TERRIBLE LISTENER. That’s huge for me, actually listening and letting other parties know that I’m paying attention. I get so distracted, and it’s only recently that I’ve learned enough about myself to put away my iPhone, to turn down the TV, to look at the person talking so I can be totally engaged and actively listening for what’s being said, what’s being conveyed. I never want anyone to feel I’m not giving my utmost attention in this area.

I’m sure there’s more – but really, if I hang on to those three and live them out positively so the negative doesn’t have a chance to come out, then I think I’ve done something good. And maybe I can blog again, you know, sooner rather than later…

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edumicating them

Tonight the kids and I attended RefreshColumbia, a web developer/designer group here in the famously hot capital city. This month’s meeting featured illustratodesignimatorist Charles Akins, AkinsTudio.com. The artwork and designs in the website portfolios were right up Trace’s alley. As parents, we try to be proactive in encouraging our kids to pursue their dreams, try things they like, find out more about prospective career paths. He enjoyed the presentation of verious Mad Magazine layouts and local print media, and I hope he takes a little of Akins’ energy and enthusiasm to maybe focus a little more clearly on this aspect of his art.

The meeting was in Swearingen Engineering, south of campus down Main Street. Construction of the facility was finished around the end of my own college career. I had one class there my senior year, if I remember correctly. The memory is fuzzy after two decades. As we walked around the first floor, both kids were looking into classes, labs, reading rooms. Cammi was a little more vocal – “wow… that’s cool… whoa, look at that”. They were both taking it in, and I was the proud geeky dad taking the along-for-the-ride tour with them.

When I was their age, middle school into high school, I remember being in awe on the USC campus. Especially in my sophomore and junior years, then some my senior year of high school, we had opportunities to use some of the facilities at USC for research. The Caroliniana Library had lot of interesting books and maps and artifacts. We learned how to navigate some of the underground floors/stacks at the Thomas Cooper Library. And we wandered back and forth across the Horseshoe just pretending we were college students.

And more than anything, I remember those times now for the interest and oomph it gave me to be a college student for real. So much of the time, our kids complain about homework and tests and going to school rather than sleeping in. But those trips to campus were kindling for a later desire to work hard, get a couple of scholarships, be accepted into the Honors College and graduate to a career, a family, a love for growing and learning… All of that, at least in some small part, was fed with fuel from a few of us geeky high school kids wandering and wondering through a big time college campus. And I hope some of that rubs off and sparks it again in the next generation.

easy like…

  • Sunday mornings are really good, he types into the blogpost from his second cup of coffee. Unlike Saturdays, the second day of the weekend just has a more relaxing vibe that still leads to a plan for the day. We are moving slowly, enjoying quiet family time – anyone with teenagers knows “quiet” and “family time” are rare in any combination. And we’re listening to the NPR Weekend Edition while gearing up for morning church.
  • Jamestown Coffee Company is opening this week. This is cool on multiple levels. It’s the fulfillment of a dream for friends. It’s the end of all the planning. It’s the beginning of the adventure. And there’ll be a place to hit for coffee on the way in and out of Lexington for us. Connect on Facebook and Twitter. [Disclaimer: I like coffee. Alot.]
  • I’m reading SWITCH: How to Change Things When Change is Hard by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. Change is hard for anyone, and making a difference, making plans, making a way are all important in getting anything done. Direct the Rider, Motivate the Elephant, Shape the Path – easy enough to contemplate in the abstract, reading to see the thoughts in action in order to apply and move my own world as well. [ht: Amber Naslund]
  • I’m also reading THE HAPPINESS PROJECT by Gretchen Rubin. I started following her blog on the same subject through another link somewhere down the line (gotta love Serendipity, right?). Instead of being a Don’t-Worry-Be-Happy mantra-spouting site, she’s tackling some good thoughts on making your own thoughts and outlook be more about the positives, more about the magical and exciting than the downers and pessimism that so easily ensnares. Just getting started in the book and I’m not sure how far I’ll get, but I appreciate the reinforcement needed in my own mental state to stay proactively positive whatever comes our way.
  • The photo above was taken this past Thursday at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center, walking in for the afternoon sessions of POSSCON. It’ll be another whole post or thirty to describe the excitement I have over connecting with folks in town over all things tech. I graduated with a Bachelor’s in Computer Science in 1990, but twenty years later I’m far more involved, far happier doing what I do, and far more positive about what’s possible in this new career path.

the year past

“In 2009, I’m going to stop trying to earn points with God, who’s not really even keeping score. And I’ll stop keeping score, so you’re off the hook, too.”

That’s what I put on my facebook profile at the beginning of the year, and of course blogged on it as well (forgive the broken photo link – there have been changes around here since then). Hindsight being what it is, I understood for the beginning of the year what such a mantra would mean. But as it’s played out over the course of twelve months, maybe it has a different feel, a different meaning now.

I can honestly say the biggest lifechange for us in quite a few years happened in 2009. After nineteen-plus years, I started my second real big kid job. A career move is one of the biggest stressors in life, right up there with marriage and having kids and getting a job in the first place. But making a move from one great place to work to another new I-don’t-know-what-I’m-doing-but-let’s-do-this-anyway job is probably nuts. We did that in August, and it’s been good. The backstory is that I had been wanting to make a change, that I had looked at the twentieth anniversary through the eyes of my midlife crisis, and that through it all I had settled mentally on staying with it. I couldn’t complain with today’s economy and so many without employment, and I couldn’t find a way to do what I would have wanted in the writing arena, the social media arena, maybe consulting on whatever I might find.

Enter a career opportunity to work with social media, to write and be creative in using these tools in a corporate setting. Enter a huge decision for me and my family to move from what’s been fairly comfortable in the long-run into a field that’s nowhere near defined. Enter a plan that takes me from where I’d been feeling overstressed with the same-old-same-old to a new place where stress is still stress but it’s a new evolving thing.

So there’s that, and that was huge.

Back to the quote, back to the thought of “keeping score”. I don’t think I’m one who keeps score, but making the comparison to “others” might mean I’m wrong in my bias. Other friends have gone through changes, too.  James is back in the Midlands from Seattle to make a go of it in the local economy. Alan and Chris are both back home, too – their own career changes in hand and Chris’ upcoming deployment still to come. George has moved his family, getting ready for a new adventure geographically (and is wrapped up in my own story above). And Todd and Steve have had their own ginormous opportunities and challenges along the way in 2009.

We’re adults. We’ve grown up, or at least are in the process. And mostly, we’re doing it without a net, without the printed English/Spanish/Japanese directions. And we’re coming along okay.

So here’s an early-ish goodbye to 2009 – it’s been a good year, it’s been a strange year, and it’s been a year to scare the bejeebers out of us in more ways than one. And here’s an early hello to 2010 – which I will be calling Twenty-Ten, thankyouverymuch – and to the opportunities and challenges just around the bend.

what if we’re wrong

It's a long holiday weekend, and I can speak for everyone I know – we need it. It's a good holiday, Memorial Day, remembering those who have gone before us, remembering sacrifices and lives lost. But really, I think we collectively need a break – a Monday with no alarm clock might be the best thing in the world for our ailing economy right now. I'd like to think those battles and wars were fought over more meaningful stuff than our "right" to build massive IMG_0518amounts of debt and stress, and for that reason, I plan on resting, stretching, remembering, and being extremely thankful that there is more to this life, to this world, to this existence than me-myself-and-I.

Vicki's going out tonight with friends for a girls' night out, and I'll be home making pancakes for the kids. It's not a school night, so we might just go wild and watch all kinds of Spongebob Squarepants. Or instead, I'll let them control the remote – I know, dangerous!! – and I'll kick back with a book. I'm starting The Great Bridge today in honor of the birthday of the Brooklyn Bridge. Either way, it's nice knowing that we don't have to get up and get out in the morning.

IMG_0522Meanwhile, there's a thought that's been mulling through the overgrown forest of my contemplative head the past little while. Wow, that's a really vague and unclear sentence, isn't it? It has to do with what are we doing, why are we here, and what if we've missed out on the best by seeking after "good enough"? A Twitter friend tossed out a question last night that boiled down to this: have you decided to live according to the desires of the flesh, or have you given in to the calling to preach the gospel? My initial response, confessing here for both of you reading, was what can that possibly mean?, and I confess again that I was sleepy, sickly and probably should not have taken on a 140-char/response exchange like that. But I my mind was clear, and the thought I tried to convey was that too often, those two things are not mutually exclusive. We can take up the mantle of the message of the cross, and all too easily we can at the same time and in the same motion and, I think, with the same motives and reasoning, be giving in to the desires of our own flesh. There might not be anything more selfish than, wow, I'm following God and not going to hell – woo hoo.

Hence the subject line above, what if we're wrong. Because I think the gist of the original question is that the answer is probably moot, at least from the perspective I'm on at this time. Are you going to give up the flesh and follow Christ? Well, if you say yes, it means maybe haven't – maybe it means that there's stuff going on that's still holding you back from that kind of a trust relationship. If you pause and consider the cost, you might be closer than you realize. And if you say yes – well, if you really have done it, the question of "sacrifice" is gone because, I think, you've reached a place where there really was no sacrifice in the first place. I don't think I'm doing a good job defining terms and creating a point here, but essentially if I haven't, I don't know what it is. And if I have, then I know full well and it wasn't as much of a loss as first considered.

I need coffee with the pancakes tonight. Can see that now.

Coincidentally…

One of my thought bubbles lately is a jumble around all the friends who have been reconnecting around here, around this time and space. It’s like, why now? Why as we’re turning forty are we all gravitating back to some center? Calling it a "midlife crisis" is an easy copout, at least to my over-thinking mind. As I type this, I’m listening to the soundtrack from last year’s Transformers movie by Steve Jablonsky – and I’m struck by how much this gathering of the old friends seems to foretell something adventurous.

On some level, it is an adventure. I feel like I’m stretching out into scary uncharted territory all the time. But on the same note, it’s still just life, and I wonder if I’m missing something that I should be getting. Old friends, new friends, online and offline friends – if this life is to be relational, and we have all these interconnections webbing around, then what next?

Heading out to small group – dinner together with friends. Where do you think your friendships are taking you right now?