The Moment

Two women that couldn't be more unrelated and yet what one said and what the other one did have defined who I am.

A couple thousand people gathered around Central Park in San Ramon on what I remember being a ridiculously clear May day in 1999. A few buddies and I put together a march to show support for the victims of the Columbine High tragedy. There were free shirts, and music, and politicians, and all sorts of hullabaloo. There were newspaper reporters, parents and school faculty. To be honest, I don't remember much of that stuff. But I'll never forget what Mary from Monte Vista said to me during the event. The entire day summed up in one interaction. That moment is so vivid in my mind. I can almost taste the air and see the way her hair was blowing in the wind. She caught up to me along the marching route and said, "Thank you for making me feel a part of something bigger than myself."

I don't fare well after I eat palau (kind of like rice pilaf with nuts and other stuff in it) in India. My cousin Vittaloo had a pooja in Mysore and I stupidly ate a bunch of palau. Almost like clockwork I started throwing up on the long ride back home. We stopped so many times, I lost track of how many times I heaved. We tried sticking a lemon near my nose and using hot towels on my head, but that palau wanted to party.

One stop was different than the rest. I ran out of the car and threw up only to realize I had thrown up on someone's doorstep. It was makeshift house made from garbade bags and gathered materials. I had basically desecrated what would have been the equavalent of their porch. A woman immediately saw me. I didn't know what to do or say. Without hesitation she walked out of sight. Moments later she came back with a bucket full of water and motioned for me to wash my face. I washed my face and rinsed out my mouth as she cleaned off the front of her property. She was so calm and when she wasn't calm she was worried. She was worried about my well-being.
I tried to say thanks but she didn't understand or care for accolades. She did what she thought was right. She never spoke a single word to me and yet I make a point to think about her almost everyday.

Life is about feeling a part of something bigger than yourself. Humans crave those moments. The moments where we see the humanity in others and they in us. We understand what "together" means. My life's dream, began with two chance events. A girl spoke, a woman acted and an insatiable hunger to create similar moments and similar feelings for the people in my life was born in me. If someday, people feel like they've gotten that feeling from things that I've been apart of, then I've succeeded. I talk and talk about this idea or that idea. There's really not much stopping me. It's time to eat.

Prelude: The Next Movement

This is the first of two posts leading up to an invitation for a social experiment that I would love for anyone interested to accept. This post lays the foundation for how my thinking has changed over time and how this small change has made me feel empowered and crazy about life.

The last two years have been about experimentation. Experimentation mostly with drugs and lawlessness.... I'm totally kidding. Experimentation with small adjustments and readjustments in my everyday life. Running before or after work. Not checking email at home. Drinking X number of water cups before lunch. If a pattern emerged over time with certain actions (consistently feeling awesome after drinking a huge glass of water early in the morning), I incorporated it permanently into my life. Things with not so awesome results (like trying to live off $45 per week), I just adjusted or abandoned. Either way, every tiny experiment gave me lots of insight into all sorts of things about myself and the world around me.

The funny thing about being in control of these tiny things in your life is that they give you the most insight into the gigantic things in your life like defining what's important to you. Lots of people around me seem to be futility trying to come define the most gigantic of these topics, "What do you want to do with your life?" I after messing around with a few experiments, I have come to the conclusion that the question should forever be remixed from, "What do you want to do with your life?" to "What are you doing with your life?" The first question seems to ask for a specific answer that feels very final. Life doesn't work that way though. It's more like an organism that's always evolving. The new question is focused on being productive today so that you're better off tomorrow. Are you moving you towards a better future?

We've become obsessed with the finish line. So much so that the path we take is slowly losing more meaning. Take a step back and we see that the path is composed of laps and each lap can be broken down into meter increment markers. It's a group of strides that allows us to step over each one of these increment markers. Each stride broken down further into individual steps. So why I spend so much time stressing about what career I would like to have next? Why do I anxiously marinate on how insightful living in this country or working for that company could be? This obsession with the finish line has been tripping some of us up even before we can get into our initial stride. We fixate on answering that first question from before so much that it takes time away from moving towards the answer. So why not instead think about goals and back up a bit. What if we then defined a general direction to grow. This direction would have wiggle room and this direction would be evolving as we evolve.

I realized this about half way through 2008. I started whispering "baby steps" to myself when I went on a run or had a productive day. For a long time it didn't really mean anything to me except to bite off small chunks of my goals each day. So I would spend a small amount of time on each step and the rest of the time daydreaming about how sweet it would be if I accomplished my goals, again the finish line. Then one day the "aha!" came.

Babies crawl for a while until one day they decide to move to the next level. Not so different than jumping from college to a career or from company to company. The initial step is foreign yet exciting. The next one feels unbalanced yet good. Here's where babies win out in this analogy. Unlike us, step after shaky step, the toddler is not thinking, "Damn these steps are tiny, I can't wait to run." They're thinking "Holy shit. Wait I can move?" and maybe, "I don't need to cry for those lame gigantic people as much anymore." It's about faith. Not in the guy in the sky sense but in the feeling you have within yourself. Sure the end goal might be to find balance and then run but it's putting foot in front of foot that gets you there. That's what I've been trying to do in my like. To define broad directions I'd like to evolve towards. I'd like to learn languages. I'd like to start my own company. I'd like to live in another country. All very broad paths. Then on the daily I try to keep faith in the fact that if I move a little bit in a direction that feels good today, I'll be better off tomorrow. The result is a growing feeling of clarity and empowerment.

Think about your goals. Understand the direction you need to travel and then have faith in yourself. If you crave another path later, your perspective is still richer than if you were stagnant since, there is no replacement for each individual step.

People sometimes comment that I have strangely random interests but they are actually more calculated than I realized before this year. They subscribe to my inner toddler. I try to do things that make life feel more rich and that make me feel good. As lame as that sounds, I wasn't actively doing that before. I tried to cook dinner for friends a lot last year. Maybe I'll own a restaurant in many years. I took Hindi last quarter. Maybe I'll travel all over India and be able to socialize with the locals. I went on a run last week. Maybe I'll finally reach my fitness goals this week. Each might just be one step towards the finish line but tomorrow brings another step and the day after one more and...