Someone recently asked me whether I tend to think in terms of systems or stories. I thought about it for a brief moment before responding, “both.”
My blog’s tagline is “sustainable systems & storytelling,” while that of my previous blog was “the subjective perspective of an analytical optimist.” If my ten-year-old self had a blog, it’s tagline might have been “STEM experiments and short stories.”
The marriage of opposites, the birth of new possibilities.
As a child, I split my time between building complex structures and building fantasy worlds. The right hemisphere of my brain guided me through the crafting of finger paint flowers, home-brewed fables and mismatched outfits, while the left hemisphere constructed foam tube roller coasters, 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzles and structurally-sound CAD bridges.
There was delicate balance, a playful blending: within the constrictions of nature’s law, my imagination ran free.
I break things down and put them back together. I always have. And I suspect I always will.
Over three decades, I’ve developed the propensity to eagerly disassemble puzzles, computers, toys and plot lines and, with utmost focus, analyze the form and function of each component.
What are you made of? How do you work? What might happen if I positioned Part A next to Part K?
Recently, I’ve been thinking more about how each of us develops our own set of interests across the course of our lives. We don’t just show up and order the sandwich. We order half of a BLT sandwich, a bowl of tomato soup and a chocolate chip cookie. Everyone’s order is a little different and, while I wouldn’t advise blending up the aforementioned meal, each of us has the ability to stack our dissimilar skills in novel ways.
A doctor with a passion for education can travel the world to give lectures on cutting-edge medicine. A mortician who dreams of writing might draft up a novel incorporating her knowledge into the plot. A yoga teacher who lives on a farm may invite people to stretch as goats hop atop their backs.
The world has shown us time and time again, nothing is too absurd. You’ve just got to choose your niche and commit.
Each of us is actively weaving the web our lives from seemingly invisible threads. We take action daily in one direction or another, forging connections between disparate ideas, individuals and places. We stitch together a reality that is visible only when we are fully aware to it, visible only when we cock our head just right and catch its glimmer in the morning light.
When we take a step back and observe our lives, it becomes increasingly evident that our days are composed of repeated patterns. We slowly circle outward, entwining each tiny string with the next. Sometimes, our habits are intentional and structured, resulting is a perfectly predicable final outcome. Other times, random or experimental actions skew the trajectory of our lives in unexpected ways. And, perhaps, that scenic detour is okay. Have you every stopped to observe a triangular spider webs sprawling across an urban landscape and thought, “hmm, that’s interesting?”
When I look back on my own life, I want to admire the bizarre shape of it. I long to taste the salty sweetness of two opposites joined together, like a chocolate-covered potato chip, to create something new–and perhaps even better. I want to recognize the traits, the interests and the skills that set me apart from those born hours and decades apart from me. Most of all, I want to see the snags in the embroidery of my life, the messy evidence that I took the risk of dipping the chocolate chip cookie into the tomato soup–that I learned to embrace who I am and discover how I can offer my unique gift, whatever that may be, back to the world.
For me, I think that will involve rigid systems, structures or processes being brought into contact with thoughtful design, novel approaches or a meaningful story. I know don’t know how it may unfold, and I don’t know exactly what may manifest, but I’m open to it.
How about you? What seemingly opposite skills or interests do you have, and what might you do to bring them together in a way that no one else could? I’d love to hear!