what to do next

This is the most important decision in your career (or even your day).

It didn’t used to be. What next used to be a question answered by your boss or your clients.

With so many opportunities and so many constraints, successfully picking what to do next is your moment of highest leverage. It deserves more time and attention than most people give it.

If you’re not willing to face the abyss of choice, you will almost certainly not spend enough time dancing with opportunity.

– Seth Godin

Hot on the heels of my last post on lessons learned, I read this blinking light of a post by Seth Godin. And dear god, it’s like someone peered into my head and summed up all that I’m facing. What am I really going to do next? Dare I answer, I don’t know!

It’s a little tough when so many of life’s choices are not actually within my sphere to decide. But wait. Hold on. Am I giving myself excuses to shirk away from really deliberating over what I can do? Let’s start small:

I can decide what to do with my health. I am drinking close to 2 litres of water a day; a marked difference from my coffee and tea diet previously. And I have scheduled three runs for this week (dudes! you better not back out!). And I shall determine to sleep earlier. I need rest. So there. Health issues settled.

I can decide what to do with my current career. I am researching (okay, do conversations with people who’ve been there count?) and I am planning my schedule for the coming week, including a list of videos that I must watch because if I don’t feed, I can’t get inspired. I guess I could read a little more… (sniffle, bye bye magazines, hello thick boring books filled with technical jargon)

I can plan my finances a little better. I have avoided online shopping for a week. And haven’t actually bought anything off the racks for a while. I guess I could forgo my lattes, and cabs, and return my library books on time…

But ultimately, what do I want to do with this life I now have?

I want to get Seth Godin’s latest book We Are All Weird. Something about that title resonates with me…

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above | beyond

[Picture by Craig Mod]

I stood there beside Raphael, both of us silent in our own worlds, under a thick blanket of stars. Slowly, we spun around, our gaze constantly lifted towards the heavens.

‘Do you feel as small as I do?’ He asked quietly.

‘Yeah…’ I whispered back, afraid to speak louder than necessary, as if my voice would shake the stars out of their majestic placement in the sky. It was then that I caught the first trailblazer. ‘Oh my god… did you see that?’

‘Yes,’ he replied. ‘Did you make a wish?’

I barely had time to answer when I caught another shooting star, and then another.

‘This is better than the mountains!’ I clapped my hands and squealed, not caring about poise or deportment. ‘This is magic!’

Raphael chuckled in reply.

And there we stood. Two lone strangers in the Annapurna Base Camp. While the rest of the world was cuddled for warmth in their sleeping bags, we were the only fools brave enough to stand in the freezing cold because of the stars. It was only a matter of time though, before Raphael had a massive coughing fit (he was already not feeling well) and my knees began knocking out an uncontrolled syncopated rhythm.

‘I’m heading to bed,’ I finally gave in to the cold. ‘See you around, hey?’

‘Yeah,’ he coughed in reply.

I turned and walked away, giving the night skies one final look before ducking my head into my room. If there was a reason to trek up 4130m to a base camp, this was it.

The stars.

Tonight, 34 minutes before I turn a year older… I look up to the night skies again but I don’t see anything. The city lights have clouded my view but it doesn’t mean that they aren’t there. Somewhere beyond my naked vision, they twinkle for me. Perhaps, this is significant knowledge regarding my years ahead.

I can’t always see what lies beyond and there are times when it feels as though all majesty, beauty and magnificence in daily life has waned. But the years ahead are still glorious. They twinkle at me in my consciousness, the trailblazing years begging me to make new wishes, new promises, and maybe even pronounce new hopes.

What lies ahead?

I know what lies behind me. Like the endless trek and painful toil up Nepal’s steep angles, there were moments in the past 365 days since my last birthday when it was painful and tough. Times when I couldn’t bear to look up and see what was ahead for fear of discouragement at how much more there was to go. There were also times when I paused to take a breather, and was astonished at how far I’d come through.

One step at a time.

See the mountains.

One step at a time.

To reach the stars.

And for the first time in my life, I smile on the eve of my birthday.

I’m proud of how far I’ve come and the mountains of challenges I’ve scaled. Not everything is in its rightful place now and there are many changes I want to make in my life, changes that must take place. That said, I’m still proud of this little girl who has continued to plough through pain, disappointment, discouragement, fear and sadness.

A girl who refuses to stop dreaming about her stars.
A woman with the heavens woven into her nature.
A person who will choose to look beyond her failures.
A girl, her Dream Maker and a beautiful future.

Happy Birthday.

 

hope


Standing on the brink of camp, my insides are slowly expanding with the potential of good things to come. I’d been dragging my feet in the dust regarding this getaway, many times regretting that I’d even offered to go with the team due to work and my recent spate of procrastination.

This time round, I really have bitten off too much to chew, what with camp, work, life and the upcoming trip to Nepal… feeling overwhelmed every morning when I wake has been something of the norm. It probably explains why I’ve been unable to sleep well. Worry has been etched into my face and I hate how it disfigures my smile.

Besides work, I’ve also been considering some massive changes in my life (albeit unwillingly but for the good of the future) and with no one to really talk things through, my thought life had been a tad abysmal.

Tonight though, as I started preparing for this trip, the excitement began building.

How will it end? Will it provide the answers I need? Can I get the rest I desire?

Check in a week later and we’ll see how it rolls. Let’s hope it’s all good.

*

‘It’s all dead,’ the girl whispered to herself as she sat in her barren garden. Picking up a withered daisy, she held it close to her heart. ‘What happened? You promised me flowers and fruits but all I have is the withered image of what could be.’

‘It does look dismal, doesn’t it?’ The Dream Maker sat down beside her on the cold, dry ground. ‘This dying garden, is it all you can see?’

‘What else?’ the girl answered, ripping the flower apart. ‘What else is there to see? Just look at this!’

She held out the dried petals and leaves, before scattering them onto the ground.

‘I am so angry I want to destroy everything, tear them all apart and walk away. I give up. I’ve worked so hard to keep the garden alive but it dies on me. It’s all a work of futility. I hate this place…’ she gritted her teeth, digging her fingers into the earth with frustration.

‘Let’s destroy this place then,’ the Dream Maker answered. ‘Let’s set fire to all that’s dead and gone.’

‘What?!’ the girl looked at him in horror.

‘I’ve got the fuel. Let’s kill everything that’s in here.’ He said firmly.

‘But… but I still love this place,’ she said. ‘Look, I know I’m angry but I had dreams for this garden. Maybe if I work the ground harder, something will change. I think destroying it is a little harsh.’

‘No, it holds the ghosts of what could have been,’ the Dream Maker stood up. ‘Let’s torch the past together and rebuild it all from scratch.’

The girl didn’t stand up. She didn’t understand. It didn’t make sense to her.

‘Hey,’ the Dream Maker stooped beside her, ‘when we burn what’s dead, it fertilizes the ground and rebirth is easier. You don’t see it now but everything that seems wasted effort can help build something beautiful for the future.’

Sweeping a clear spot on the earth, the Dream Maker used His finger and began drawing His plans for the new garden.

‘What do you see?’ He asked the girl.

With tears in her eyes, she looked at the lines in the earth.

‘I see hope,’ she sniffled.

Then wiping her eyes with the back of her hand, she stood up and tentatively reached for the matches.

‘Where do we start?’

*

how can we be strong?

‘Can I come with you?’ she asked.

I stifled a sigh. Going out to run was a very personal time for me and if she came along, I knew I’d be held back. She would want to talk, try to keep up… in other words, I wouldn’t be able to do things selfishly and at that point in time, I wanted to be self-centred.

‘Why do you want to come?’ I asked. ‘You know it’s hot out there and I’m usually silent when I run.’

‘I just want to be with you,’ she answered.

My heart melted. How many more years will I have with her before she would rather be with her friends? What good is ‘me’ time when ‘we’ time is limited? I have the rest of my lifetime to do things solo, but with her… it was good enough reason to share.

We laced up, stretched and hit the track. Amazingly, she kept up with me for a good distance before giving up and heading to the playground to wait for me.

‘You did great today,’ I said on our way back.

She smiled and held my hand tighter. ‘I like being with you.’

We shared a sweaty hug as the dark clouds rolled in…

*

After writing about the Father last night, I started thinking about my own little ones and how I can best equip them for a world that is grimy, gritty and harsh. How can I teach them to see the rainbows through the rains? Will they give up? Will they get sucked in? Will I always be there to hold their hand? And even if I was, would they turn to me and would I be able to help?

I put aside my books, laptop and work, took them for a short walk before dinner and raced with them to the mall. On our way back, I walked behind them and felt so small.

‘Will you hold their hand and fill in the gaps where my love falls short?’ I asked the Dream Maker.

‘I will, as I did for you. You turned out okay, didn’t you?’ He said while I nodded.

‘They’re yours then,’ I said, ‘And umm… thanks, for being the Father I needed.’

‘Always,’ He answered with a wink.

*

To See a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.

– William Blake

When He holds my hand, I know I have infinite possibilities within reach. It is the strength I need to take my next breath, the joy to break my face into a smile, the anchor in my turbulent emotions.

He was there when I had nothing. He gave me hope.

He was there when I was broken and used. He gave me beauty.

He was there when I was alone. He gave me love.

He was there when I finally laughed again.

And He held my hand tighter with all that He had.

*

‘How do you do it?’ I asked the Amazonian. She copes with her newborn child, takes care of her 9 year old half-sister and 13 year old half-brother. She coaches them in their studies, cooks, cleans, does part-time work… the list is endless.

‘I get exhausted just hearing about all that you have to handle and still you laugh and have lost none of your wacky humour,’ I continued.

‘There are challenges but you know what? As long as I know my husband is there beside me, backing me up 100% of the way, I can handle anything,’ she answered.

We all need that Someone in our lives.

Who’s yours?