Photo - Kobi Li

Reflections on a Quarter Century

Twenty five years is a fairly long time, it turns out.

Stepping over the boundary for another year of life brings tends to bring about it a whirl of emotions, at least temporarily. Simultaneously the past, present, and future being about a poignant picture.

I find myself deeply in such a situation, and I have been for a couple months now. I've taken time to reflect on what has happened, what is happening, and what is to come. A few things seemed worth sharing. They may not be relevant to your situation, be the best advice, or make sense to you, but they are what I have experienced.

Don't take everyone seriously.

This goes two ways. First, just because someone is important, or homeless, or your boss, or a bit weird, or incredibly beautiful to you doesn't mean they aren't a human. Treat them like one. Protocol and formalities are important, but sharing this life with others is paramount. Second, everyone has many incredible ideas but few bring them to reality. When someone proposes something amazing to you consider are they serious about it? If you're not absolutely convinced don't commit.

Seek meaningful, diverse work.

Most of the work I've done in the last few years has been in the non-profit sector. It's not because of pay or stability of hours. Every 4 months my schedule changes because of school. My employers change and flow, what I do shifts. Some days I will work at multiple jobs for a few hours and attend classes. But the work I do is interesting, engaging, and fresh. Sometimes I teach, sometimes I design systems, sometimes I code web apps, sometimes I help coordinate important events and gatherings, sometimes I work on multimedia, sometimes I work with doctors, others times I work with government and nations, and others I work in culture.

It all brings about a feeling of wholeness. Life seems fluid, your curiousity is constantly engaged with new and different things.

Speak like you're right, listen like you're wrong.

It doesn't matter how right (or wrong) you are, if you don't agree with someone elses opinions respect them. They have different experiences than you! It doesn't matter how silly or outrageous they sound to you. Ask questions, don't try to prove them wrong. Tell them why their opinions are interesting. Don't argue with them. Be respectful, if they wish to know your opinion share it. Don't talk down to them. Be passionate about it, get excited, answer their questions no matter how stupid they might be.

You won't change their opinion if they don't feel respected. Even if you don't want to change their opinion you can handle the situation tactfully. If they are your friend you can still share friendship. Take time and learn about their opinion, they will take time to learn about yours. Enjoy your differences, they are just as important as our similarities.

Be curious. Explore broadly

I can tell you, with fairly high amounts of detail, the processes, procedures, and mechanisms with which a photograph is formed from the photons of light into the diodes in the screen of your computer on a website. This isn't because I studied for that specific goal, it's because I am curious and explore broadly. Try things, explore things, take them apart, put them back together, do it yourself. If you're a technologist this is doubly true, the field moves fast and you need to keep growing.

Share a meal with people.

We all eat. Eating is a bonding experience. Learn the best restaurants where you are. Know a wide assortment, know what is good on the menu. Try things and places people suggest. Invite people to a meal if you haven't talked to them in awhile, or you haven't seen them outside of work. Enjoy the meal, make sure they do too. Learn about them, show empathy, ask questions, relate things. This is a key way to build relationships and friendships.

By the way, if they can't afford it at the time and you can, pay for theirs discretely. Don't make a big deal out of it. If they are a good friend you'll recieve something back in kind, you just might not recognize it.

Pay attention.

Look at your surroundings, read world news, Don't watch T.V., read literature, talk to people. The world we live in matters, what is happening is actually happening. Have an opinion, share it, refine it, be passionate about it.

Consider the implications.

A saying was shared with me, "In every deliberation, we must consider the impact on the seventh generation... even if it requires having skin as thick as the bark of a pine."

Accept that the more things change the more they stay the same.

Friends come and go. Grandparents pass away. Parents grow older. Pets die. Everything is temporal. Accept what pain they may bring, let it hurt you, support those it also hurts. Grow from it, move on. New things will come, and they will go as well. New lives will be born, others will pass. That is the way of things. Don't let the fact that this happens ruin life.

Blaze your own path, live a life you are proud of.

There may be a paved road ahead of you, or there may not even be a trail. Take a good path. Go about things in a good way. There may be a rough patch or a detour, don't scramble to get back on the path, adjust, find a better path. Don't give up.